Des hommes en prison

The return of the titans

Jean-Hervé Bradol

Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine, emergency medicine and epidemiology. In 1989 he went on mission with Médecins sans Frontières for the first time, and undertook long-term missions in Uganda, Somalia and Thailand. He returned to the Paris headquarters in 1994 as a programs director. Between 1996 and 1998, he served as the director of communications, and later as director of operations until May 2000 when he was elected president of the French section of Médecins sans Frontières. He was re-elected in May 2003 and in May 2006. From 2000 to 2008, he was a member of the International Council of MSF and a member of the Board of MSF USA. He is the co-editor of "Medical innovations in humanitarian situations" (MSF, 2009) and Humanitarian Aid, Genocide and Mass Killings: Médecins Sans Frontiéres, The Rwandan Experience, 1982–97 (Manchester University Press, 2017).

The public arena is once again the stage for discourse and undertakings of Titanic proportions. Some endeavour to adjust our planet's thermostat while others devote themselves to wiping out the scourge of disease. The mythological comparison is certainly not gratuitous. Just as Zeus slaved the Titans, history may yet deal the same blow to those who seek to dominate the Universe through regulating global temperatures (the Copenhagen Summit), preventing the emergence of a new virus ("barrier measures" against H1N1 flu) or modifying the genomes of those people deemed 'deficient' (the Téléthon - a televised charity appeal). But Man's age-old quest to dominate Nature has now taken on a renewed vigour, thanks to ever faster and genuine developments in science and technology.

 No one would contest that scientific progress leads to new ambitions and that it is a source of potentially far-reaching (albeit often unpredictable) transformations. Concerns arise, however, when the champions of these noble causes react with indignation to doubts as to whether their efforts that we are invited to join are in fact realistic. Dissonant voices are rapidly labelled hostile, or, as in the case of climate change, accused even of 'denial'. Expressions of scepticism are an inherent part of invention and innovation. Yet the moral condemnation they evoke would seem destined more to those shirking efforts to avert the Apocalypse. While on the one hand, Nature is glorified, on the other, there is no confidence in its ability to address its own imbalances. This task falls to the human race - the very force at the root of these evils. And meanwhile, as the drama unfolding on our TV screens projects the image of an idealised but impotent Mother Nature and a harmful but all-powerful Man, the Greek tragedy becomes... Commedia dell'Arte.

To cite this content :
Jean-Hervé Bradol, “The return of the titans”, 18 décembre 2009, URL :

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