If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
If not now, when?
Hillel the Elder (35 BCE – 10 CE)
I ventured into blogging intending to showcase a few photographs, poems, and short stories.
Little did I know what I was going to see by way of a cable connection, a home-built computer, and the English language editions of foreign newspapers.
Zoom forward seven years.
I / we — my readers here, my 600+ “Facebook buddies” — admittedly, I know more of most than they know of me, but still — have formed through so much online “chatyping” (also: add Skype) an extraordinary but still fragile global political intelligentsia.
Yesterday’s note from a Brazilian stranger took less than a second to reach me, fewer than ten minutes to translate, add thirty minutes to an hour to publish, a little more time to propagate, and then, behind the scenes, less than an hour to identify the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil (Liliana Ayalde), Brazil’s president (Dilma Rousseff) — truly, one starts from scratch with each country heard from — and Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, Rafael Eldad.
So here’s the problem in rough form and without delving into Brazil’s hospice industry or its distribution of health services in general: if one is shown a picture of a elderly woman dying (anonymously with her back turned toward the camera) next to an IV (intravenous fluids) stand on the floor of some kind of care facility in São Paulo, does one (education + broadband + computer + new awareness and knowledge) have an obligation to do something about it, first by squawking?
If so, and out of whatever combination of ethical and personal motivations — altruism, boredom, Judaism, love, narcissism — is there a next step?
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Data –> Information –> News –> Opinion –> Political Action and Policy
In the old days — oh my how the children of the 1960s and early 1970s have aged — one might wind up in community activism (“Think Globally, Act Locally” was a popular slogan back when) or in advocacy or social journalism. A Studs Turkel or Jonathan Kozol — I’ve arrived: my apartment’s 850-sq.ft., or so, and my library exceeds 2,000 volumes, and there’s a background to match — would write a book, cultivate an academic audience, and perhaps influence the influential. A Ralph Nader could wear out some shoe leather on the way to building cases for causes, bringing the mighty into court, and generally speaking truth to power from bare-bones offices.
Now, for at least the past seven years, I / you / we / they have had an incredibly fast global communicating system.
So today add two minutes to find a politician — or former one — in São Paulo and Tweet one’s latest forward, essentially not only putting the matter in his mind but effectively also reaching out to those who should be able to wire together a more ethical and responsive public policy and public policy result in full view of their respective public audiences.
Of course people do care — see, for example, Floriani, Ciro Augusto. “Palliative Care in Brazil: A Challenge to the Health-Care System.” 2:19-24. Palliative Care Research and Treatment, 2008.
Such reading leads into the political ecology of place and the values driving arrangements of public programs. One hopes that along with criticism and examination comes progress. With that in mind, I thought this juxtaposition of articles worth noting:
Almeida-Filho, Naomar. “Higher education and health care in Brazil.” The Lancet, May 9, 2011.
Langlois, Jill. “Brazil congress designates oil royalties for education and health care.” Global Post, June 26, 2013.
It would seem Brazil has been working its levers to expand and improve its health care system, a far cry from the complaint that no one listens, no one cares.
However, listening and caring — and writing both for professional and lay audiences about such matters — would seem to fall short of the broadest distribution of basic community services as well as the acquisition of nifty items like cots and washable mattresses or mattress systems for the dying doing their dying in underfunded institutions or, in any case, ones unable to meet persistent demand.
* * *
In the country as a whole, about 35 per cent of the population lives in poverty, on less than two dollars a day. But in Brazil’s rural areas poverty affects about 51 per cent of the population . . .
Rural Poverty Portal. “Rural poverty in Brazil.”
Cyberspace may be just catching up to real space as regards finding ways to obtain improvements in specific dimensions of “qualities of living” — physical, psychological, even spiritual — for any given political space (village to state to region), but whoever we may be and wherever we just happen to be sitting, remote challenges, by way of the web, may be no longer so remote.
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