Recently, I was privileged to travel through South Africa with Scott and Joan Haldeman and some of their friends. South Africa is Joan's birthplace and the childhood home of both Scott and Joan. Aside from being a delightful experience, I was struck with how the beauty of the land was enhanced by the stark contrasts that existed.
I believe most people are aware to some degree of the racial contrasts and the history of apartheid that existed for many years in South Africa. This trip helped me to learn that racial contrasts have existed in South Africa from the days of the "bushman" and the various tribes that evolved from prehistoric times, to the entrance of European adventurers looking for a safe and shorter passage to the riches of the Orient, to the influx of religious pilgrims seeking refuge from oppression in Europe, to the immigration of various groups seeking land and opportunity (such as the Indian population). Throughout all this time the fundamental struggle was for control of the land and the riches it offered through farming, grazing, mining and other worthwhile pursuits. South Africa has become a bowl brimming with a tossed salad of race, culture, tradition, religion and ideologies, all seeking to maintain a peaceful coexistence while struggling for a share of the resources.
The geography was another contrast that bolstered the beauty of the land - from mountains reaching in excess of 10,000 feet to coastal shores boasting everything from rocky crags to sunny, sandy beaches. Even the mountains that did not pierce the clouds above were sharp in their vertical spires and ragged silhouettes. In one mountain range, there was a large cave as spectacular as any seen in North America. Between the mountains and the beaches, one could find wide spans of level grasslands, deserts and the ever-fascinating "bush."
It was in the "bush" or the game reserves where contrasts were so vivid. Animals typically seen only in zoos, such as the giraffe, hyena, elephant, lion, zebra, crocodile, buffalo, rhinoceros and hippopotamus, wander about unruffled by motorized vehicles full of gawking spectators trying to get a picture. Antelope and other small to midsize game are in abundance everywhere you look. They form a stable part of the food chain for larger predators. I was amazed at how the predators and those preyed upon live in close proximity of each other and in a harmonious balance of nature.
Big metropolitan cities, shantytowns, beautiful rural villages and lonely cinder-block, one-room dwellings could be seen as we traveled about. The cities were as westernized as any of those found in the U.S., contrasting with shantytowns so typical of Third-World squalor. Rural farms formed the mainstay of the human food chain for most people living in one-room bungalows that had no indoor plumbing or heating. It was amazing to see children emerge from these small abodes in their clean and proper school uniforms. In the big cities, most drove automobiles, while in the countryside it seemed everyone was walking. Poverty and wealth existed side-by-side in a way that cried out for equality - yet nothing has changed for as long as history in South Africa has been recorded.
I share these travel experiences because I wish to draw attention to the fact that certain contrasts can coexist and in the process enhance the overall balance of their combined existence. If South Africa allowed only one race to exist, if it was either all mountains or no mountains, if it was all rural or all city, or if its history recounted only one group of settlers - the intrigue, contrasts and rich legacy would be lost. South Africa would not be a place worthy of such a long plane ride.
So it is with chiropractic. If we were to homogenize the profession, what would we have? One technique, one school of thought, one charismatic leader, one educational institution? While diversity has been labeled a "thorn in the side" of the profession (Have we made it so?), we also need to appreciate our history and its resulting diversity. Rather than seek to gain control of our professional resources, as various groups and individuals seek to control the land in South Africa, we need to find ways to combine the power and the good within our diverse makeup and channel those energies for the betterment of the care we provide our patients.
While life in South Africa is not as serene as most would desire, education and understanding across the diverse lines that exist has helped to improve circumstances and advance opportunities for many. Life is far from perfect, but it is improving. So should it be for the chiropractic profession. Understanding and communicating across "political, professional boundaries" should reap benefit for all.
The Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research (FCER), at one time thought to be an "ACA organization," has erased professional barriers, granted access to devotees of all professional persuasions and now offers ready Web access to the knowledge so vital to evidence-based care. The FCER accepts professional diversity and seeks to lift the profession through programs and access to information that will improve patient care.
The chiropractic profession can have its steep craggy mountains, beautiful sandy beaches, unusual wild game, modern cities and isolated rural participants and still be a single profession situated on a foundation of sound information shared by all. It is the mission of the FCER to make that information available to all, but it is up to each individual to reach out and grasp the opportunities provided.
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