His family originally from Aquitaine, Alain Dubos was born in Tunisia, in 1943, where his father was a bush surgeon. His secondary schooling in the classics led eventually to university studies in pediatrics, after he studied philosophy and experienced the student protests in Paris in May 1968. Soon after settling near Paris and taking up his profession in medicine, he left in 1978 for what would be his first humanitarian mission, in Thailand; while there he wrote an account of the tragedy in Cambodia. The work allowed him at the time to campaign for the recognition of the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge.
Vice president of Doctors Without Borders (Nobel Peace Prize in 1999) for a half-dozen years, he has completed numerous missions, often clandestine, in many countries at war, from Afghanistan to Lebanon, including Kurdistan, to name but a few. From these experiences Dubos produced a series of novels and non-fiction works.
Having returned to his family’s origins in the southwest region of France known as les Landes, he penned a regional saga, while at the same time continuing to practice as a pediatrician.
For the past five years, he has been putting his energies into a work of fiction on the Acadians, both from Canada and from Louisiana. He has produced four books to date on this period of time in the history of France in America, a time still poorly understood. The books have allowed him to establish an additional link today between France and her former possessions in North America, connected by a history of 200 years.
At the same time, he has continued to work for population groups in danger. Thirty years after his early, pioneering travels, his most recent mission was to Cambodia in March 2006, to isolated mountain villages.
1. ACADIA: HISTORICAL FANTASY OR CONTEMPORARY REALITY?
Both are accurate, in fact. From the arrival in 1604 of Henry IV’s pioneers to the nomination of an Acadian lieutenant governor for the province of New Brunswick, four centuries of tumult, epic struggle, tragedy and the resurgence, reveal and recount what can easily be called, without exaggerating, the Acadian miracle.
It is a history that is, indeed, remarkable, these families of colonists content on their land but unfortunately caught between a rock and a hard place, what with the British on one side and the French on the other.
Brutally uprooted, set adrift on the sea, then forgotten about over time, theirs is a story of biblical dimensions. The several thousand survivors of the deportation of 1755 should have disappeared, blending in with the general population. On the contrary, they formed the original migration of a people who today, having neither state nor province but, still an incredible vitality, ask to be recognized for that. The driving force of this fierce resistance to assimilation has been their attachment to the French language, which they have clutched to their bosom in the face of trials and tribulations.
What lesson can be drawn, if any, from history? Is the experience of the Acadians an example of the deliberate, barbarous treatment of peoples that we often witness in our own times?
2. ENGAGING IN HUMANITARIANISM ? both in the real world and the virtual
More than 30 years after it was established, Doctors Without Borders continues its work in over 70 countries, on five continents.
From the romantic secrecy of former times to the worldwide aura bestowed upon it by the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, the organization has always had to adapt its original philosophy, “to go where others don’t go,” to the constraints of a world in upheaval after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
How should we view emergency medical engagement in the early part of our new century? Should the moral obligation to bear witness remain in place as one of its founding principles? Do we work with the simple intent of relieving individual stress or in the illusion of influencing collective destinies? These questions and several others create an essential, ongoing debate, not to mention consideration of questions raised by two major events in 2005: the tsunami in the East and Katrina in the West. Are we ready to face the reality of such disasters in our midst, perhaps even tomorrow, which until now have been “reserved” for less fortunate peoples?
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