The Constant Gardener

I have just finished watching the film for the third or fourth time, and each time I watch it I find it incredibly humbling. In terms of directorship the film is very well put together, with wonderful camera work, clever music and great acting. There is obvious no surprise that it was nominated for so many awards; the surprise lies in the fact it received so few, thanks to the popularity of Brokeback Mountain.

What is the film about?

The film is a fictional investigation into the dealings by large pharmaceuticals in Africa – how they abuse a position of trust and power into getting people to sign up for Medical Trials on drugs which are not yet ready, in order to benefit from the “next wave” of disease. Despite the shortcomings of the drugs Disphraxia (forgive a possible spelling error) the fictional pharmaceutical KHD continue to test the drug, hiding evidence of 62 deaths it has caused. I urge you to watch the film to get a better understanding.

What does it teach us?

Today, millions of people are dying in Africa for diseases that are both preventable and curable by the medication available to us in the West. Without fear of exaggerating, your medical cupboard at home probably has a higher concentration of medication per person in your household than the majority of African clinics – even when you appear to be completely healthy. Now I do not want to pretend that I am not hypocritical, I too am guilty of this gross misuse of fortune. There is a bigger picture:

In order to solve problems in Africa, and in all the other developing countries, we need to have drastic change. The current agenda for climate change is predominantly due to the media attention it has been given, the same was true for many things. What upsets me is that we are led to believe that in one night, we can do enough to solve Africa’s problems for a year. Instead of giving them £40 million a year through projects like Comic Relief, why don’t we set them up for life?

In the West, a culture has been created that believe that everything can be solved by money. Politicians constantly argue over the Health Service, how £6.4 billion can be spent upon upgrading systems. The systems may be perfect, but unless the Doctors are prepared to utilise them, the money has been badly spent. The same is true of Africa: Live Aid, Comic Relief, Live 8. They all make a tremendous difference to the people who received the money – but we can do more than that. If it were the case that retail spending went down for three weeks after we’ve had a big fund-raiser, then I believe we can probably say we’ve done well. I think it would be interesting to see how much people have actually given.

I don’t want to be a doom and gloom merchant, especially as this is my first post of my new blog. I just want to set some sort of agenda for myself. It’s not about the money. I’m not going to post here that I’ve given 40% of my months wages to African people. Through discussion, thought and progress, I want to discover a way that the massive injustice can be solved properly. Too much time has been given to economics and national interest for the West. Where money is needed in Africa, it should be spent – but there are other ways of helping development. I hope that I can be involved in that, even if it takes me years.