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A seat for Canute ? Leaders bring your own Chairs

Publication date: 09.06.2021
Author: Jeffrey Levett

The Geneva Summit 16/6/2021

Biden routing racism, Putin’s sea of waste


  • We know how to pile up falsehoods that look genuine; we also know when we wish how to utter truths. (Hesiod)
  • While you live shine, have no grief at all, for life exists but for a while, and time demands it’s due. (Ancient Greek song)
  • I use index cards to make sense of the universe. (Gary Soto)

In its forward journey the world looks down a road of mounting insecurity with diminishing prospects for a better life for many and with little room in which status quo politics or the international community can maneuver to avoid an increasingly unstable and hostile future of climate warming. At the same time, creative people are at work and impressive things are happening related to sustainability of humanity and the planet. What is the force(s) necessary to irrigate politics and society and move them closer to survivability and further away from disinfected concepts of doom? That is the question!  What is certain is that public health has a crucial role and ASPHER is a most important player.

The management of paradox is dichotomous. Which will it be left or right, up or down, sink or swim, numerator or denominator. Increasing the delay on climate change governance will further disrupt homeostasis and physiological immunity. One misstep with nuclear weapons and evolution can unravel and human consciousness and culture disintegrate. Artificial intelligence can be a boon to doom or help in the reduction of coming hostilities. These problems are interrelated and one mix leads to greater inequality and social dementia. The promotion of oversimplified solutions to a complex issue is however, a disservice to mankind. The coming Summit can provide a recalibrated compass.

The world has witnessed several false alarms and near calamities. Retaliation was fortunately ruled out by smart thinkers. We have also lived many false promises. One American Secretary of Health correctly predicted that the administrative plan was to promote prevention by spending as little as possible. It occurred as two prestigious scientists testified on Capitol Hill when the issue of prevention of disease and health promotion was debated. The entry of the great surgeon caused a Senatorial stampede to touch his white coat. Meanwhile, a man of public health who had saved millions through smallpox eradication sat ignored, waiting his turn to testify. His proposal then to develop a network of health promoting and disease preventing institutions would have benefited COVID today, but never made it. Let me remind you that Henderson was ASPHER’s guest in Yerevan.

COVID has not yet left us and may never do so. No country of size has achieved herd immunity. Although vaccine coverage is increasing it is far removed from a time when prevention measures can be relaxed. As India slowly comes out of COVID it is being hit by the colonial disease of black fungus. Messages for COVID protection still remains muddled. ASPHER’s recent Statement on the Abolition of Mandatory Prevention Measures in the US for Fully Vaccinated Individuals calls attention to this.

Sanitation and environmental pollution are significant issues in soil, air and water. Siberia burns earlier this year. Freshwater lakes are being depleted of oxygen. People everywhere face increasing inequality; masks now float in the oceans where fins are hacked from sharks.  The effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima will be with us for a long time to come. The words that should be our universal guide today, come from the Russell-Einstein Manifesto on nuclear disarmament, 1955, we appeal as human beings to human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest. In the certainty that people of goodwill everywhere are bound by their common humanity and a great resolve to build a better world, a world where everyone can breathe freely.

Public health is one basic element and practical ingredient, for mankind’s hope for a future. Is anyone actively listening though? Public Health is society’s means of dealing with unpleasant surprise and transforming noise into music. Disaster trails just behind populism and fanaticism. Recently the Capital was attacked in Washington and educational seminars stormed in Moscow.

In a few days the Biden-Putin Geneva Summit has a chance to ensure the world that the likelihood of nuclear conflict between the two superpowers approaches, zero. It takes place at a time of elevated tensions between America and Russia as NATO troops, warships, aircraft participate in military exercises designated Steadfast Defender 21 stretch that span the Atlantic, Europe and the Black Sea region. It is a simulated response to attack of any one of its members. It takes place just after Russian troops massed along the Ukrainian border and as Belarus populates its prisons with protesters and receives aid from Moscow. It is an opportunity to apply the principle of No First Use.

In perpetuity, the Summit should with sincerity give us the etiology of how existential problems have come to be and how each of the two leaders will move to a higher level of neutrality in a creative and hopeful fashion. It should provide a win-win framework to temper adversarial positions. It is a great opportunity to investigate the origins of the coronavirus in tandem with the development of public health as a global security issue. It would be a fantastic humanitarian gesture if Alexei Navalny was freed and if a pardon was extended to the Kings Bay Ploughshares7. It would be overwhelmingly symbolic. To establish an agenda of mutual activities relating to rapprochement through public health would be a godsend as well as an agenda on hate reduction against women, children and the other, which would be a blessing.

With COVID we live in a parallel pandemic of ordinary individuals being destroyed, killed, designated dissidents, dangerous and detained, imprisoned, incarcerated and tortured, sucked out of society by the state and Para state organs.  Most recently, Roman Protasevich a journalist was arrested by Belarusian authorities following an extraordinary diversion of his flight, to Minsk .  Meanwhile Columbia, Myamar, Palestine, Yemen…….

The ongoing arms race and colossal profits with weakening of institutions and democracy make peace promotion much more difficult. Without the humane efforts of world leaders to reduce inequality, emphasize meritocracy and institutional autonomy and give education a more philosophical bent leading it to life’s fulfillment, nothing much will change. It has to better empower Youth.  Youth can imagine and create a better future.

We do have an obligation to examine any and all attempts that consciously and continually refuse, rewrite, and persistently deny well known happenings or attempt to destroy individuals. We do have an obligation to de-falsify false historical narrative.  Do keep in mind two useful maxims arising from Public health; unlikely events can have extreme impact and well-designed interventions can take us down the wrong road. Here and now the EU must stop pussy-footing and respond to the demands of ASPHER made on its 50th anniversary in Athens, 2016. ASPHER must continue to amplify its unique but suppressed voice as it creates the conditions for a new narrative.

Let me finish on a note of humorous irony and recall an earlier leader who gave lots of money to a famous Academician to research his pet theory on longevity only to die relatively early. It prompted the leader’s utterance of, he swindled all of us.

Jeffrey Levett

Lamentations describes Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem, 587 BC; the affliction, oppression and starvation of the people.

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