Thursday August 10, 2017

August 10, 2017 full episode transcript

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The Current Transcript for August 10, 2017

Host: Megan Williams


Listen to the full episode


[Music: Theme]


North Korea best not make anyone threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Words have consequences, especially when you're the president of the United States of America. President Donald Trump's tough talk this week—his casual, perhaps even empty threats against an unpredictable rogue nuclear state—are unlike most other president's words. Seemingly without the calculation or calibration expected of presidential speech, perhaps lacking an appreciation of the gravity words carry when they come from the commander in chief. Today we're starting with the sound and the fury of a president's words and the real world consequences they may yet still have. Then something a little closer to home—especially if you've been out in the Canadian woods at all this summer.


We may be getting a reputation like Lyme Connecticut, which gave its name to the disease. I mean we don't really go back here very often just because it is tick country.

MW: She's in Nova Scotia but you may feel the same where you are out in the country this summer—fear of ticks. They seem to be on the rise and the Lyme disease they helped spread is too. We'll talk about how best to tackle this growing concern in about a half an hour from now. I'm Megan Williams and this is the summer edition of The Current.

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Why the 'fire and fury' of Trump's salesman approach to diplomacy doesn't work

Guests: Heather Cox Richardson


VOICE 1: We have no desire or intention to destroy or enslave the Japanese people. But only surrender can prevent the kind of ruin which they have seen come to Germany as a result of continued useless resistance.

VOICE 2: Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right. Not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom.

VOICE 3: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world by seeking weapons of mass destruction.

MW: A few former US presidents there and examples of the language they used to deal with the international crises they faced. You heard Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush. And then this week came the aggressive language from the sitting president, Donald J. Trump, threatening to bring “fire and fury” to North Korea if it does not stop its nuclear threats against the US. President Trump's choice of words has set off alarms on both sides of the Pacific and in a few minutes we'll ask whether his incendiary comments could end up sparking real fires. But first, to help put President Trump's rhetoric in context I'm joined by Heather Cox Richardson. She's a political historian at Boston College and the author of several books on American history, most recently To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party. We've reached her in Boston. Hello.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Good morning, Megan.

MW: Good morning. We just heard the words of some former US presidents when they were in the midst of a tense international standoff. How do Donald Trump's words regarding North Korea compare?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Well, I think the thing to remember about President Trump is that he is not a politician. That he made his claim to fame as a salesman, as a blunt talking salesman and he is very, very good at that. What he does is he talks in superlatives. He talks in very short sentences with very strong words at the ends of those sentences, usually dire words that promise death and destruction if you don't buy his product, whatever it is, that it's the best product ever and that everything is black and white. Either it's really good or really bad. And the problem with that under circumstances once you're trying to govern is that that business of trying to close a deal quickly the way a salesman does is exactly the opposite of what you need to do when you govern, which is to create coalitions and to create space, to bring a group of people along behind you. And we're seeing that disjunction really clearly right now with what were frankly his off the cuff comments about a dire situation and using phrases that he likes, he's used a lot before. So it was kind of his stock phrase—“such as the world has never seen before.” Well, you don't say that when you're talking about nuclear war. You say that when you're selling a used Toyota, you know? And this is where you've got this real disjunction that is really problematic.

MW: And I suppose it raises the question as to what he's selling. I mean is he selling himself to his base or is he selling the best interests of his country?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: I think he's selling himself to his base. His brand has always been him. The mistake people make is trying to see some sort of an intellectual justification for the way that he approaches both governing and language. And you really can't. You have to remember that in the moment, whatever he is looking for is whatever makes him look strong. And so he uses language that will enable him to look good and to sell himself as a product, but that rarely means that what is happening is what's best for America or the world in general. And you see this again and again and again and that's why it is completely logical for him to take two opposing positions within minutes of each other because he looks better under either circumstance. And that actually makes internal sense if you look at the way he talks, which I do.

MW: Right. Now assuming Trump's words regarding North Korea were premeditated, it seems domestically—

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: That’s a big assumption right there.

MW: [Laughs] I realize it is. But it seems domestically at least, I mean in terms of selling himself to his base, they may have backfired. I mean yesterday the markets were down after he made the comments. What do you make of that?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Well, you have to remember that right now, Donald Trump is in an unprecedented position in American history. That is his numbers are extraordinarily low for any president and especially one in his first, the very beginning of his first term, his first 200 days. So he's got a real problem and his problem is such that he's got that problem. He's also got the problem with the Russian investigation which is heating up and he knows that's going to get him into trouble. I think if you look at any kind of the information that we already know—not even that it's coming out from the Russia investigation—he knows he's in trouble. And what he has done with that is he is pushing harder and harder and harder on his rock solid base. He gave a speech last week, I think it was in West Virginia, that was all but a call to arms. So what he is doing is he is getting pushed to the wall. It’s exactly what you would expect of somebody who really focuses only on himself and that is he's trying to shore up his really rock hard base, which again any politician has a base that simply cannot be switched from their belief in that politician. He's doubling down on them and they actually are loving this one. The evangelicals who backed him say this is great. He's drawn a line in the sand. This is muscle that we can get behind. This is exactly what America should be doing is throwing its weight around and being powerful again. And that is if you're looking for when he premeditate things, he intuitively knows what's going to speak to that base and he's been doing it more and more strongly now. Our concern of course—I think everybody's concern should be—that base loves it when he acts like this and just how far he can carry that under our system is looking quite frightening in a lot of ways.

MW: Yes and how effective it is on the global stage as well. I have some more tape that I want to play for you. This is a short compilation of clips of the past three presidents speaking about North Korea. Let's listen.


VOICE 1: North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program. South Korea and our other allies will be better protected.

VOICE 2: Threats will not lead to a brighter future for the North Korean people nor weaken the resolve of the United States and our allies to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

VOICE 3: We will continue to put some of the toughest pressure that North Korea has ever been under as a consequence of this behaviour. Can I guarantee that it works? No, but it is the best option that we have available to us right now.

MW: Now Heather Cox Richardson, those are pretty careful statements, especially in contrast to what Donald Trump said this week regarding North Korea. And I'm just rereading—I'm just reading a retweet that Donald Trump sent last night of somebody else. But it says: “The president of the United States being unpredictable is a big asset. North Korea knew exactly what President Obama was going to do.” I mean some critics have said that this careful approach to North Korea has actually facilitated their ability to develop a nuclear missile. So I mean is there an argument to say that this kind off-the-cuff talk that does not seem premeditated in any way is an asset?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Well, what they're pointing to when people say that and their intellectual justification for that is something that Richard Nixon used and he was his sort of mad dog strategy. That he could say to Henry Kissinger when he was negotiating in Vietnam, you know, you could get a better deal if you say they have to do what I say because I'm crazy and you don't know what I'm going to do next. You know that was an arm's length kind of I'm not to use that on the table, but the reality is it was very much a calculated position. that's different than what we simply know is an actor who says whatever he is thinking at that moment and then forgets about it a couple of hours later, which is exactly what he did last week, was he turned to the election in Georgia as if he had never said anything about North Korea.

MW: Right.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Well, it's also one of the things that presidents usually do in order to move people along is to create space and to give people time and he's doing the opposite. He's a salesman trying to close that deal, when what we really need when you're doing foreign negotiations is somebody slowing things down, giving people time to come to their senses because again at the end of the day, the only people who actively want a war are people who have a very short-term goal because those of us invested in the long term know we're going to lose sons, daughters, people, land. We don't actually like war.

MW: Right. Quick last question regarding that—I mean Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to be in damage control mode. He reassured Americans will sleep well at night. I mean what does that say to you? We just have a few minutes, a few seconds now.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: It says that there is a real rift in the administration right now because nobody knows what's going on and that's deeply problematic at a moment like this.

MW: Okay. Thanks very much, Heather Cox Richardson. That's a lot to think about and perhaps worry about.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Well, here we are and we’ve got to get out of it somehow. Thanks for having me.

MW: Heather Cox Richardson is a political historian at Boston College. She was in Boston. For more on the importance of words and rhetoric and war and peace, I'm joined by Richard Ned Lebow. He's a professor of international political theory in the department of war studies at King's College London. He was the scholar in residence at the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA during the Carter administration. His books include Why Nations Fight: Past and Future Motives for War and his upcoming book is called Avoiding War, Making Peace. Richard Ned Lebow is in Etna, New Hampshire. Hello.

RICHARD NED LEBOW: Good morning to you.

MW: Good morning. So what was your reaction when you heard President Trump's threat of raining down fire and fury upon North Korea?

RICHARD NED LEBOW: [Chuckles] I had a double response. It struck me as quintessential Trump for all the reasons that Heather so effectively explained. Secondly it struck me as deeply troubling because this kind of rhetoric used against North Korea is not going to deter North Korea, but provoke it.

MW: Now North Korea uses over-the-top rhetoric all the time. I mean is there like a thought out strategy in using menacing language in global diplomacy?

RICHARD NED LEBOW: No. As Heather said, there is the so-called “mad dog strategy” which Richard Nixon was attracted to and everyone else horrified by. It's worth looking at for a moment. Nixon believed that nuclear weapons were unusable because it would bring about the destruction not only of the country against which they were used, but if you attacked another nuclear power, your destruction as well. Therefore, you couldn't make credible threats if you were rational. The only way to do so was to gain a reputation for being irrational and rash, which he sought consciously to do. It was further based on the premise that consistently, Soviet leaders doubted American resolve. When the Soviet archives opened at the end of the Cold War, it became evident that the Soviet Union never doubted American resolve. That Soviet leaders were afraid of nuclear war just as much as their American counterparts were and were deeply troubled by the rhetoric of not only Nixon, but of Kennedy whose public threat-making worried them and made them believe that unless they responded in kind, the Americans would see them as weak and launch new provocations. And in fact, that kind of dynamic between Khrushchev and Kennedy is what led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

MW: No, I was going to say obviously this kind of rhetoric, this bellicose language can get dangerous and it can also box leaders into going to war or getting much closer to the point of going to war.

RICHARD NED LEBOW: Well, it's true. If you make this kind of—engage in this kind of rhetorical excess and you do it in a democracy, you create expectations. The other thing you do is to deeply antagonize allies. And one need only look at the coverage in the media of how just about everybody but the right wing government of Japan has responded to the Trump excess. And if you look at public opinion polls in Japan, they're deeply troubled because if there's any people with a nuclear allergy, it's the Japanese.

MW: Yeah. Well, they've had two big bombs dropped on them so that loss is still palpable to them for sure. I mean looking back at history, how often do wars follow these kinds of threats?

RICHARD NED LEBOW: It’s very hard [inaudible, shuffling]. We have many wars that take place without any threat whatsoever. We have situations where there are threats that give a sharp rise in tensions but don't lead to war. I gave you earlier the example of Kennedy and Khrushchev or Richard Nixon. And you do have some situations where threats ultimately trigger off wars and you have a very small number of cases where almost all of them involving Hitler, where browbeating opponents paid positive rewards. The classic example is Hitler and Dollfuss who was the prime minister of Austria who made the mistake of coming to Hitler's lair in the Bavarian Alps to negotiate with him, was dribbly abused by Hitler—fundamentally compelled to sign an agreement that handed Austria over to Germany. And that's the most unusual.

MW: Well, speaking of Hitler, I want to play you a clip from September 30th, 1938. This is British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain just back from meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich.


The settlement of this Czechoslovakian problem which has now been achieved is in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace.

[Sound: Cheering]

MW: Now Hitler threatened war if he didn't get what he wanted in Munich. France and Britain capitulated in what has been called an appeasement. And the term appeaser has come to mean sort of cowardice or betrayal. To what extent does the fear now of being an appeaser still haunt Western foreign diplomacy and perhaps has informed Trump's approach?

RICHARD NED LEBOW: It does unreasonably so. Let's deal with Trump first. Trump knows no history. He's not in any way influenced by what happened in the past because he knows nothing about it. However, American foreign policy has, ever since Munich, been deeply troubled by appeasement even though the United States was not an appeaser. It's interesting too because it assumes that if Britain and France had held firm in Munich, that Hitler would have backed down. We know from Hitler's comments and the written record—documents we obtained after World War II—that Hitler was furious at Chamberlain for giving in. He wanted to go to war with Czechoslovakia and indeed invaded the country in March of 1938. So appeasement didn't work and deterrence would not have worked. Now the reason why Britain and France gave in had nothing to do with being browbeaten by Hitler. It's that neither leadership wanted to go to war. Neither leadership really feared Hitler. They misjudged him. Both leaderships were more afraid of the Soviet Union and the left in their own country. They were driven by ideology and domestic politics, not by Hitler's threats.

MW: Right. Now you heard the three former presidents talking about North Korea and their obviously much more careful language regarding the tensions between the two between the US and that country. Now some commentators and military observers have said that the US appeasement of North Korea has not been that effective. I mean what do you think?

RICHARD NED LEBOW: Well, we haven't appeased North Korea. That's a huge mistake. We're in the process of ramping up economic sanctions which have been in place for a long while. It's completely wrong and fake news to describe US policy in the past as appeasement. Now in fact, my view is that we should be doing the very opposite of what these right wing people who want us to threaten war against North Korea. The reason why Kim Jong-un has not made any serious concessions on the nuclear program is that up to this point, China has not compelled him to. So the question is how do you frame the situation so that China has a strong incentive to rein in North Korea? After all, 50 per cent of North Korean exports go to China and almost all of their imports come from that country. What the United States has done under successive Democratic and Republican administrations who have pursued roughly the same policy, so it's no partisanship here in my objection to what's happening is that they have turned the nuclear issue into an eyeball to eyeball confrontation between Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea and Washington, DC. In this situation, the Chinese have very little incentive to support the US because the Chinese are making claims to being a regional power, if not hegemon.

MW: I'm sorry. I'm going to have to wrap it up there. We’re coming up against the news. Richard Ned Lebow is a professor of international political theory. I’m Megan Williams and you're listening to the summer edition of The Current. The CBC News is next.

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ENCORE | Lyme disease patient argues government funding misguided

Guests: Arlene Rill, Janet Sperling

MW: Hello. I’m Megan Williams and you’re listening to the summer edition of The Current.

[Music: Theme]

MW: Still to come, one of our favourite personal moments of disruptions this year about an amazing act of generosity that helped launch a rich, artistic career. But first, beware of the ticks.


[Sound: Door opening]

[Sound: Footsteps]

I mean we don't really go back here very often just because it is tick country. I think unless the authorities take action, we may be getting a reputation like Lyme Connecticut, which gave its name to the disease. And people who are thinking of moving here or starting a business here—which we really need to keep our economy alive—might just think twice.

MW: That's Patty Lounsbury from beautiful Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia. She’s afraid to go outside for fear of being bitten by Lyme disease carrying ticks. She has reason to be worried. Canada's Public Health Agency reports that the number of Canadians infected with Lyme disease is rising rapidly as the climate warms. In 2015 there were over 900 Canadians diagnosed with Lyme disease, up by almost 600 per cent from 2009. There are now predictions that by the early 2020s, we could see as many as 10,000 new cases. Quebec and Ontario have seen the biggest increase in numbers, but there is an uptick of Lyme infections in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Southern BC. And across Canada, there are patients struggling to cope.


VOICE 1: For me it's going to be five years in June of suffering and hell and doubts and fear and just having your life thrown upside down.

VOICE 2: We know of four different ticks that was transmitted to people.

VOICE 3: It's a neurological disease and it really messed up my memory, short term memory.

VOICE 4: It felt like my body was made out of lead. Pains in my muscles and my arm.

VOICE 5: We had to really push for the testing. We did get the testing done eventually but it took four months in order to get somebody to do it.

VOICE 6: It is really important that people know what is in the environment so when they consult a health care provider, they get proper diagnosis and treatment.

VOICE 7: When you're looking at testing and treatment, it's in the thousands of dollars and the longer you go undiagnosed the longer it's going to take you to treat it. And people are losing houses and their savings trying to get themselves better.

MW: In late May, Canada's health minister Jane Philpott announced that her government is directing four million dollars toward combating Lyme disease. At the time, host Anna Maria Tremonti looked into reaction to that announcement, asking how effective the funds would be in addressing what some are calling a looming health crisis. She started with someone who knows firsthand what it’s like to deal with Lyme disease. Arlene Rill is a retired teacher from Montreal. She’s been living with Lyme disease for three years. Here’s that interview.


ARLENE RILL: Good morning.

AMT: When were you bitten by a tick?

ARLENE RILL: I was bitten in June 2014 and honestly at that point in time I had no idea about Lyme disease.

AMT: And what happened when you went to the hospital?

ARLENE RILL: Well, I researched the bite first because it happened on a Friday. I researched the bite, realized it was a tick bite, went to infectious diseases and they told me that yes, it's a tick bite but there is no Lyme in Montreal, and sent me home.

AMT: What happened next?

ARLENE RILL: After that I went back three, four, or five times with migrating pains and inflammation and I was really sick. But I was only tested specifically. I did have the ELISA serology but it is known to be false negative. It's approximately 60 to 65 per cent false negative.

AMT: What do you call that? That's the Lyme disease test, the serology?

ARLENE RILL: Yes, the serology.

AMT: Okay, so you're testing negative but you've got these health issues. What are they? What's happening to you?

ARLENE RILL: Well, I know for sure I do have Lyme because I did send my blood to the States as most other people end up doing. But mine was a case for I guess you would call it having won the gold ticket because they saw the spirochetes in my blood. They saw the bacteria.

AMT: How long was this after the bite?

ARLENE RILL: Approximately 10 months.

AMT: And in that 10 months, what was happening to your health?

ARLENE RILL: I deteriorated quite quickly. I ended up having massive headaches, palsy. I ended up in the emergency. They gave me anti-depressants instead of antibiotics. I ended up going to another infectious disease doctor who was highly suspicious of the fact that I had Lyme disease despite the negative serology and put me on antibiotics for six weeks which is a good amount of time if it's caught right away. Six months later is too late.

AMT: Okay, but you've seen several doctors. What kinds of things were they telling you when you went and you told them how you were feeling and what was happening to you?

ARLENE RILL: I would say 90 per cent of the doctors I saw—and I think I saw one for every single part of my body, for every system—they did not know about Lyme disease.

AMT: But what did they say to you then?

ARLENE RILL: Well that I had—let's say with my stomach, I have IBS, or a rheumatologist said to me, oh, it's natural. You know you're getting older. You have some inflammation. Some inflammation? I couldn't even use my hands. I ended up in hospital because of my knees and having surgery this past winter and I was housebound the entire winter.

AMT: At one point someone even questioned your mental health, didn't they?


AMT: What happened?

ARLENE RILL: I was actually called certifiably crazy because I was having all these migrating pains and nobody could understand—the doctor could not understand I guess—how these pains were just migrating everywhere. It must be in my head.

AMT: So how is your health now?

ARLENE RILL: It's deteriorated. It's deteriorated. I have a lot of pain. I have a tremendous amount of inflammation. I find it really hard to do stairs. The inflammation in my knee has gone down enough that I can do physio but it's a grueling, ongoing problem.

AMT: Arlene, so your diagnosis, the one you got actually came from a US clinic, you said?


AMT: What does that tell you about Canadians being diagnosed here?

ARLENE RILL: I don't think doctors are educated here. We need to educate our doctors. If you go to a GP and the GP feels that perhaps you do have Lyme disease, a clinical diagnosis, then patients should be referred to a knowledgeable doctor who can treat.

AMT: The government has committed four million dollars for Lyme disease research and education. What do you think of that?

ARLENE RILL: I think it will not help us Lyme patients because I think it's going to go more into making people aware. It's not addressing the sick people, those who are infected.

AMT: Arlene Rill, we have to leave it there. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

ARLENE RILL: My pleasure.

AMT: Arlene Rill. She's been living with Lyme disease for three years. She joined us from Montreal. My next guest says there are still major questions when it comes to the way Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated in this country. Janet Sperling is a board member of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. She's a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta in the Department of Biological Sciences. She's in our Edmonton studio. Hi.

JANET SPERLING: Yeah. Good morning, Anna Maria.

AMT: I should make the point that your Ph.D. is on ticks, is it not?

JANET SPERLING: Indeed. I'm interested in more than just Lyme disease because I think that when you have a case of Lyme disease, often you have a co-infection. So it's not just a simple case of having Lyme disease and that’s some of the confusion. And that's why people have different—they have a lot of variety in the ways that they present to the doctor. It makes it much more complicated to make the diagnosis and certainly much more complicated to actually treat the person and have them get better.

AMT: Now you know this as well because your son went through this.

JANET SPERLING: Yes, indeed. My son went through this. Fortunately he's made a complete recovery and that's why after a while, I thought we're not really seeing the kinds of research where we can show that the tick here in Canada is probably carrying a variant. It's not exactly the same Lyme disease as it would be in the US. It seems to me that there would be Lyme disease in Nova Scotia and that would be Lyme disease in British Columbia. But why would they be exactly the same Lyme disease?

AMT: Okay. So she talks about an ELISA test, that’s that US test. Is it the test we need? What do you think of how we test now?

JANET SPERLING: Well, the problem is that right now because it doesn't take very many of the bacteria to actually make you sick, we look at the body's response to the Lyme disease. So it's true that the ELISA is adequate for some people, but not for everybody. And we need to say first of all, we have to have a response. So the person has to mount an immune response. That takes time. So in the very early stages, the blood testing just doesn't work. Don't even bother. It's a clinical diagnosis. And then as you get farther along in the disease, some people just get so sick they're unable to mount a really effective immune response. So they don't get any diagnosis.

AMT: So it's like a Catch-22?

JANET SPERLING: Indeed, yeah.

AMT: So what do you think of the government's four million-dollar pledge to combat Lyme disease?

JANET SPERLING: Well, these are still early days. So I can see the paper that I have in front of me and I see some positive sort of forward motion. However, what I'm most concerned about is if we have exactly the same people following the exact same guidelines that we have for the last several decades, then I don't see that's actually going to change things for the patient.

AMT: Because things have to change because the disease is changing.

JANET SPERLING: Yeah, indeed. The disease is changing. The people are encountering it in different ways. There are a whole lot of unknowns. So for us to just sort of say we're going to use the American guidelines, but we live in Canada. I just don't understand why we aren't dealing with a Canadian guideline that looks at, for example, the gold standard might be Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. You could choose maybe Long Point, Ontario as our gold standard. I’m just sort of feeling that we're giving too much responsibility to an American guideline for a disease that's happening here in Canada.

AMT: I want to ask you as well about the treatment protocols. I've got a clip for you of Dr. Michael Libman, an infectious disease specialist and director of the Centre for Tropical Diseases at McGill University Health Centre. Yesterday he told CBC Montreal that doctors run the risk of being disciplined if they treat Lyme disease with antibiotics for more than four weeks. Here's why.


Doctors refuse to prescribe it for more than two to four weeks because the available standard medical evidence suggests harm and no benefit to extended treatment. So the reason they're not getting it for more than two to four weeks is that all the medical evidence says that prescribing it for longer than that does more harm than good.

AMT: Jane Sperling, a question here about how long it takes to get rid of this?

JANET SPERLING: Well, indeed that's something that we don't really have a good handle on. I just know that if you were to say two to four weeks, that's pretty unrealistic.

AMT: How long did it take your son?

JANET SPERLING: He ended up with nine months of antibiotic and we had to switch the antibiotics around. So to me, the idea that you can even take one look at a person say this person, this individual has Lyme disease, therefore they get between two and four weeks of antibiotic. To me, that's cookbook medicine. You know people all are a little bit different. People have different co-infections. There’s just a whole story. It is supposed to be a professional judgment. So you need to find a doctor who's going to work with you, and you can say okay, I made a lot of progress when I did this antibiotic, but I still have the symptoms remaining.

AMT: So, you're raising two questions here though, that one is the diagnosis and the different kinds of diagnosis and then the actual treatment. It sounds like doctors have their own challenges to face and hurdles, then.

JANET SPERLING: Oh, indeed. And that's why it's really important. I would prefer to deal with the family doctors because they're the person at the end of the day who's left with a sick patient. Often the family doctor if they make a referral to the infectious diseases doctor, they can't even get the patient seen unless the patient already has the positive two-tier serology. So they have to have the positive blood test before they can even go to the infectious diseases doctor. But if they already have a positive blood test, they're already in that nice little box that says you're two-tier positive, therefore we know what to do with you.

AMT: And you're saying you can't really tell before six weeks, but then you have to—

JANET SPERLING: Indeed. It’s just one of these things that there still are a lot of questions. And everybody's different. We have to have a diversity of viewpoints out there. Right now there are too many decisions that are being made behind closed doors. So you see this idea that somebody can say an individual will respond to two to four weeks. Well, some people do and some people don't. What are you going to do about the people who don't respond with just two to four weeks of antibiotics?

AMT: Okay, so before I let you go—this four million-dollar project from Ottawa not going to cover it all?

JANET SPERLING: It's a start. It's a step in the right direction, but they have to make sure that there are patient advocates represented or we're just going to keep going down the same path that we've been on for the last decade. And you saw that if we turn the entire file over to the people who have allowed a 600 per cent increase, then I think we need to think again.

AMT: Okay. Thank you for your thoughts.


MW: That was a re-broadcast of Anna Maria’s conversation with Janet Sperling from May of this year. Janet Sperling is a board member of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta in the department of biological sciences. I’m Megan Williams and you’re listening to the summer edition of The Current.

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'Like a religious moment': The gift that gave Camilla Gibb a new life

Guests: Camilla Gibb

[Music: “The Disruptors” theme]

MW: All this past season as part of The Current’s project “The Disruptors”, we’ve been featuring some of your personal moments of disruption. Today’s moment comes from author Camilla Gibb. Two decades ago, Camilla Gibb had set herself up for what she thought would be her dream job in academia, only to realize the realities of the ivory tower didn’t sit right with her. Then a man she barely knew gave her a gift that would change her life. Here’s Camilla Gibb.


Twenty years ago, I had just finished my Ph.D. in social anthropology. I was back at my undergraduate college at U of T with an administrative job. And I knew what was before me—I had to apply for academic jobs and you know grow up, really. But I was feeling like a fraud and I was feeling very disillusioned with academia. It wasn't my language. And I knew, as a social scientist, I knew there had to be another way of telling stories and I knew what that language was. It was fiction. But what was I going to do? Suddenly you know turn around having completed this PhD with a mountain of student debt before me and say now I'm going to write fiction? I was sitting in the quad of University College, probably looking really petulant and morose, wearing black, writing in a notebook and I had made the acquaintanceship of this man who was not an academic himself but was friends with academics at the college. He used to come and visit them. He was a businessman, a disillusioned businessman and he was searching for something himself and he was trying to teach himself Mandarin at the time. And he would sit down beside me periodically when I was having my coffee break and we'd chat about the world. And one day he sat down beside me and said you know you look really miserable. And it was one of those things that someone says to you and you just feel sort of you've just been stripped naked somehow. You feel completely exposed and where do you go with a question like that? And I had to confess that I was. And he asked me what the problem was and I said that I had set my life up in such a way that pursuing fiction wasn't a possibility and it was something I had always wanted to do. And I was trying. I was writing short stories on the sly while I was doing the applications for proper grown-up jobs. And I was having no success with it whatsoever. They were terrible stories. I was amassing a good pile of rejection slips. And he said you know what's really stopping you from pursuing this? And I said well, I think beyond the expectation that I should be an academic now, it's probably a matter of time and the money to facilitate that kind of time. And he said well, how much time would you need? And I thought if I had six months to just dedicate myself to this and do it to the exclusion of anything else, I would know whether I had anything to say. I would know whether I had anything worth hearing. And he said well, how much money would you need to live on for six months? I remember my rent was $775 a month and I thought $1,000 a month. And he said well, what if I were to give that to you? $6,000? And you can imagine my shock. I barely knew this man and I thought well, nobody does that and that's strange and I thought what are the implications of a gift like that? And he said you could treat it like a scholarship and I said well, what if I can't write? What if you don't like what I write? And he said I don't read fiction. And I thought to myself, you know is this some kind of indecent proposal? [laughs] Do I have to sleep with this man? And then I thought to myself well, would I? Six-thousand dollars seemed like a fortune.

He met me a week later in the quad. He delivers the cash—$6,000 in cash—in a box. Beautiful box, which I open and there's a tiny note inside that says, “With no strings attached.” It's like a religious moment. I see the sunlight shining down and illuminating this box. I don't even remember what words were exchanged. And I mean, have you ever seen $6,000 in cash? A Monopoly game doesn't even give you that many bills. It was remarkable and terrifying to have this in my possession. It was more money than I'd ever known or handled. And you know I wasn't going to squander a second or a dollar. I took it and I ran literally. I quit my job. I gave up my apartment and I went to my brother's trailer. He wasn't in the trailer during the week so I had that space to myself. I borrowed a laptop. I plugged that laptop into the outlet above the tiny stove and I just started writing and I was so terrified. I was so terrified to stop writing. I was so terrified to fail. So I didn't stop writing. I just kept writing throughout the weeks of a summer. A short story because that's what I thought I was doing, that went on and on and on to the point where it started to look suspiciously like a novel. That novel was eventually published a year later and I haven't stopped. I haven't looked back since.

You know when I look back on all of this I think to myself you know what? He gave me the biggest gift. He gave me a gift that truly changed my life. But what he gave me was not just the financial means and the permission really to take that time out of my life. He gave me the kick I needed which was to say if you think these are the obstacles before you and I eliminate them for you, you have no choice. You simply have to face it as terrifying as it is and it was terrifying. I could have entertained that fantasy that I would one day be a writer for the rest of my life had that not happened, and never done it. So he gave me this phenomenal gift. He asked me to maintain his anonymity. He said there were no strings attached. I wrote that first novel. It was published. I invited him to the book launch. He came with his wife and daughter. He bought a book. I signed it for him. He left. [laughs] And then the next book came out three years later. I did the same. He came to the launch. He bought a book. I signed it. He left. No words were ever exchanged between us. No recognition of what this gift had done. And there's some beauty in that somehow. It's a true act of, what's the word? I mean he was a benefactor. It was a true act of beneficence? Is that even a word? When I look back on that moment, I certainly see it as life changing. And I also see it as what’s my responsibility? If I have that kind of resource, can I share it with someone? It did come not explicitly but from my own sort of morality, it came implicitly with that, it felt like the responsible and right thing to do—to pay it forward in some way that would facilitate something similar for another person who had obstacles in the way of a dream.


CW: That was author Camilla Gibb talking about the moment that led her on the path to becoming an award-winning author of four novels and a memoir. It was produced by Karin Marley. You can find all the moments of disruption we featured this season on our website at Click on Features and The Disruptors. That’s our program for today. Stay tuned to Radio One for a new episode of Short Cuts from the BBC. And remember you can always take The Current with you to go on the CBC Radio app. It’s free from the App Store or Google Play. Finally, after starting off the show today by talking about the rhetoric of fire, fury and war that’s been heating up in recent days, let’s end with some music that strikes a different note with John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” It’s performed here in 1970 by Louis Armstrong and friends. I’m Megan Williams. Thanks for listening to the summer edition of The Current.

[“Give Peace a Chance” – John Lennon, sung by Louis Armstrong and friends]

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