This commentary was published by The Gulf News on 02/03/2011
One thing I have learned after a year of reporting on health issues is that people love to get the free stuff, information, know-how, on how to lead healthy lives. People want to have a better quality of life, enjoy the time that they have, not spend it in hospitals.
People will avidly read a doctor's recommendations on anything from how to prevent a heart attack to how to have better relationships. They will lap up stuff that will show them how to improve their lives.
But sadly, they will do absolutely nothing to better themselves. Whenever I park my car and walk into Rashid Hospital, I invariably find an extremely sick man in a wheelchair outside, speaking to his wife or some family member and sucking desperately on a cigarette.The wife looks uncomfortable that her husband is killing himself and she cannot do anything to save him.
I know many people who never have annual check-ups. They would rather take better care of their cars than themselves. "I always take my car to the dealer. It has never given me trouble" said one friend, speaking about his sleek Japanese saloon.
Freedom over life
But he hadn't heard of ‘executive check-ups' for people over 40, at clinics in Karama, that identify likely trouble spots in your body way ahead of time so that you can take care of it.
"I have seen a patient stick a cigarette in the hole in his throat and smoke," said one cancer doctor. A nephrologist told me that some diabetics don't care about doctor's orders even if they find their head is swimming in fog at the workplace one day. "They go and do whatever they wish,' he said.
One amazing thing I have realized is that people value personal freedom more than their lives. They want the freedom to chose how to live their lives or how to kill themselves, albeit, slowly.
The ‘days of rage' that have mushroomed around the region have caught many leaders off guard, who thought people want to be told what to do. That apparently does not seem to be the case. People want to make their own choices.
As I said I am glad I do not write about political affairs, because it is absolutely crazy out there as the winds of change sweep through the region. There's just no way to analyse this cry for freedom that was sparked off by one repressed, desperate fruit-seller in Tunisia, and it is absolutely impossible to know what will happen next.
One Emirati political commentator put it succinctly when he tweeted: #Libya is not #Egypt. #Egypt is not #Tunisia. …. and so it goes on ... About how leaders kept on saying that the situation is not the same in their country, as the domino effect continues.
Obviously, the leaders are bad managers and seem extremely poor in their PR skills. Their last resort is to threaten their own people.
But whatever you say about Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, he knew how to take care of his health and had his own personal Ukrainian nurse. But it seems like the game's up as she has left him alone with his botox and his syringes.
Incidentally, a musician has remixed Gaddafi's infamous rambling speech that he will cleanse his country house by house, alley by alley, into a hip-hop song that has become sort of an anthem of the Libyan opposition.
"I call him the Lady Gaga of the Arab world," said the 31-year-old musician, because of his over-the-top clothing and his theatrics.
The song is called Zenga, Zenga and has gone viral on YouTube.
In Libya, a ‘zenga' is a narrow, impassable alley.