Medical Crisis and New Solution:

Call to Form a Committee for the Coincidence of Opposites

Dr. Jocelyn Elders, who served as Surgeon General of the United States from 1993-4, gave an important presentation during the first panel of Schiller Institute Conference on June 27, 2020. The Schiller conference was entitled “Will Humanity Prosper or Perish?” Her presentation is included above.

Statement to Form a Committee for the Coincidence of Opposites:


We are experiencing presently an unprecedented combination of crises throughout the world. The COVID19- pandemic has delivered a shock to the economies of the industrialized nations, the end of which cannot yet be foreseen, and it has now reached the developing sector, in which many nations do not have even an approximately adequate health system. The coronavirus pandemic now raging across our planet may in fact turn out to be the greatest risk to confront humanity since the bubonic plague of the Fourteenth century, six hundred and fifty years ago. 

Humanity must respond to this crisis as one. Though there are divisions and differences among nations, all of us must be freed from this pandemic, or none of us will truly be freed of it. Yet, out of this crisis may come a great, unique opportunity to liberate humankind from its long adolescence of war and conflict, through adopting a universal mission based on securing the general welfare of all people, both now, and for posterity.

A world health care system, the most advanced in human history, must be immediately established. Not only will this consist of new hospitals, beds, equipment and personnel; such a system must also provide infrastructure—the clean water, sufficient nutrition, housing, and transportation and supply lines required to fully defeat the combination of poverty and lethal disease that now threaten over half of humanity, even without a pandemic. The one billion children of the nations of India, Brazil and the continent of Africa, must be simultaneously rescued from infection. 

To do this, we propose that at least hundreds of thousands, even millions of youth, be enlisted in a volunteer health extension service. Many young adults must be trained as emergency health care workers, to supplement the efforts of doctors and nurses already in short supply. They must quickly become a new battalion of essential health care workers. To do this in Africa, South America and Asia in time, means that youth in the United States and Europe are simultaneously needed to join this effort.

At the same time, we now see revealed the true physical poverty of the United States, and the resultant woeful health condition of tens of millions of Americans. (This will be true for many other nations as well.) For every action taken to secure the building of a new health infrastructure platform for the world, there must be a corresponding improvement in the conditions of Americans, particularly in the crumbling urban centers and desperate rural communities. One therefore has to define a plane on which the solutions for quite disparate problems become visible. 

It is obvious that, in the final analysis, it can be only the cooperation among governments which can conquer challenges of such enormous dimensions in a durable manner. But the condition of the world proves that this is not that easy. Therefore, a pilot project organized on a private basis could first show the way forward which governments would then pursue.

In the United States, for example, we can envision the combining of the efforts of institutions, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, veterans organizations, religious institutions, service organizations and others. In particular, high school campuses in the urban centers, community colleges, land-grant colleges and the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) system could act as coordinating points to assemble volunteers that want to participate in such a programfor the purpose of contributing to  an international “Apollo Project” to restore, maintain and improve the health of the human race. Young people from Africa and Asia and should be paired with young people from America, and be trained together from the beginning. This program would be a demonstration project, intended to ultimately resemble something in the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 “Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)” program, and its young volunteers could be deployed, together with doctors and medical professionals,  in the building of first, temporary, and then permanent hospitals and hospital wards in African nations. 

America itself should train one million or more youth for this process, to respond to both the domestic and the international need.

The idea is to create an initiative which is to the benefit of all of the parties involved. The committee is going to be called The Committee for the Coincidence of Opposites, after the work of the prominent Christian theologian Nicholas of Cusa. We have to create a new unity which brings people together on a level much higher than their political affiliation, ethnicity, or other identities.
 
Time is fleeting. There are lives in the balance. We must create a lever through which we might move the world, now, to deploy the required effort and the necessary human and financial resources — usually reserved by nations only for war — for the detection, prevention, and cure of the coronavirus. Our success will be measured by the lives we save, and our ability to protect the inalienable right to life for all human beings. Through creating an international health platform, in this crisis, medical science is placed at the service of justice and equity, and youth can become the “transmission medium” for the greatest improvement in health in human history. 

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