In his poem “How to create an enemy” writer Sam Keen reminds us of the brutality of war,
“When your icon of the enemy is complete
you will be able to kill without guilt,
slaughter without shame.”
George Washington alerted us to the dangers of foreign entanglements. And President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about the threat to democracy of the “military-industrial complex.” This complex is made up of people. People who have children and grandchildren to whom they want to leave a better world. But a world where war shows its demonic face is not a better world.
In health-related missions that I have conducted in more than 50 developing countries I have seen the ugly face of widespread poverty and disease. And I have seen the terrible consequences of war and displacement in countries such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mozambique, and Angola.
Are these tragedies inevitable? Is it possible that instead of exporting war we export technology together with people such as teachers, artists, doctors, and researchers to help create a better world? I am convinced it is possible. Why not foster policies based on humane values? We need to replace the paradigm of confrontation for one of cooperation. As Pakistani physician and theater director Bina Shariff told me, “Colonizers don’t have a concern for other human beings, so they never think of improving people’s lives by a better health system, culture, education, and nation-building. Those thoughts are far removed from their minds. They want to keep imperialism going and war is the permanent feeding tube.”
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Policies should be developed at improving people’s lives worldwide; one that could help combat poverty and disease in developing countries, providing them with low-priced agricultural machinery and fair-trade conditions. These policies could include an exchange of artists, sports figures, and physicians and researchers with other countries. We need to step up contact among people. We fear what we don’t know…
Savings from war could help a concerted effort to eliminate disease among the poorest of the poor…strengthen research projects leading to better health and quality of life for everyone…conquering dreadful diseases such as Alzheimer’s, lung and heart disease, and cancer, to name a few. Finding a cure for them sooner would have an enormous impact on people’s health and quality of life at equally enormous material savings.
We have the resources. What we need is a new look at life and its wondrous possibilities. I may be called na´ve. But those who are not na´ve are the ones that have led us into these wars. We can create a better world, if we truly want it.