Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, reacted to the latest book of Bernard-Henry Lévy, The Virus in The Age of Madness. He takes issue with BHL’s idea of too powerful doctors in this pandemic. I usually like Richard Horton’s reflections – even though he is a powerful doctor. Bernard-Henri Lévy (AKA BHL) is slightly less interesting, as a now somewhat stale ‘Nouveau Philosophe’, known for meddling in international politics with remarkably little effect, which is why some people wonder “why everyone hates BHL”. His latest book has received mixed reviews (I like the one here), and there is indeed not much in it that has not been said better and earlier by the slightly less elegant but more effective Slavoj Žižek in his Pandemic!: COVID-19 Shakes the World. But BHL points his complains especially at the transformation of physicians into “supermen and superwomen”. Horton versus BHL? Who to love, who to hate?
COVID-19 is for an important part an “epidemic of fear”. But that is not to be blamed on the doctors – although there are surely some virologists and epidemiologists who are celebrating their streaks of vanity ‘ad nauseam’. They are however eagerly offered the floor by the media – who in this time feed on fear even more than usual. The politicians who should be in control lose themselves in weakness and confusion – mostly brought about by the lack of vision, as Horton rightly writes.
Health has indeed become a public obsession, and I find it embarrassing to see how all other issues (from culture to climate) are wiped away to make room for the most basic individual survivor instinct. But again, it is not the doctors who wish to extend “an incestuous union of the political and medical powers”. Better arguments can be found in Barbara Ehrenreichs ‘Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer (2018), where she writes about the illusion of having agency over ‘our bodies, our minds, and even over the manner of our deaths.’
Doctors share, with all of us, the symptoms of a change in our societies that has been coming for a long time and is accelerated by an accumulation of crises: climate, inequity, and health. That change has more to do with a search for a new common ground that helps to unite people in trying to make sense of it all, now that religion and even neoliberalism have gone to waste. In this transition the truth that problems caused by a certain way of thinking will not be solved by the same way of thinking is, I think, obvious.
That openness for another way of thinking is what I miss in Hortons reply to the Philosopher. I like his call for including social and economic inequalities in the new policies and programmes needed, but a call for fairness between generations is nice, but will not do. The inequity that cuts across all the elements of the crisis is indeed accelerated and made more visible by the pandemic. But it is not the pandemic that dehumanised us, as Horton writes. The pandemic is the whistle blower, the canary in the coalmine, warning us for new and more effects of climate change. And yes, doctors and medical scientists have an important voice in shaping plans for a way of life that is less exclusive and more equal. But so does everybody else, from any walk of life.
Perhaps even some really ‘New Philosophers’?
Willem van de Put, 4/9/2020
Supporting women to overcome difficulties and PTSD related complaints
FGM (female genital mutilation) can cause immediate and long-term health problems for girls and women. FGM is a modification of girls’/women’s genital area, performed according to sociocultural logic in the absence of medical justification. The practice has the high potential of causing haemorrhage and infections and interfering with normal physiological processes which can lead to severe physical health complications (e.g., urinary problems, infections, difficult childbirth) and even death. This painful and often traumatizing procedure can also give rise to serious mental health predicaments (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety) . It is estimated that at least 200 million women and girls currently alive have undergone FGM, and that more than 3.6 million additional cases of genital cutting occur worldwide every year.
The Group for the Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation (GAMS) provides support to women concerned by FGM, forced marriages and other types of gender based violence that have come to Belgium (in- and outside asylum procedure, recognised refugees) through individual support, community support, awareness raising, training and advocacy. C4C has been invited to take part in these efforts. Together with GAMS we aim to develop cultural specific interventions for these vulnerable groups of people while restoring trust and confidence and building upon their strengths, interpersonal skills and cultural values.
 World Health Organization. Female genital mutilation (fact sheet). 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genitalmutilation. Accessed 4 Feb 2020.
 Andro A, Lesclingand M. Female genital mutilation. Overview and current knowledge. Institut National d’Études Démographiques. Population. 2016;71: 217–96.
 Institut National de la Statistique (INS) et ICF. Enquête démographique et de santé en Guinée 2018 : Indicateurs clés Conakry, Guinée, et Rockville, Maryland, États-Unis d’Amérique; 2018.
Mulongo P, Hollins Martin C, McAndrew S. The psychological impact of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) on girls/women’s mental health: a narrative literature review. J Reprod Infant Psychol. 2014;32(
 UNICEF. Female genital mutilation/cutting: A global concern. 2016. 6. UNICEF. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change. New York: UNICEF; 2013. 186 pages
How do we communicate? Why do we sometimes think that others don't understand us, and why does it often? What do others hear and what do we want them to hear? What do we prefer not to talk about, how do we deal with hierarchy, how does that affect our (work) relationships, and how can you 'tell the truth' to family, colleagues and friends without hurting them?
In the workshop "Effective Communication" we put theory into practice. From theoretical concepts (Levine, Porges, Omer et al.) we learn from everyday examples and exercises how to raise awareness of thoughts, emotions and feelings t to reconnect with ourselves and with the world around us (partners, colleagues, friends, family). And above all, how we communicate that connection, without being hindered by fear or uncertainty – while maintaining respect.
This workshop not only focuses on a private context, but is also focused on application in a professional setting. Whether we work in self-managing teams, in the normal economic circuit (NEC), at the government or in a healthcare institution: being able to work together from mutual trust and connection is essential.
The workshop will be in Dutch language. For more information, see the project page on this website.