Faye's Reviews > Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor

Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer
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Feb 06, 10

Read in February, 2010

I read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder which is about Paul Farmer, this is the first book I have read written by Paul Farmer. He calls himself a physician and an anthropologist which makes a lot of sense from what I know about him. I also saw Tracy Kidder speak once and talk about his experience learning about and becoming friends with Paul Farmer. In Pathologies of Power he talks about "structured violence" against the poor around the world and he points out that the lack of social and economic justice which is a form of violence (denying access to jobs, food, and medical care) and that what happens to the poor is not random.

I can't believe I started reading this book and the earthquake in Haiti happened a week later. God, there is just so much suffering there now and has been in the past. He is comparing the treatment of AIDs patients from Haiti in Guantanamo and comparing it to the HIV sanatoriums in Cuba. He documents eye-witness and victim accounts and shows that the conclusions for each case are exactly the opposite as portrayed in US media outlets. In a moment of cynicism Farmer states: "Granted that in this postmodern moment, when we are told that only willfully naive positivists seek something called the truth, it is important to acknowledge that more than one discrepant version may be true in some important sense. But some versions, surely, must have more points of contact with external reality and actual events than others." I wonder it the failure of US foreign policy with Haitians in and outside of Haiti will come out with the earthquake disaster?

At the end of this book Farmer summarizes a new agenda for health AND human rights with 6 points: 1) Make health and healing the symbolic core of the agenda (not profits), 2) Make provision of services central to the agenda (for the poor), 3) Establish new research agendas (to make drugs and other therapies cheaper), 4) Assume a broader educational mandate (beyond health professionals), 5) Achieve independence from powerful governments and bureaucracies (that are so often human rights violators), and 6) Secure more resources for health and human rights (social and economic justice).
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