While reading The Secret History of the American Empire by John Perkins, I became inspired to do my own research into the subject. He recounted a meeting with the Shuar of the Amazon, an indigenous people of Ecuador and Peru.
They believe men and women are equal, yet have different roles. Men kill animals for food, cut trees for firewood, and fight other men. Women rear children, grow crops, tend the household fires, and have the very important job of telling men when it is time to stop. The Shuar explain that men hunt animals and cut trees even when there is enough meat and wood, unless women rein them in.
He found the same sentiments among other Amazon tribes as well as among the nomads at the top of the Himalayas. He began to think that perhaps to change the world all we had to do was bring the male and female into balance. Not an easy task considering the stereotyping of our gender roles for millennia, but a worthwhile endeavor.
For about thirty years, I have studied and researched the workings of the global oligarchy. It always seemed to me that it was a system dynamic that could not be changed given the enormous power, influence, and control it had obtained over hundreds of years. It then became clear to me that the only way to influence the system was by encouraging and inspiring women to “rein them in.”
During my research, I discussed the premise with men and women, young and old, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. They all agreed: only the women can change the system.
I was reminded of a personal experience I had in doing just that.
In 1975–1976, I was living in New York City, working in marketing. I had many friends who worked at the United Nations (UN), and through them I learned that several Middle Eastern countries were looking to invest in medical equipment. I researched many countries, located importers/distributors of products, and decided to take a trip to the area to research the possibilities that existed for American corporations not currently doing business in the Middle East.
I visited Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. At the same time, I had established contacts with American companies who might be interested in these markets. I met with government officials and business people in all these countries, many of them several times.
I also encountered others like myself from European and Middle Eastern countries, and we shared information and contacts. One Lebanese man gave me the name of a businessman in Cairo where I had no contacts at all. This Egyptian had a large business representing primarily European manufacturers of medical equipment. His staff prepared bids based on government specifications, submitted them to their clients, and waited for the final decision from the government. At the time, only the Egyptian government could import directly. Once the equipment was purchased, the detail men installed and serviced it. I shall call the owner of this business Khalid (not his real name). Historically, Egypt has had very high rates of birth and infant mortality. I believed the availability of birth control products should be investigated. Egypt was still heavily influenced by the Soviet Union, so relations with the United States and its corporations were minimal. Egypt’s economy was socialist; only the Egyptian government could import goods, and the military was a top priority.
As I got to know Khalid and his family better, he became more open about himself. He was educated in the West, spoke perfect English, and had a very important role in the government, albeit without portfolio, and he was a colonel in the Egyptian army. He kept me busy contacting American corporations that he wanted to represent in Egypt.
I kept struggling with the high birthrate issue, and he continually told me there were clinics all over Egypt offering every kind of birth control product. I found it hard to believe that women would not take advantage of birth control products if they could, so I continued to press the issue. Eventually, he offered to have one of his doctors accompany me to visit five medical clinics in Cairo to see for myself. We did that, and each one we visited had no contraceptives available. Everywhere, everything was out of stock. Nothing was available. I was confused and angry.
That night we met for a dinner I will never forget—pizza at the Cairo Hilton. He asked me about my day and what had transpired. I told him we had visited the five clinics and no birth control products were available. I then said, “Khalid, you and your government don’t give a damn about your women and children. Babies are sick and dying and mothers are unable to control pregnancies, contrary to the propaganda you promote. All you and your government care about is more men to increase the size of your military. The hypocrisy is monumental.”
The words just came out without any thought. It was rage. A calm, profound, and fearless rage—rage at the injustice and inhumanity that was affecting millions of women and children.
He stopped eating and sat back in his chair as if I had plunged a knife into his chest. He stopped talking for several minutes. I knew I had gone too far. I then told him I was leaving right away to go back to New York. This conversation took place in 1976.
He called me the next morning as I was packing and offered to drive me to the airport. He was very cheerful when he arrived. He said to me, “You really upset me last night. So much so that this morning I had a meeting with President Sadat. The minister of health has been fired, and President Sadat signed a law allowing the private sector to import medical equipment and pharmaceuticals directly. The government sector responsible for health care was the first thing President Gamal Abdel Nasser socialized, and it’s the first sector that will be de-nationalized. You should be happy.” I was.
I left for New York City that day, and on my return, many of my contacts called me to see if I had heard the news about Egypt’s allowing free enterprise in the health sector. I just said “yes.”
Recent statistics from the World Bank show the improvement in women’s and children’s health care:
- Infant mortality rate in Egypt was last measured at 20 in 2015, down from 120 per 1,000 live births in 1980. Infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year.
- Fertility rate: Total (births per woman) in Egypt was last measured at 3.3 in 2015, down from 5.8 in 1980. Total fertility rate represents the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children in accordance with current age-specific fertility rates.
- Contraceptive prevalence (percentage of women ages 15–49) in Egypt was reported at 59 percent in 2015 up from 25 percent in 1980. Contraceptive prevalence rate is the percentage of women who are practicing, or whose sexual partners are practicing, any form of contraception.
Clearly, Khalid and President Anwar el Sadat saw the problem as I did or they would not have acted to remedy the situation as quickly as they did. Were they unaware of the situation? Did none of their Egyptian officials ever bring up the issue? Was it simply that one woman’s perspective opened their eyes? Apparently. How many other men are unaware of what’s happening? How many other eyes can be opened? How many others can be influenced?
John Perkins, The Secret History of the American Empire (New York: Penguin, 2007), 69.