It’s About Time

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

This quote is credited to Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher and spiritualist, who was mostly concerned with meditation and bringing about societal change through a revolution in the psyche of individual members of society.

The exact context in which the quote was used is not entirely clear. However, as the meditation blog Wildmind explains, it appears that Jiddu Krishnamurti saw a world that was constantly out of balance. The world, from his own viewpoint, was filled with ordinary (unenlightened) “worldlings” like you and me, who live in a virtual reality of delusion, confusion, and distortion.

I do not recall how and why I became so obsessed with this quotation, to the extent of researching the life of its author. Perhaps, as a physician, I was immediately attracted to the quotes’ constituent sentence parts which are all health-related.  Or perhaps the underlying meaning struck a vague sense of unease, which had my mind (and heart) unsettled. I therefore could not help trying to make sense of this quote, as it relates to the society that I am most familiar with – Nigeria.

By all known scientific measures of population and individual health and well being, we appear to be profoundly sick. The Nigerian life has repeatedly been described as “nasty, brutish and short”.

Life expectancy is at a mere 52 years, at par with Somalia, a country long defined by prolonged conflict, its ungovernable nature and perennial chaos. Recently, we were shocked (really?) to find out that if a child were born into the world today and had the choice of choosing his nationality based on indices of economic opportunity, health standards and political freedoms, that he would do better by choosing any other country but ….. you know.

Are we really bothered by these grim, utterly depressing, yet relateable statistics? Or have we found a means to adjust, by subliminally creating our own distorted, contorted and delusional world, polluted with pseudo-comforting clouds, that make us numb to all external stimulation? – a world where for example tragic deaths from preventable road traffic accidents and senseless civilian massacres have become regular parts of our short lives and virtually accepted as normal; a world where those in leadership escape to Europe at the taxpayers’ expense, to get treated for a common cold, while the domestic health infrastructure remains in near-prehistoric conditions and the masses die in thousands.

The Nigerian blogosphere is littered with political blogs, and very few health blogs. Some may argue that one cannot divulge Nigeria’s political reality from the decadence in the health, and other existential sectors. There may be some truth to that statement, but waiting for our politicians to improve our health status is akin to waiting for the water to dry, before crossing the stream.

Why exactly have I decided to blog on health matters? I really do not have an exact answer. Consider it my alternate reality, or my own attempt to “adjust” to the proverbial sick society. Could I be deluded in thinking that words and ideas expressed on a blog could impact things? It is possible. But I am certain of one thing. Our health issues are not insurmountable, if we are truly committed to solving them. Public discourse on issues of health that matter to Nigerians is a good starting point. More than the process of forming good arguments, perhaps what is most troubling about the public discourse on the state of health in Nigeria, as we know it currently, is the true lack of it.

Today, in writing my first post on this health blog, I join the ranks of Nigeria Health Watch,  and the Nigeria Health Journal- the only two other Nigeria-related health blogs in existence (to the best of my knowledge). The Nigerian life deserves it.

As political blogger Japheth Omojuwa wrote in a recent op-ed on the value of a Nigerian life,

“We must begin to see solutions outside the conventional ways and means. The solution to Nigeria’s problems does not lie in the hands of those in government alone. We need to see things differently especially when seeing them the same way has not provided the much-needed solutions….”

Its time for enlightenment. We urgently need to extend the health dialogue. Seriously. Its about time.