Nowadays if you want to be social, you find a quiet corner somewhere — where you will not be disturbed — then begin to look for your acquaintances. You do not have to physically move to find someone to share with; and the person you are talking with could be anywhere in the world. So long as your phone is smart, such is the power of Internet.
It was not always this way. Back in the day, those who were there, say that if you had to talk to someone, you had to physically get up and go to where the person was. Life was simple that people were also relatively few, almost all lived in the rural areas but not so close to each other. Everyone within a few kilometres was likely a relative, a cousin, an aunty or uncle. So if you did not believe what you were being told at home, you had to trek some distance to find a different viewpoint. Life was further complicated because outside of the immediate homestead and excluding the small fields that were hand cultivated, the environment was forest or thickets. Without Eurobond to finance a mega road, you had to manoeuvre a path to get to where you were going. If, and this applied mainly to males, you delayed past nightfall then the return home became an adventure. Animals unseen during the day would emerge curious as to who this was.
One such animal, we are told, was the leopard. By nature leopards operate in the shadows rarely seen, more likely heard. Stories have it that if you had gone to visit cousin across the valley and were then walking back after dark, you could be ‘escorted’ home. You would catch a glimpse of the leopard standing in front of you along the path you were going to take. After you got past the initial sheer fright of the scene you would begin to trek back, take another path home. Periodically the leopard would appear, as if guiding you. This was not some angel type arrangement, but a female leopard guiding you away from her cubs, who would silently trail her so that at all times she was between you and them. The leopard would not harm you and only when you finally reached home would your legs turn to jelly and your heart finally begin beating again; symptoms that you had been under severe stress.
In today’s world, leopards have become few, almost endangered species. Their habitats have diminished and even their culture, one where we look out for ourselves while at the same time looking out for others to avoid unnecessary conflict, has been replaced by a more hyena like approach. Lots of ugly eating, raucous laughter for those indulging and rather ugly bodies as a consequence, both physically and health wise. Many people who indulge in such lifestyle recognise that it is not sustainable, but rather than change, insist that there must be some remedy that one can take to reduce the ill effects of bad living. It can be as simple as expensive makeup but includes all kinds of detox diets; herbal concoctions that promise to cure everything to prayer meetings.
A bunch of hyenas are noisy enough on their own, but what makes it worse for everyone else is the mass peddling of non-information through the Internet. It is easy for anyone to set up an authentic looking website, with information that mixes what is known to be the truth with what is essentially a con. The person consuming such information unless they are guided by strong references to detect what is right or wrong easily follows, usually giving out hard earned money, what is bad for them.
Here is where the people in government are supposed to help the common person. By educating them and providing people with scientifically proven information. That requires at its root, to support research in public health but also to help disseminate results of such research. There are many persons who set up clinics with one cure that treats all diseases from cancer to love issues to financial problems. Others sell herbal medicine of unproven doses and effectiveness. It is estimated that up to one quarter of Chinese and Indian herbal medicine have poisonous heavy metals in them or are mixed with known medicines such as Viagra. Such concoctions are rarely regulated, and neither are homeopathic medicines.
Given that we may spend up to 15 years of our total lives in ill health, nursing some chronic disease, it is tempting to just try out something in order to feel better. The danger for each of us is that there are few leopards to guide us, when we are straying off the path of good healthy practice. We are either alone imbibing information from the net, which is hard to verify, or we are part of a pack of hyenas indulging. Improving health for everyone requires investing in public health information.