Saturday, August 19, 2006

Feeling good about oneself vs doing good for others: victimary culture exposed at Toronto AIDS conference

Back in June of this year, as Vancouver played host to a "World Urban Forum", we at Covenant Zone blogged on the contribution of guest speaker Jockin Arputham, an award-winning activist who has devoted over 30 years of work in his own slum neighbourhood and others to improve services, education and housing. Arputham delivered a blistering critique of the conference itself, calling the self-serving activists "lip-service people", and denounced most attendees as being more interested in keeping the"poverty-conference industry" going, than of genuinely solving the problems of poverty in the Third World. "We request our friends throughout the world, especially the First World, to stop crying", and actually do something to help, instead of holding expensive conferences to talk about how much they all care.

A similar damning charge has emerged from this week's high-profile AIDS conference taking place in Toronto, Ontario.

Martin Sempa, "...who has struggled against HIV/AIDS in his home country for 16 years – through radio, college 'edutainment' rallies, research and advocacy and government policy formulation", exposes the moral shallowness of yet another group who, he claims,
"... don’t care about stopping HIV/AIDS but just about managing the disease, keeping it going so they can continue to profit.”

AIDS a Glamorous Multi-Billion Dollar Industry – Sufferers Forgotten

Huge profits for pharmaceutical and condom manufacturers, bottomless grants for researchers and NGO’s, publicity and money for research foundations, six-digit salaries for advertising executives and increasing fame for big name celebrities are creating a disincentive to actually stop the disease say some AIDS activists.
The “AIDS industry,” is a multi-billion dollar international enterprise now, and those who gather to enjoy lavish meals and hotels in Toronto this week, are more interested in “managing the disease” than in curing it or stopping its spread, says Martin Sempa, a leading AIDS fighter from Uganda.
[Sempa says] that the roving publicity circus that the annual International AIDS Conferences have become is a distraction from what is really happening in Africa and other countries blighted with the disease.
But worse than this, he says, they have become a vehicle for an inhuman leftist ideology under the guise of multi-million dollar philanthropy, a vehicle for a Hollywood-style celebrity cult and brazen anti-American political machine.
“It’s a multi-billion dollar industry,” he said. “Pharmaceuticals, condoms, counsellors, distributors, advertising executives, grants for fake human rights groups and celebrity status. If you have AIDS you can be a star if you promote their agenda. It’s become a disease of opportunity. If AIDS stopped today there would be millions of people who would stop getting an income.”
“I wouldn’t waste my time.” Sempa said when asked why he had not attended the Conference. “I didn’t want to spend good money on fancy hotels and expensive meals to have no one listen to me.

In Bangkok {2004}, the president of Uganda was booed {for promoting his country’s abstinence program}. It was a hostile social environment and not conducive to a free exchange of ideas. A single mention of abstinence makes them become rabid.”

A similar response apparently occured at the Toronto conference, during the opening remarks of billionaire Bill Gates:

[Bill] Gates briefly mentioned the controversial ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful and Condoms) program, the program of HIV/Aids prevention that is pushed internationally by the Bush Administration, and which has been employed with unprecedented success by the Ugandan government. “This approach,” said Gates, “has saved many lives, and we should expand it.”

The mere mention of the program, however, which focuses primarily on abstinence and faithfulness as the surest means of prevention, with condom-use as a distant last resort, provoked unanimous and energetic boos from the thousands of attendees.

The idea of lives being saved provokes loud boos from the attendees? Isn't the whole point of the AIDS conference, to save lives? Nope, suggest some of the attendees:

"This conference has been more of a Hollywood conference for philanthropists and stars than for people who are living with AIDS," said Sipho Mthathi, head of the South African group Treatment Action Campaign.
"We would like this to be registered by the International AIDS Society that we are quite aggrieved...."

...Ms. Mthathi said the hundreds of conference sessions featured too many celebrities and "professionals" -- scientists and government and agency officials largely from the Western countries least affected by the pandemic. Delegates from Africa, which has been ravaged by the disease, were seriously under-represented on the podiums, she said.

What is needed is a solution-based meeting that better incorporates the voices of patients and those on the front lines, and puts political pressure on countries like her own that have hindered the AIDS fight, Ms. Mthathi said.
Gregg Gonsalves of the AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa also created a stir at a special session with leading lights of the AIDS community, including Peter Piot, head of the UNAIDS agency.
"We have created a large infrastructure [around AIDS] that is largely unaccountable," he told the audience of hundreds. "No wonder things aren't getting better. We have designed the system to fail."
Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gates have been treated at the conference "like some kind of royalty," but it is activists on the ground who really make the difference, said Mr. Gonsalves.

It appears that the system isn't designed to "fail", so much as never actually succeed, since any measurable solution would disrupt the necessary stasis required to fuel the victimary religion of today's international left. So long as there can be individuals identified as "victims", there can exist the left's victim-and-victimizer view of the world.
The immorality of the left's position stops being a laughing matter once we hear from the suffering individuals who find themselves propped up or pointed to as if they were nothing more than museum pieces, rather than living beings actually aspiring to the humanity denied them by their leftist caretakers.
To be human, surely, involves the aspiration to better one's circumstances, through an increase in individual freedom, life expectancy, and personal wealth. Imagine having these universal aspirations sabotaged by others using your genuine suffering as an opportunity to make themselves feel better about themselves, even if it involves an irrelevant issue:

[Uganda AIDS activist Martin Sempa] said, “This movement doesn't think any more. It’s agenda based and driven. If you don’t like George Bush, attack the AIDS program in Africa. Or the Iraq war.
If you don’t like the Pope or the Catholic Church you can attack him on his stand against condoms. That’s how the AIDS crisis is being used politically.”


truepeers said...

I haven't been paying too much attention to the AIDS conference. What I glimpse of the nightly headline news reports - all these really angry, self-righteous demonstrators who shout at the cameras "we won't be silenced anymore" - makes no sense. Here is a massive media event, where little real discussion or scientific announcements are being done, with the media of the world there expressly to show many pictures and voices of authorized victims, and the victims or their patrons still just shout day after day "we won't be silenced anymore!" or words to that effect. It really is too phony to believe.

Of course, with millions dieing in the poor world, it is just this accusation that we are loathe to make, lest we be accused of some crime of inhumanity. So Charles I am so glad to see that you have found voices of the poor protesting this celebrity/media event. The cold truth that the Toronto people won't face is that the churches and the moral disciplines they can sometimes provide are the best hope for a lot of poor people around the world (and perhaps also for some not-so-poor westerners), not the gnostic, almost utopian, dreams of finding the cure-all to the problem if only enough attention and money is thrown now and fast to the forces of western, victimary culture in tandem with science, so that we need say nothing judgmental about sexual mores or bush medicine, or what have you. Where is the vision of individual responsibility beyond the condom? It's nothing more for these people than shouting at Stephen Harper for not presenting himself to be abused by these raving folk who are so sure that they have found and occupied the pinnacle of victimhood and so cannot be questioned as to their their rightness, under the reigning "orthodoxy" of the day. Thankfully, some of us don't give a damn about the reigning orthodoxy because we are much more interested in a return to a realistic, non-gnostic, orthodoxy.

Charles Henry said...

The cold truth that the Toronto people won't face is that the churches and the moral disciplines they can sometimes provide are the best hope for a lot of poor people around the world (and perhaps also for some not-so-poor westerners)...

I once had an interesting experience with a drug-addict begging right in front of a church downtown (practically in the doorway), aggressively trying to be noticed by those filing into the building for services.
He was targeting those attending church services precisely because they went to church, and might therefore be more inclined to help him..
..yet he himself refused to set foot in the place, even though he clearly believed that doing so "makes people better."

Walking through those doors was more frightening to him, than the horrors of his addiction; such is the extent to which some people fear change.
...and responsibility.