by G.A.Dwyer Astaphan,
With the possible exception of Cuba, which enjoys worldwide respect in health care, I think we can safely say that global acclaim for Caribbean people and nations has come typically been through our athletes and artistes, and, very rarely, through political figures, intellectuals, or authors.
Why haven’t we seen more of our people rising to the top of the world in education, science, research, development, technology, architecture, construction, the professions, and entrepreneurship?
For example, why haven’t Caribbean banks and other institutions and businesses (whether individually or collectively) begun to occupy economic space and to take market share in countries whose banks, institutions and other businesses occupy economic space, and enjoy market share, sometimes even dominant market share, in our region?
Why aren’t Caribbean capital and human resources being inserted strategically into the economies on all of the world’s continents?
Closer to home, why aren’t more Caribbean capital and brainpower being utilized to expand and fortify our foothold in our own markets, and to stake a more assertive claim on our own resources?
The answer, I believe, is that we have been too reactive, and not sufficiently proactive. Too narrow in vision. Too accepting of the same old status quo that has kept us at the margins of global matters and far away from the centres of power for the last four centuries. Too content to be bit players. Too hesitant to explore our true potential. Too weak. And too quick to sell out.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of us are on the right path. But “some of us” aren’t enough.
So I want to share something with you, in the hope that you’ll get the picture and become inspired.
Guinea Hen Weed is a herb that’s found in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It’s said to have a long history of use in herbal medicine for arthritis, rheumatism, inflammation and infection, digestive disorders, diabetes, pain relief, cancer, etc.
And in more recent times, scientific research has validated its ancient uses, in addition to seeing positive effects when given to people suffering from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
It’s claimed that the Guinea Hen Weed stimulates the body’s immune system to increase the production of lymphocytes and natural ‘killer cells’ which destroy diseases, and that it also increases the production of interferon and interleukins which are substances that are naturally produced by our immune system to fighting infections and cancers.
Interestingly, a great deal of the front-line research on the Guinea Hen Weed has been done right here in the Caribbean, specifically in Jamaica, under the leadership of Dr. Lawrence Williams, who is a consultant at that country’s Scientific Research Council.
The Weed is one of 822 plants of medicinal value that grow wild in Jamaica.
What a wonderful resource!
Think of the enormous health, economic and other benefits that could accrue to the people of Jamaica as a result of the Guinea Hen Weed and the other 821medicinal plants that are growing wild in that country. And think also of what medicinal plants that may be growing wild here in St. Kitts & Nevis, and elsewhere in the Caribbean, or what we can grow, process, and market for economic gain.
Dr. Williams and his research team, which includes Dr. Earl Roberts and Dr. Lyndon Johnson, both also Jamaicans, have been working on a drug derived from the Guinea Hen Weed that is intended and hoped to save many, many lives.
He claims that the drug that he’s developing will be effective on a number of different cancers, twelve so far, including lung, breast and prostate cancers.
He and yet another Jamaican, Dr. George Levy, who is a medical doctor living in the United States, own the patent on the drug being researched.
Dr. Williams is no fluke or fake. Among his many accomplishments has been a nomination in 2001 for a Nobel Prize. He and his colleagues are real people, real Caribbean people who went to school, learned their lessons, became interested in scientific research, and came to appreciate the need and the all-round value of research in terms of knowledge gathering, improving and saving life, and economics.
Virtually every product on sale on the planet has been developed as a result of research, and somebody has had to do that research, and somebody has taken ownership of the results of that research.
In business terms, that translates into money and power, into market share and success, into becoming net producers rather than net consumers.
And that’s how the pharmaceutical companies and other corporate enterprises become so powerful globally.
And true to form, look at what has happened. One of those very same big-time pharmaceutical companies has offered Dr. Williams and Dr. Levy US$110 million for their patent.
A plant that grows wild in Jamaica, researched and developed by Jamaicans who are products of Jamaica’s education and social system, Jamaicans who have reached where they are to a large extent because of the investment of the Jamaican people in them, and they’re now at the point where, by ownership of the patent and by manufacturing and distribution of the drugs, can generate hundreds, of billions of dollars, maybe more, for Jamaicans.
What will Drs. Williams and Levy do? Take the US$110 million and deprive their country and people of an historic opportunity to solidify their economy and take centre stage in the world of business? Or will they do the right thing?
Will the Guinea Hen Weed and the life-saving drugs that can be developed from it (and don’t forget the other 821 medicinal plants that grow wild in Jamaica), become the latest tool in the colonial tool box, as bananas, sugar, tourism, entertainment, sports, and even, in some cases, economic citizenships have been?
What’s my point with all of this?
Caribbean people have to get serious. We have to hunt tenaciously for the door of opportunity in all legitimate facets of life and we have to be prepared to knock down that door.
It’s the best and only way for Caribbean civilization to assert itself and to command respect in the world.
Dr. Lawrence Williams has, through his work, placed upon himself and upon all of us in the region, the historic responsibility to ensure that we do not allow the ugly colonial economic paradigm to be perpetuated via the Guinea Hen Weed, or any other weed, for that matter.
So let the Guinea Hen Weed be the clarion call for us to elevate ourselves to the commanding heights of our own economies and to take our learning, our brain power, our entrepreneurship, and our capital into other economies of the world.