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Hope against hope

There is a huge weight hanging over our nation. No one with a voice, a view, an opinion, or lucky enough to 'squat' a column, can ignore recent events

ButterflyThere is a huge weight hanging over our nation. No one with a voice, a view, an opinion, or lucky enough to 'squat' a column, can ignore recent events. Wickedness beyond words has visited our capital city.

The walls of the BMA, home of the doctors' trade union, are stained with the blood of innocent commuters, workers, passers-by, as well as the there-by-fate, massacred in the London bus bombing.

God only knows of the horrors, the carnage and the indescribable that is buried deep beneath the streets of London in the tube system. Bodies welded into the framework of a tube train. Searing heat and black dust. If there are words that can articulate what has happened, I don't have them.

I write. Words are what I do. Expressions, feelings, happenings. Ideas are what I transcribe into sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books. I try to make images leap off the page. Make things come to life. Suggest ideas. Create thoughts. I poke fun and the odd stick through the bars of the
establishment. But, what can I do now?

What are the words? Where can I find the lexicon? We all know what is inside us, the unspeakable, the anger and the frustration. You try and write it on the page. I can't.

Families have been crushed, dreams shattered and the future trampled. For the relatives, an empty chair. No bread-winner, no lover, no partner, no friend, no work mate. Just a void. Empty space. Life, in the concave.

And why? What makes British citizens kill other British citizens? How is hatred accumulated and stored-up to ferment into such indescribably evil acts?  Will we ever know? How do we find out what turns well educated, purposeful, wage-earning, and otherwise sober, well adjusted citizens into the enemy within? What have we done, and moreover, what has been done in our name, that marks us out as targets and the objective of such wickedness?

Will life ever be the same? Where we once looked at the backpacker and dreamt that we too could take off, drop out and have fun for a year or two, now we speculate what is in the rucksack. Why is it so heavy? Who carries it? Does it look doubtful? Is it unattended? A pall of suspicion hangs over us.

The margins of reasonable doubt, suspicion, mistrust and disbelief are now blurred, distorted and crossed. Our world cannot ever be the same.

As we search for security and safety, we are lurching, headlong, into a chasm. The deep abyss of authority, bureaucracy and government with a capital `G'. There is little else that our political leaders can do.

Besieged by the media and malevolent journalistic opinion, they can only make more law, create more regulation and proscribe more. Identity cards are months away. Our retinas, our finger tips and probably our breath, will be scanned, and taken for analysis.

Will it all stop fine young people from triggering ten pounds of explosives on crowded public transport? No. Will it prevent a university graduate from having their fertile and prolific mind invaded, infiltrated and overtaken by more evil than we can imagine? I don't think so.

What have we done to invite such hatred? How have we so misunderstood the world that we are on the brink of destroying it? What is taught in some places to some people that so outweighs our system - one that is based fundamentally on merit, achievement and secularism?

The answer is: we don't know. The answer is: these are probably all the wrong questions. The answer is... well, what is the answer? We are, all of us, stunned and bewildered.

An answer? Well, there may be one. The glimmerings. The beginning and a start. Where do we look? No further than home. Home, in the sense of our industry. Our great, powerful, rich, over-blown and sometimes greedy industry. An industry that does great things and a great deal of things we wish it didn't.

The answer is not simple, but part of the solution is staring us in the face. How? We have to get to know each other a bit better. For evidence of this, look no further than one of our own; a big player, innovative and controversial, but it has got this right.

Global Health Fellows (GHF) is a group, cultured, developed and invented by 'one of us'. They take their brightest and best and give them months away from the grind of targets, strategies, PowerPoint, spread-sheets and customer-facing episodes.

They take the leaders of tomorrow and send them to places, for instance, like South Africa, where they help to combat HIV/AIDS. The GHF is a year-long programme where employees use special skills and talents to fight against diseases like tuberculosis and trachoma. They work where there are limited resources and infrastructure.

The GHFellows are chosen for their strengths in teaching and training, as well as knowledge transfer. They plant seeds that will yield fruit long after they have returned home. This is so much more than being about medicines. This is about the precious resource of sharing, understanding and working without reward.

If there is a future beyond bombing and the police-state that is the inevitable consequence, it has to be in sharing, understanding, accommodating and knowing each other better.

Good luck
If a company is brave enough to send its best away from building the bottom line to buttressing the front line - it has to be admired. The pharma industry is packed full of bright young things that could work in areas of the world to share an understanding. Break down barriers. Be part of the solution. It is very easy to hate a stranger but hard to hate someone you know and understand.

Who is doing this kind of thing, something we all should be getting into? It's Pfizer, and good luck to their GHFs. More, please!

The Author
Roy Lilley is a healthcare author and broadcaster. He has written several books and is well known for his sometimes controversial opinions

2nd September 2008

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