Monday, September 15, 2008

Tools for connection

In the 90s, email was a way to bring together people for whom their local universe was insufficient. It provided community and mobilization. And then it became so popular as to become burdensome. Social networks, chat, instant messaging, phone texts created a weave of affinities which demanded both attention and bandwidth. For some it became overwhelming, with many disjointed pockets, not coalescing. What began as an anarchy skilled at self-organizing became out of control,

Enter new tools.

Dgroups describes itself as “simple, non-commercial (no ads), respectful of privacy, and targeted at low bandwidth users in the South”, a tool to be used by advocates who would uplift the developing world.

A health discussion dgroup is moderated, and “to ensure integrity, the forum is overseen by skilled moderators. As a subscriber, you can be assured that all messages you receive will be relevant, readable, and understandable. Messages are proofread before posting to ensure they are reader-friendly. All internet addresses mentioned in emails are checked for functionality.”

No typos, no name-calling, no rough edges. I wonder what kind of an exchange or community is built when interventions are so edited, massaged, moderated, smoothed. Doesn’t this put a great deal of power in a few hands, create a hierarchy that will perpetuate in the developing world the style and values and politenesses of the already developed world. Capitalism, democracy, and culture all globalized.

Another instance: a website prides itself on “selected, current [health] knowledge from peer-reviewed journal literature via C-Channel”, assuring that nothing too unusual will be available for the viewer.

Like is finding like to the exclusion of all else - making universes smaller instead of larger, and those in power believe they are helping those with less. Will we all become homogenized?

“A closed system limits choice, but it is more stable and more reliable. An open system is far more fragile and unreliable – this is the price of freedom.” Leander Kahney, Inside Steve’s Brain, 2008. p 248

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Science gone mad?

Science gone mad?

In order to know what to expect from each other and even from themselves people invent patterns and categories as practical ways of understanding. Earlier patterns were esoteric, spiritual: 7 chakras, 12 astrological signs, 7 deadly sins, the 8 fold path; later patterns became more psychological and: Freud’s ego and id, Jung/Myers-Briggs 4 dimensions, 9 enneagram points, 7 ray studies.

Today science has extended personality groups from the mystical and logical to minute pragmatic detail, providing 18 major categories*, more than double the number prior organizers have needed.

Is this doubling or tripling of types increasing clarity or creating an opportunity for wrong guidance?

*From a listing on the internet of the table of contents of the current DSM:

Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or Adolescence ... 39
Delirium, Dementia, and Amnestic and Other Cognitive Disorders ... 135
Mental Disorders Due to a General Medical Condition ... 181
Substance-Related Disorders ... 191
Schizophrenia andOther Psychotic Disorders ... 297
Mood Disorders ... 345
Anxiety Disorders ... 429
Somatoform Disorders ... 485
Factitious Disorders ... 513
Dissociative Disorders ... 519
Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders ... 5A
Eating Disorders ... 583
Sleep Disorders ... 597
Impulse-Control Disorders Not Elsewhere Classified ... 663
Adjustment Disorders ... 679
Personality Disorders ... 685
Other Conditions That May Be a Focus of Clinical Attention ... 731
Additional Codes ... 743

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Library

I ventured in on Saturday. I have not been able to read a book since last June. Magazine articles: sometimes. Even some emails have been too much for my concentration.

But, I had this idea that I could maybe read something not challenging. So, I went in and located three potential books (_Breaking Her Fall_—Stephen Goodwin, Ann Packer’s latest (the title of which I forget and have already returned it) and _Belong to Me_, Marisa de los Santos.

I nervously took them to the desk and my heart stopped when the librarian asked for my card a second time, it turns out in order to update it but in that brief moment I wondered if my card had been revoked for some reason, and I even managed to exchange a few words with her (“I cried over _Belong to Me_”, she said. “I haven’t cried since _The Time Travelers Wife_”, I replied. “Oh! I loved that book!” and so on.)

I have been on a binge since Saturday morning. I am nearly through the third and went and got three more to make sure I don’t run out. I’m afraid that if I stop, my ability to read will leave again and I don’t think I could bear another year without books.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Democracy Doesn't Scale

Oligarchy is a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society (whether distinguished by wealth, family or military powers).

The "iron law of oligarchy" states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations. The relative structural fluidity in a small-scale democracy succumbs to "social viscosity" in a large-scale organization. According to the "iron law," democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible.

Democracy just doesn't scale.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Fistula Hospital

In the villages in Ethiopia, the girls carry pottery jars of water so heavy that their bone growth is slowed so much that their pelvic bones are often too small for a baby to pass through. A hole in the bladder or rectum can appear, the girls leak, the community shuns them, husbands send them back to their father, a separate hut is built, and they live alone unable to even stay clean. Some walk a day or two to the fistula hospital, receive free repair surgery and recuperation, some are fixed and walk back to their villages.

The girls are advised to deliver at a hospital, to start walking towards care when the baby starts to walk. At first I was drawn to the noble service of the local physicians, the countrywide need, the shame erased, ...

Until I began to think that this repairing isn’t preventing.

Perhaps the next generation will not work girls so hard, perhaps the next generation will not wed girls so young, perhaps the next generation will use birth control.

Someday there might be water at a village tap, and girls would not carry pottery jars of water so heavy that their bone growth is slowed.


One of the characters in Cutting for Stone, a fine book by Abraham Verghese (set mostly in Ethiopia), becomes a fistula expert.