Swans Commentary » swans.com June 16, 2014  



Water, In The Service Of Capitalism


by Michael Barker



(Swans - June 16, 2014)   By its unnatural nature, capitalism seeks to profit from everything: nothing is sacrosanct, and water, the substance of life itself, is certainly not exempt. Millions die because of their inability to access clean drinking water, an easily fixable human tragedy. Very much like oil, under capitalism, freshwater is valued as a precious resource to be fought over (tooth and claw) by anti-democratic elites seeking to privatise its flow. Even when water is freely available, the ruling class are unrelenting in their efforts to convince the public that we must pay for water through the nose, be that through hiked-up water rates or by their bottling it for sale to us -- for our convenience!

In the 19th century, early pioneers of naturopathy like Vincenz Priesnitz and Father Sebastian Kneipp excitedly promoted hydrotherapy, a form of quack medicine that incorporated all manner of water cures to remedy ill health. Following such precedents, it is easy to see how ridiculous medical fads are linked to current-day urban myths relating to waters' supposedly curative properties, beyond quenching thirst that is. For example, Priessnitz and his supporters recommended drinking the equivalent of 1.1-1.7 litres of water per day, which is not far off the oft-cited and unfounded advice that our daily intake of the clear stuff should be around 2 litres. This despite the fact that in most instances the majority of our water needs can be derived from food alone. Needless to say bottled water companies like Fiji Water are more than happy to swell the rising tide of such nonsense: and in the case of Fiji Water's aristocratic owners, alternative medicine (i.e., medicine proven not to work) counts upon just one of their other profitable pursuits.

Using fear of disease and poor health to propel water-related consumerism is a sure-fire way to wealth, a prime example being provided by Hugh Moore (1887-1972), who first began his ascent from hereditary power to political power in the United States when in 1907 he helped launched the Dixie Cup Company. Determined that his cups would prove "a boon to public health," Moore embarked upon a sophisticated propaganda offensive that ensured that state laws were rapidly passed to outlaw the use of reusable cups (to drink water), and his company quickly moved in to reap the rewards of his own dirty-cup scaremongering.

Such unquenchable water profiteers act against the public interest in many ways, not least by using their power and influence to promote misinformation to benefit... you guessed it, themselves. Unfortunately at present, such self-interested actions are legally-speaking largely legitimate, albeit exploitative; which makes it all the more crucial that progressive journalists try their hardest to counteract their endless lies. This task being all the more vital given that the mainstream media system would rather promote irrational superstitions than challenge the powers that be -- which are one and the same as the owners of the media. Without a vocal and critical alternative the nonsense of the ruling-class will therefore continue to flood into our lives.

Capitalist mumbo jumbo comes in various forms, be it so-called free-market economics, or the war against all embodied within neoliberal political theory. So given the vacuous nature of the ruling-classes economic and political dogma it is little wonder that their minds are always so accommodating to the mystical realm. The perfect illustration of this phenomenon comes in the form of homeopathy, a magical form of placebo healthcare that elevates the profits from water to insane levels. Thus with homeopathic "remedies" the more distilled water in the product you purchase the more powerful its alleged healing properties -- hence a first aid kit consisting of 18 tiny vials of homeopathic pills currently sells for a tidy $54.99. Drawing upon the water-bound legacy of homeopathic champion, Dr. Margery Blackie, this article will now use her shining example to elucidate some of the ways by which such wackiness has inserted itself into the working-class psyche.

As blue-blooded representatives of the ruling class, the British Royal family have always needed their regular fix of placebo therapy, and have a long and proud history of including a homeopathic practitioner as one of their healing hands; this bringing us to Margery Blackie (1898-1981), who during the latter stages of her lifetime acted in this capacity for Queen Elizabeth II. Fittingly, Margery's official biographer observes how Margery was born to a household of the dull-minded rich, with her father being summed up capably as being "gullible and easily duped," which was not entirely unrelated to his becoming a "convinced believer in homeopathy..." (1) Suffering from the same gullibility, but arguably endowed with a more refined mind, after training in general medicine in the early 1920s Margery gravitated towards the London Homeopathic Hospital, happily joining them in their efforts to spread mumbo jumbo worldwide.

Margery's commitment to serial dilutions had put her on a course for great things, and by the mid 1930s she was already a council member of the British Homeopathic Society. With government plans then afoot to create what became the National Health Service (NHS), Margery saw it as her vocation to help oversee the "professionalisation" of her watery trade by moving that the Society be reconstituted as the British Faculty of Homeopathy, in order to ensure that homeopathy could continue to coexist with the NHS. Thus with Royal approval the Faculty of Homeopathy was legally incorporated in January 1944 such that it now had "the power to grant a diploma in homeopathic medicine." (2) Subsequently, in 1949 Margery was elected President of the Faculty of Homeopathy, this coming the year after the founding of the NHS and the year in which the London Homeopathic Hospital was endowed to add the Royal prefix to its name. This hospital is now known as the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine and is a part of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Being a staunch Christian, Margery not always pleased with the evolving mystical tendencies of her fellow homeopathic practitioners, and was actively hostile towards the adoption of Rudolf Steiner's spiritual science within her milieux -- ideas which she considered "profoundly dangerous by reason of its occultism..." (3) Margery's orthodox approach to magic was most likely comforting for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who in 1969 appointed Margery as one of her most trusted personal physicians. Although, that said, Margery's disdain for Steiner perhaps perplexed the queen's heir apparent, Prince Charles, who is forthright in his promotion of Steiner's anthroposophical garbage.

When she eventually retired from active practice, Margery continued to devote her time to teaching and fundraising for homeopathy. And after working for some years at the Homeopathic Research and Educational Trust (based out of Hedingham Castle), in August 1971 she launched her very own group, the Blackie Foundation Trust, so that she may be better able to advocate for water cures. Around this time Margery also served as Dean of the Faculty of Homeopathy, and it was with "grave apprehension" that "she witnessed an accelerating swing away from Hahnemann [the "inventor" of homeopathy] towards Rudolf Steiner." For Margery, Steiner's Christian-leaning occultism was beyond the pale, which no doubt helped further turn her head towards the spiritual leadership of the arch-conservative Christian evangelist Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones. (4) Nevertheless there was little she could do to reverse the penetration of Steiner's scripture into the homeopathic scene, and to this day homeopaths and anthroposophists continue to work closely together.

With the longstanding love of homeopathy among the super-rich, it is notable that one of the three founding trustees of the Blackie Foundation Trust was one of Margery's former wealthy patients, Robin Holland-Martin -- an investment banker who was at the time a Partner at Cazenove and Company (now J.P. Morgan Cazenove). Robin Holland-Martin still remains as the President of Margery's homeopathic venture, but alongside his continued stake in banking, between 1992 and 2000 he was able to expand his fringe interests by acting as a board member of alternative publishing house, Dorling Kindersley. His work at Dorling Kindersley only ending in 2000 owing to the corporate takeover by media giant Pearson plc. Dorling Kindersley had been founded by its namesakes Christopher Dorling and Peter Kindersley in 1974, and drew some degree of fame for publishing all manner of environmental and New Age classics, enabling Peter Kindersley to become one of the twenty-first century's growing band of organic millionaires. After handing over his publishing empire to Pearson plc in 2000, Peter then further indulged his green interests and purchased the leading British retailer of organic natural health and beauty products, Neal's Yard Remedies which proudly sells a wide variety of homeopathic products. Neal's Yard is particularly controversial in this regard -- although not too different from many other homeopathic practitioners -- in propagating the dangerous idea that some of their watery products can somehow ward off Malaria!

One typical vice president of the Blackie Foundation Trust is Enid Segall, who can also boast of being the president of the European Federation of Homeopathic Patients' Associations. Here Enid works closely with this Association's secretary, Sato Liu, who recently served as the Special Projects Manager for Prince Charles's now defunct quack outfit, the Foundation For Integrated Health, and prior to that as the executive director of the lobbying group known as the Natural Medicines Society (1988-2005). In the close-knit world of campaigning for nonsense it is unsuprising that the former president of the Natural Medicines Society, Lord Colwyn -- who is a current patron of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers -- is counted as another of the vice presidents of the Blackie Foundation Trust. (5) That said, here it is interesting to observe that although Lord Colwyn has spent much of his life doing his best to institionalise mysticism within the British health system, he has also been at the forefront of some of the scientifcally-orientated good work of the British Fluoridation Society, the latter being a group that seeks to promote flouridation; something that practitioners of mumbo jumbo (whose number now appears to include many liberals as well) usually staunchly oppose, an intriguing anomaly that most likely owes much to Lord Colwyn's professional training as a dentist.

With sea levels rising, and water wars looming, it is sickening that support of homeopathy seems to concern so many of our untrusted politicians, with multitudes of millionaire Tories ever keen to rally to homeopathy's defence in Parliament. Convincing them, or the thousands of people who believe (against scientific evidence) that homeopathy "works" and that they have been misled is, however, largely counterproductive. Arguably a more important focus for activist efforts should be to unite as many people as possible to campaign for free and decent healthcare for all. Once the insidious influence of Big Pharma over healthcare provision has then been broken as part of such efforts, the next logical step will be to ensure that the development and regulation of medicine is carried out in an open and democratic fashion. In this way, accumulated public distrust of mainstream medicine, which owes much to the disgusting abuses of power that have been carried out by the pharmaceutical industry -- and by misleading propaganda from quack practitioners -- can start to be undone, and faith once again placed in the hands of rational scientific approaches to health provision.


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About the Author

Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in the UK. In addition to his work for Swans, which can be found in the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 archives, his other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com. Please help fund his work.   (back)


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1.  Constance Babington Smith, Champion of Homeopathy: The Life of Margery Blackie (John Murray, 1986), p.19.  (back)

2.  Smith, Champion of Homeopathy, p.81.  (back)

3.  Smith, Champion of Homeopathy, p.109.  (back)

4.  Smith, Champion of Homeopathy, p.147, p.157. A "great supporter of homeopathy in Parliament" was Tom Ellis, MP for Wrexham. (p.160)  (back)

5.  In the not so distant past Lord Colwyn served with famed human rights campaigner and Amnesty International founder David Ennals (1922-1995) as co-president of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Sadly this anti-scientific interest was no anomoly on Lord Ennal's part as he had also lent his support to another New Age project known as the Centre for Change in the Third Millennium.

Another intriguing member of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers' board of trustees was the late Jean Galbraith (1938-2014). Galbraith had first stumbled upon spiritual healing at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre (now the Penny Brohn Cancer Care) in the 1980s, and one of the many alternative projects that she became heavily involved with was the Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust, which provides funding to employ complementary therapists in the NHS and Hospices. This Trust was founded by Angie Buxton-King, a miracle worker who is famous for being the first spiritual healer (of the Reiki variety) to be employed by the NHS, which unfortunately meant she was employed by the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust between 1999 and 2011. Buxton-King takes credit for introducing the current provision of complementary therapies available to cancer patients at the recently opened UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre. Buxton-King was also an earlier member of the board of governors of the College of Medicine, a mystical charity that was founded in 2010, originating from the collapse of the Prince of Wales' controversial Foundation for Integrated Health. Practicing healer Dr. David Smallbone was one of the cofounders of the College of Medicine, and he is a man who can boast stellar homeopathic credentials, having trained under the direction of the Faculty of Homoeopathy and Dr. Margery Blackie in the early 1960s.  (back)


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Published June 16, 2014