There is a plaque on the wall of
the Glasgow Royal Infirmary which states that it was here from 1861 to
1869 that Joseph Lister initiated his anti-septic proceedure for performing
operations. Eight years is a long time to initiate anything. What it took
him so long to convince the ruling bodies of was that doctors washing their
hands between operations with carbolic soap and the use of anti-septic
sprays to kill germs would greatly decrease the death rate in hospitals.
It took him so long not because of the difficulty people had in grasping
what he was on about, but because of resistence to his claims. Resistence
from within. Doctors would find it hard to admit that the blood was on
their hands. They found it hard to admit that they were the cause of death.
The established proceedures were defended by those who had established
them as the basis of their carreers. This should be regarded as an advance.
"There was one Italian who possessed
the scientific spirit, that was Leonardo da vinci. But he confided his
thoughts to diaries and remained unknown and useless in his time."
Lord Acton, The Renaissance, Lectures
on Modern History.
This is a remarkable fact. During
renaissances censorship. A clash between new learning and old. The blotting
out of significant thought which questions the order of things.
For those who are in the ascendancy
in a 'renaissance', but whose real methods of exerting power are hidden,
for the infamous, a historical inversion occurs:
"Lorenzo de' Medici once said that
his buildings were the only works that would outlast him; and it is common
in the secular characters of that epoch, unlike the priesthood, not to
believe in those things that are abiding, and not to regard organisations
that are humble and obscure at first and bloom by slow degrees for the
use of another age."
His crimes were not useless to the
nation. Acton is saying that Medici's--the Borgias--reputation lies now in
the way they did things, not in the monuments and cultural artefacts they
ordered constructed as a monument, as a facade.
With the case of Dr. Ismail Besikci
the scientific spirit was not kept to diaries or notebooks: his work "Socio-Economic
and Ethnic Foundations of the Structure of eastern Anatolia" was rewarded
by a 12 year sentence. Besikci was also one of the first Turkish intellectuals
to support and defend the armed national struggle led by the Kurdistan
Workers party (the PKK) which began in 1984. As he said to his prosecutors:
"One of the most important prerequisites
of modern civilisatiuon is the creation of an environment in which different
voices can be heard, different views can develop. I am not the defendant...I
defend science ...I defend the universal values of my time ...What they
want to try is thought, science ...they are endeavouring to try me--but
history will try them."
As we go to press we have been informed
of a fire-bomb attack on the Kurdish Community Centre in Haringay, North
London. The centre serves more than 4,000 Kurdish refugees.
This edition of Variant contains
two supplements, from Hull Time Based Arts and Streetlevel Photoworks.
We are open to future colloborations
with other organisations. For details contact the editors.