Read the full email discussion on this topic.
January 19, 2012
The point has been lost in the recent correspondence, I think. The purpose of the comments by Anthony, Stuart, Terry and mine focused on a method to understand Mbeki's contribution. Anthony told us to "play the ball and not the man", Stuart highlighted that "all theories would require equal careful evaluation", Terry reminded us that "to conflate his HIV/AIDS denialist views with those on big pharmas bonanza A(H1N1) windfall is disingenuous" and I pointed out that "courting a single paradigm is possibly more dangerous than allowing and engaging alternative view points." These are all points that seek to lift our thinking and enable us to critically evaluate Mbeki's thoughts, in fact, anyone's thoughts. Instead, the recent drivel has perpetuated a dualist mode of thought that is weak and dangerous.
For example, labeling others as "Mbeki apologists" suggests that there are those who are not - two mutually exclusive groups. "Rotten pharma" was used to describe those that appear to criticize pharma suggesting again that there are those of the opposite opinion - two mutually exclusive groups. "My blood ran cold" suggests that there are instances when "blood can run warm" - two mutually exclusive situations. The last example, "he was often right and often said good things" suggesting that it is possible to be incorrect and say bad things. Wrong or right, good or bad - this dualist mode of thought is weak and dangerous. It suggests that there only two sides to a discussion - for or against, and that we must assume a position and defend it. This is foolish.
If I said, "The current pharma industry business model is deeply flawed but there is overwhelming evidence it has contributed to humanity by curing disease, improving life expectancy, facilitating economic development, and providing jobs"; in which group will I fit based on a dual worldview, pro-pharma or anti-pharma? It's somewhat difficult, right. Fortunately, the world is more nuanced than some would have us believe. The implications of not viewing the world in all its complexity perpetuates the status quo and keeps us from engaging alternative points of view. Mbeki was courageous to voice his views when many disagreed, that in some circles is called leadership.
Somehow, I expected more from Pat who is a member of the media. Free speech and a free press are wonderful constitutional ideals but responsible free speech and a responsible free press are entirely different concepts. I was hoping for more of the latter and less of a dual worldview that is weak and dangerous. Could this be part of the reason we see a Protection of State Information Bill before the NCOP?
January 17, 2012
If anything, Mbeki should be applauded for reminding us that there are alternative points of view to consider. The purpose of the article (link below) appears to question the veracity of Mbeki's thoughts and we are left with the idea that the man is a quack of sorts. What evidence do we have that Mbeki's comments concerning Libya are linked to a conspiracy theory? There is merit evaluating his thoughts given his deep involvement in global politics. Similarly, his thoughts on HIV and pharma gives us reason to contemplate what the implications are of kowtowing to the dominate paradigm.
When Mbeki told us that poverty causes AIDS, the masses thought it absurd but it pushed independent thinkers (academics and others) to think about causality in analytic models. His hypothesis was wrong of course and his economics training let him done. He should have said poverty is a determinant or a predictor of AIDS. Low socioeconomic status will accelerate AIDS progression and the wealthy are fortunate to have access to treatment, health insurance, nutritious food, private health care facilities, etc. His hypothesis may be a result of poor advice or poor scientific training but we can only arrive at that conclusion if we independently engage Mbeki's thoughts.
Courting a single paradigm is possibly more dangerous than allowing and engaging alternative view points.