Essay Fodder from “Mountains Beyond Mountains”

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

“‘Countries with the steepest grades of inequality and the greatest poverty have the biggest AIDS problems, and I’m sure Professor Montagnier would agree that while cofinfections are important cofactors, they’re not as important as these.  We need to erase social inequalities, and very few countries have done that.’ He closed in one of his favorite ways, by quoting a peasant.  ‘A woman in Cange said to me, ‘You want to stop HIV in women? Give them jobs.’

By now I felt I was getting a sense of how Farmer put together experience and philosophy.  In trying to control TB and AIDS in the central plateau, he had ended up wrangling, not much with third world myths, like beliefs in sorcery, but usually first world ones, like expert theories that exaggerated the power poor women had to protect themselves from AIDS.  This was Cuba, of course, the hemisphere’s small, lonely iconoclast” (Kidder 199). 

” ‘That feeling has the disadvantage of being … wrong …  The polite thing to say would be, “You’re right.  It’s a parallel universe. There really is no relation between the massive accumulation of wealth in one part of the world and abject misery in another.”‘ He looked at me.  He’d made me laugh.  ‘You know I’m being funny about something serious,’ he said. 

I felt as if for that moment I could see a little way into his mind.  It seemed like a place of hyperconnectivity. At moments like that, I thought that what he wanted was to erase both time and geography, connecting all parts of his life and tying them instrumentally to a world in which he saw intimate, inescapable connections between the gleaming corporate offices of Paris and New York and a legless man lying on the mud floor of a hut in the remotest part of remote Haiti. Of all the world’s errors, he seemed to feel, the most fundamental was the ‘erasing’ of people, the ‘hiding away’ of suffering. “My big struggle is how people can not care, erase, not remember.”

Embracing a continuity and interconnectedness that excluded no one seemed like another of Farmer’s peculiar liberties.  It came with a lot of burdens, of course, but it also freed him from the efforts that many people make to find refuge and distinction from their pasts, from the mass of their fellow human beings” (Kidder 218-219). 



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