The World’s Suffering ‘Nobodies’

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor<br> By Paul Farmer. | University of California Press. $27.50.

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In this age of affluence and technological mastery, we face a grim truth about the quality of life on the planet: For many millions around the globe, the most basic human right — the right to survive — simply cannot be guaranteed. The dreadfulness of the situation — in his fine foreword, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen notes that the median age at death in sub-Saharan Africa is under five — can lead even the most committed humanitarian to despair.

The temptation to reach for theatrical metaphors (human tragedy) or existential ones (cruel fate) is one that Paul Farmer resists at every turn. A physician-anthropologist at Harvard, he is resolutely political in his approach. Farmer argues that mass suffering is not, as some would have it, a fact of life, but rather a matter of choice. It’s the product of what he calls “structural violence” — the inequities produced by man-made institutions that sustain “an undeclared war on the poor.”

Farmer’s first priority is to awaken us to the suffering of the world’s “nobodies.” To this end, he vividly narrates his experiences treating HIV in Haiti and confronting the tuberculosis epidemic in Russia’s prisons. For Farmer, of course, merely bearing witness to suffering is inadequate; we also need solutions. He looks to liberation theology for the ideals to guide his demanding program of international ethics, one that insists on forging active solidarity with the most vulnerable citizens of our world, while declaring “health rights” to be an essential human right.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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