Drug Companies and health; Asylum-seekers in the media
Two stories in the news highlighted issues of health: the way misuse (or overuse?) of antibiotics has “cleared the way” for much more serious viruses etc which are resistant to our current medicines; and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa (after an earlier outbreak some years ago in Northern Uganda). We noted the distrust and fear of “modern” (Western) medicine in many African communities- perhaps partly based on previous experience that drug companies had not always operated in the best interests of their communities. In our own societies there is often anger at the profits drug companies make from medicines- and not always in the best interests of community health (for example there is often less research into preventative medicine, which is less profitable than curative). We need to be much clearer about the role private companies can play, what are their limitations, and how health care that is not “profitable” should be funded.
Facebook has recently carried messages (originating from Britain First) claiming that asylum seekers get more money from the state than do pensioners. This was answered several years ago, but is still “doing the rounds” (and therefore still needs to be answered by those of us who are on FB). We are often bombarded with media stories which have give us little explanatory background (and sometimes little factual basis), and which create the impression that the world is one big disaster. Facebook recently apologised for running an experiment which “proved” that negative stories reinforce negative reactions, whereas positive (and realistic) reporting encourages hope.
We are called not to be “conformed to this present world” but to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). But too many of us take our attitudes and opinions uncritically from the media without allowing the Gospel to make a difference to what we think.
In the story of Balaam and Balak (eg Numbers 22:4 to 6; 23:7 to 12; 24:10 to 14) Balaam refuses to say what the King demands of him, but insists on speaking God’s word. So who is doing that today? Is it only Jehovah’s Witnesses, who go door to door asking people to think about the state of the world today? Or do we have a message of hope that the JWs do not? How should it be shared?
Sometimes it is difficult to know what is the right message. Is Tony Blair right or wrong to support the Sisi regime in Egypt, for example? Hananiah and Jeremiah had opposite messages for the people (Jeremiah chapter 28)- in hindsight to us it seems obvious, but at the time, only time would tell who was right. Sometimes our uncertainty tempts us to do nothing- but that is a far worse choice than doing what we can, even though it is imperfect (Bonhoeffer’s “Ethics” deals with this dilemma- faced as he was with the decision of whether to support a plot to assassinate Hitler).