Tuesday, September 10, 2013

High tech drugs uphold White Man's Burden (1940)

It is still not often recognized that by the late 1930s, particularly after the huge success of the totally-not-from-nature Sulfa drugs (because they were 100% artificial) , high tech pharmaceuticals had became the key pillar upholding "The White Man's Burden".

Firstly - but still relatively unimportant compared to today - the biggest high tech pharmaceutical nations intended to earn lots of  of export revenues, via exclusive sales of high tech drugs to their informal (Germany and America) or formal (Britain and France) empires.

To do so, they had to strongly imply that that the only really safe and effective drugs were made of pure chemical synthetics produced in the leading medical research and chemical industry nations - conveniently , themselves and themselves only.

But this claim has much bigger 'legs' .

Because high tech drugs could also be used as the best single way to defend an old and failing hegemonic trope : the so called "White Man's Burden".

In the recent past, Europeans and European Americans had justified invading and ruthlessly exploiting others' societies as part of a holy missionary drive to bring Christianity, peace and democracy to primitive or despotic cultures.

Doctors and nurses had always been a big part of that mission effort but only as clinicians : hands-on, bedside doctors and nurses.

This hands-on help was all part of the (now-fading) 19th century belief in empathy, charity and humanitarianism.

In the sparkling brand new Twentieth Century, cold hard rational Science was the new God.

Pharmaceutical research could be used to hold off the many new opponents Civilized European Man faced by the time of the Great Depression.

Let us imagine a drug company ad's illustration from circa 1940.

In one corner of the illustration : a white European-origined  man , well educated and upper middle class,  stern-faced  in a white lab coat in a gleaming porcelain white laboratory located in a big country's biggest city, staring thoughtfully at the synthetic contents of a beaker.

In the other corner : a dark-faced peasant woman, poor and uneducated, cooking up some foul-smelling 'healing' Nature-based brew in her rural hovel, somewhere in the dank Tropics.

Implied strongly in the text copy below was the claim that her mishmash of a folk remedy would only harm rather than help, while his 100% pure synthetic drug cured - completely, cheaply and safely.

No Oxford-educated-darkie  was going to be able to "outside agitate" his way around that winsome storyline.

Obviously ,no one expected an "inside agitator" would come along and betray both his race and his profession.

But that is exactly what New York's Columbia University based Henry Dawson did.

In 1941, in the august pages of the New York Times itself, house organ of modernity , he gave a loud defence of his life-saving "crude penicillin" as  home-brewed himself from foul-smelling natural mold slime.

No wonder his ultimately hugely successful efforts were so resisted while he was alive and so buried with him after his premature death......

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