"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Information wanted - Bob Newhart , Walter Raleigh and Tobacco

Walter Raleigh was widely credited with bringing tobacco to civilization, and those of us of a certain age remember Bob Newhart’s comic routine on an old vinyl recording ("Introducing Tobacco To Civilization") (1) as he speaks to Walter Raleigh over the phone about this crazy notion...!
Walter Raleigh apparently believed that smoking tobacco was good for relieving a troublesome cough!!!
(Incidentally Bob Newhart still performs - he is 81).
If only we had known then what we know now.

But this got me to thinking. Sure there are lots of inventions and discoveries we could wish never happened – weapons, bombs, tobacco, recreational drugs…

But how many things have been invented, discoveries made, in the past that were way before their time and not taken at all seriously, only to become of huge importance later?
Mobile phones perhaps?
Basic medical hygiene?

“Ignaz Semmelweis was a young Hungarian doctor who worked in the obstetrical ward of Vienna General Hospital in the late 1840s. He was dismayed at the mortality rate for the women in his ward during childbirth, compared with those in an adjoining ward looked after by midwifery students. When one of his colleagues cut himself in the autopsy room and suffered symptoms of the childbed fever similar to that seen in the ward, Semmelweis thought he knew the answer. He introduced to his staff the idea of careful hand washing between patients. To his delight the mortality rate plummeted. But his ideas were treated with hostility, even derision, by the medical profession. As a result, he suffered a mental breakdown and in 1865 he died in a mental hospital.” (2)

Then again we have the latest ideas on consciousness, the paranormal, Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance”… for examples, sometimes unacceptable to "mainstream" scientists.

“Knowledge that does not fall within already accepted parameters can often be ignored as if it does not exist in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary. ‘Scientists, including physicians, can have blind spots in their vision,’ Larry Dossey writes in his book Healing Words – the Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. They can also have what Dossey calls ‘immense intellectual indigestion’ so that they dismiss results with disparagement.” (2)

I think that years from now we will look back on what are in some circles today thought of as wacky ideas and wonder why it took us so long to accept them and appreciate their importance. But that is for the future.

I have been challenged to bring together as many things I can think of that we take for granted today but that have a past history of incredulity, non-acceptance, dismissal, ridicule – tobacco and basic medical hygiene can start the list going. Please let me have your thoughts and stories. I’m sure there are many to tell.

(1) Now we can enjoy pretty much the same Bob Newhart sketch on you tube!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7YBaiJMnik
(2) From Healing This Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope.

The photos are of tobacco growing in Poland in 2006 - whilst I was cycling from Vilnius in Lithuania to Warsaw raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

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