Thursday, August 11 2022

“Inflamed: Deep Medicine And The Anatomy Of Injustice” reveals a critical observation – that inflammation consistently links ill health and structural injustice, she writes April M Short.

ACTIVIST, FILMMAKER and bestselling author Raj Patel was disguised as a genetically engineered tomato when he met Rupa Marya MD, more than a decade ago.

They were at a protest organized against the use of pesticides, and Marya – a musician and doctor – played a show at the event with her globally touring band Rupa and the April Fish. Patel says the two quickly became friends.

Patel is a widely read author perhaps best known for his New York Times Articles and international bestsellers Book, The Value of Nothing: How to Transform Market Society and Redefine Democracy. He is one too filmmakers and a research professor in the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin.

Marya is one associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), whose research examines the intersections of social structures and disease, and the effects of the culture of colonialism on health.

She is also the managing director and chairman of the board Circle of Deep Medicine: a women of color led, worker-led nonprofit in the San Francisco Bay Area focused on decolonizing agriculture and restoring relationships with nature through food.

Marya and Patel recently co-wrote the Book Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice.

pattel said:

We had planned the book for years and it was picked up by a publisher when the pandemic hit the US [in spring 2020]. Our life during the pandemic has been consistent with the writing. Together we have witnessed wildfires, climate refugees, prolonged COVID-19, deaths of loved ones due to COVID-19, food system diseases, racism and gun violence. We wove that pain and anger through the book.

Her Book Highlights the links between health and structural injustices prevalent in modern societies, and its structure continues through various anatomical systems of the body, as a framework to discuss not only health crises society is facing, but also injustices related to Nutrition, racism, climate, the medical industry and beyond.

Patel explains:

The vision was to have a book that would subvert the way the body is taught as individual separate systems within the body. As you progress through the book it becomes increasingly clear that you cannot understand, for example, the gut without understanding the brain and the complexities of systems within systems. The common thread running through the book is inflammation and the many interconnected ways in which our bodies, our society and our planet are all “inflamed”.

Patel says the inflammatory conversation between him and Marya began after he attended her “powerful” lecture at the University of Texas.

pattel said:

“As I drove her to the airport, I realized that my work on food systems and struggles of the peasant and working class in the Global South resonated with her on the front lines of struggles for indigenous and racial justice, and [both spheres of work] were knit together by inflammation.”

Patel explains that inflammation is the body’s natural response to impending damage, which is a necessary beginning of the healing process—until the causes of inflammation become a constant.

Patel says:

When the damage—and its threat—occurs every day, the body never has a chance to heal. Damage and risk of damage are not evenly distributed. Social injustice — the fear of losing your car, your home, or your life to powerful people for an infraction, real or imagined — is something working-class, women, and people of color communities can feel on a daily basis.

This threat does just as much real harm as exposure to pollution, extreme weather, and the daily physical harm these people face in the workplace. The accompanying inflammation leaves the bodies of people in these communities in a lifetime of ill health than the wealthiest white men on earth could ever imagine.

As the subtitle suggests, the book explores the idea of ​​”deep medicine,” which Marya explains, is a way of seeing and relating how larger social structures contribute to disease, and then using that understanding to work around those structures to redesign.

The concept of deep medicine is in contrast to “superficial medicine” which focuses on the cause of diseases originating from a single individual. Marya says that working on the book allowed her and Patel to combine insights and research from years of working with communities around the world “a discussion of food systems and land use, medicine and biology, and histories and cosmologies”.

With her band, Marya has toured 29 different countries for decades. She says as she kept coming back to the same communities over the years, she could see certain patterns emerging in terms of how people got sick and who did or didn’t get sick. Marya says these observations became the basis that eventually led to the concepts discussed therein inflamed.

Mary explains:

“The book was created on the basis of these insights while traveling. [About 18 years ago] I started noticing that all these different groups that were marginalized, socially oppressed, or from communities that survived colonization were suffering. People suffered in very similar ways. I started calling it ‘colonized syndrome’.”

Marya says the communities that she and Patel each had the opportunity to witness and work with told the story they told in their book

“…which means that our bodies, our societies, and our planet are being damaged by the same cosmology that destroyed our relationships with one another and with the web of life that keeps us sane.”

Patel says that when he and Marya realized that inflammation was like a connecting cord between physical health and the many injustices of today’s socioeconomic systems, the problem was figuring out what to include in the book and what to leave out because they began to notice evidence everywhere “Associating physical inflammation with that of the planet and the machinations of colonial capitalism”.

Patel says:

“Once you see inflammation, its pathways, and causes and effects, you can’t miss it. The ‘New York Times’ published a piece in a race to steal the microbiome of Amazonian indigenous communities in order to treat those in the Amazon Global North whose guts have been bared by life in the cities.”

Patel adds:

“This kind of colonial plunder is exactly what we predicted in the book.”

Patel says he enjoyed learning about how the body works from Marya “carries the insults of capitalism through the mind to the cellular level”.

He says:

“Learning how payday loans are linked to higher rates of inflammatory markers and that the best medicine is not an anti-inflammatory pill but to ban payday loans was something that surprised me that I was surprised. It seems obvious now, but it was a surprising thing to find out while we were writing [the book].”

Since its release, says Raj Patel inflamed has been used and quoted in movements around the world. And if he could leave readers with one takeaway from the book, it would be “organize.”

Emphasizes Patel:

There is nothing in the book that you can really do on your own. Stay safe, eat healthy, turn off your phone at night, sleep well, exercise, and spend time in the web of life. These are all things that, if you can do them, you probably already can. The problem is that the ability to do so is not evenly distributed. Until everyone is sure, nobody is. And capitalism doesn’t allow everyone to be safe.

So the medicine [to cure this situation] is to go beyond capitalism. This cannot be done by individual will. Only through collective power. So organize!

April M Short is a Documentary Editor, Journalist, Editor and Producer.

This item was produced by Local Peace Economya project of Independent Media Institute.

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