Taking Human Rights for Granted

The final chapter in Paul Farmer’s book Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor gives the readers a chance to reassess the frameworks that allow us to think about human rights. Throughout the book, Farmer has brought up many important concepts in which the book’s general audience learns about without physically undergoing them to the great extent that many others do. Overall, the ‘fortunate’ are to realize the circumstances given to oneself, while such freedoms are taken away from others. In other words, when measuring vulnerability, some social structures violate the human rights of some individuals to a greater extent than others.

In regards to the violation of human rights and my research topic of violence, these injustices are seen evident through the use of child soldiers particularly in Uganda. For instance, the KONY2012 video has stirred up a great about of commotion quickly throughout cyberspace, for it attempts to appeal toward its audience emotionally even though it provides misconceptions. The posted video calls for the attention of the ‘capable’ to bring awareness and make a difference by fighting for human rights. For decades, the Ugandan people were at high risk for many forms of violence, especially due to the fact that they had limited means of escaping and become easy victims for the rebels. Even though the civil war has softened, the war is still ongoing due to all the traumatic consequences that the community must now deal with and human rights not fully granted. The video urging for the capture of Kony is only one of the many criminal aspects against humanity and human rights. Those sincerely willing to help end the war must join together and form effective measures of action, or else the cycle will perpetuate itself.

 

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Indian History Embedded in a Young Boy’s Diary

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a cleverly written novel that underlies many aspects about stigma, poverty, and violence among Native Americans. Arnold Spirit, Jr. is often bullied by his peers due to his medical conditions. The stigma placed upon individuals with medical issues is emphasized through how Arnold is treated by members of his community. In regards to poverty, Native Americans living on their Indian reservation are limited in the amount of wealth and material goods they own. Due to the general poverty Arnold’s family endured, he was prevented from attended school at times, as could be seen with the cartoon on page 174. In addition, the issue of alcoholism among Indians comes into light. They have been killed in masses by settlers during the colonial times and have died in high numbers through many disease epidemics, but alcoholism has remained a big problem among these people. Native American drinking problem has been examined to be due to their cultural situation and not because they fit into racial group. The unhappiness the Indian community face lead many to drink and eventually to their own deaths or the deaths of innocent others. Overall, Indian history is embedded into this account of an ‘absolutely true’ story. The differences between Indians and Whites are evident through the experiences of Junior/Arnold.

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Is There Any Possibility of Ending Sexual Violence, Especially During Times of War?

[Extra Credit Post]

I recently came across an article co-written by Gloria Steinem, a well-known feminist activist. The article titled “Can We End Rape as Tool of War?” resonated with the central topic our group’s video podcast. There are many horrifying stories about rape victims, yet questions remain as to how the collaboration of stories victims experienced could lead to an end of sexual violence and create a positive impact for future generations to come. A high percentage of the brutality in which sexually abused victims face coincides with war. The article mentions:

Sexualized violence may be the only form of violence in which the victim is blamed or is even said to have invited it. In war, rape shames women, men, children, entire societies. The stigma imposed on all who are touched by this violence makes this weapon incredibly effective as a means of destroying the enemy.

Sexual violence and rape has been used as a tactic throughout many wars around the world, and its ‘commonness’ has allowed for it to sadly become naturalized. A newly formed program called ‘Women Under Siege’ documents how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century. Through public education of raising awareness and undergoing legal action, perhaps we steer towards ‘ending’ the large number of rape and sexual violence rates occurring in battlefields.

 

 

The Spark of Hope for Afghan Women May Come to an End

[Extra Credit Post]

After the horrid 9/11 attacks made by the Taliban, Afghanistan was given public attention to worldwide. America sent its troops to create order and diminish the rates of crime. The inequality faced by women was taken given particular attention to. Women living under the Taliban control were denied education, banned from medical treatment by male doctors, and publicly executed for ‘immorality’. With the fall of Taliban power, the rigid system of rules ceased and Afghani women and girls were provided with several well-deserved basic freedoms and rights. While such changes were promised and given, some issues persisted. Due to gender inequality, women continued to endure domestic violence and imprisoned for “moral crimes”.

As international military forces plan to depart the region, women in Afghanistan fear that they will be abandoned again and denied all the positive changes that have been made throughout the past decade. Although a law has been passed stating that violence against women is a crime, Afghan women are more vulnerable now more than ever. The international community has given so much effort and money to help reach out the individuals whom are seen as “secondary to men” by their community, and therefore the support for women’s right must continue. It is too risky to allow things to go back to the way they were before the international intrusion.

The Cycle of AIDS, Poverty, and Hunger

In Kalofonos’s article, the paradox of “saving lives” through high-tech treatment, while inflicting more hunger upon HIV-positive patients in undernourished countries is a rude awakening. What’s more ironic is that many HIV-negative individuals in Mozambique are “brought to tears by a negative test” and feel resentment towards those with who test positive. Educated individuals in the developed world are aware that optimum health can be reached when illnesses are not contracted. Yet in developing countries like Mozambique, benefits like food aid are given to families living with HIV-positive patients, which leave those not inflicted with the virus to attain food sources through different means. I can only hope that the desire for food aid through programs that benefit HIV-positive patients does not directly increase the rates of the AIDS. The non-infected individuals should understand that the cost of having AIDS is not worth the food aid benefit that comes along with it.

 

When looking at statistics, it is understandable as to why limited food aid must be divided amongst those who “deserve” the food they receive due to belonging to an AIDS-affected family. It has been studied that when dealing with the link between AIDS patients and hunger, “food consumption in the household can drop by as much as 40 percent due to increased productivity and earnings, leaving children at a higher risk of malnutrition and stunting”.  NPOs and other aid programs are incapable of tending to all citizen needs at the same time, so they must cleverly organize how treatment and aid is distributed.

Lastly, I would like to comment that the best way to live life, especially during desperate times like these, is by being thankful and grateful for what is bestowed upon you, and volunteers attempt to enforce this best when those living in poverty complain about what they do not have rather than what they do. 

The Integration of the Natural and Social World Lead to Public Health Concerns

As I was reading the chapter “Can the Mosquito Speak?” in Timothy Mitchell’s book, I realized the recurring concepts that were discussed in many of the previous readings throughout Professor Smith’s class. The same ideas are brought into light through the introduction of a new region not focused on before during the course–Egypt. “Dams, blood-borne parasites, synthetic chemicals, mechanized war, and man-made famine coincided and interacted”, which created powerful transformations affecting Egypt as it was heading towards modernity. As the powerful and wealthy took advantage of what they could benefit from, the underprivileged where often left without sufficient access to water and livestock to make a decent living. By being robbed of their basic needs, most Egyptians were more prone to suffering from the disease that “moved with the changing movements of people”. What made matters worse was that the river and dams allowed for the rapid spread of malaria across the surface of water, which helps them breed in high numbers. The mosquito was a public health problem that was for the most part heard by deaf until towards the end of the epidemic. Globalization has led to the interconnectedness of the world and surely the increasing rate of disease, as shown in Egypt. The spread of disease epidemics occurs due to many other underlying factors.

Both nature and society affected much of what was occurring during the modern era. War was not the cause of all the chaos, but it did play a role in how the events were played out. This article particularly mentions the link between violent wars and disease epidemics. As the field of research continues, time and time again it is proven that disease continues to be inextricably linked to war. Today we can prevent many diseases and reduce the rates of poverty and conflict which propel diseases to spread, but it takes time. Overall, the goal of public health advocates is to improve the well-being of the world’s population.

The Inequality of Food Distribution Leads to Conflict

Kristin Phillips conducted research focusing on the relationship “between citizens and the state, between the powerful and powerless”, with an emphasis on food shortage and how food aid is distributed. The article states that “when politicians refuse to frame food aid as an entitlement, they affirm their own right to private property, and to become rich and powerful individual. They deny claims of the masses to the resources at their disposal, even when it is not their own property” (Phillips, 39). The public continually witnesses politicians ‘filling their bellies’, but it is morally wrong to take advantage of the power bestowed upon them and use it for their own benefit and financial gain, especially when it is at the expense of people carrying the “burden of ‘sickness’, ‘poverty’, and ‘hunger’” (Phillips, 34). Essentially, when a region encounters a shortage of food supply, food aid converts into political power.

I encountered an article that provides readers with world hunger and poverty facts/statistics. A pie chart (shown below) is provided showing the percentage of individuals globally who are living in poverty and hunger, with Asia and Africa being the top two areas encountering the harsh suffering of starvation. It should not come as a surprise that developed countries experience less shortages of food, but the statistics should be of a concern. The site also answers questions that are worthwhile to read. Readers of the article learn that although the world does produce enough food to feed everyone, many people in the world are left with an insufficient amount of environmental resources and financial assets. Therefore, as people become more desperate for their basic essentials, like food, conflict arises and violent tensions become prominent, in hope for a positive change. With violence come many unbearable consequences. This ongoing cycle needs to come to an end. With the surplus of food available in the world, it’s possible, yet politicians must begin to invest concern for the welfare of the poor, and not only their own. Many regions continue to experience states of emergency, and the rates of malnutrition shall decrease with the help of concerned political figures.

Number of Hungry People Worldwide

Ethical Concerns Must Be Met with Success, not Failures

The subject of human rights should be a central concern for many. These days, it’s hard to decipher whether all human beings are even considered “human” and if “human rights” are given to all humans. The concept of selective attention in terms of social inequality should make the public ashamed for allowing some people go unnoticed, even during a time of globalization and increasing intercommunication with one another. The question of ethics comes to light often, yet it continues to fail. For instance, major treatable diseases are prominent in population denied proper access to modern medical care. As the statistics of the innocent deaths of many, especially due to preventable diseases like AIDS, continue to increase, structural violence becomes more evident.

As I read about Uganda and the AIDS research that was conducted similar to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study decades earlier, it mentioned how circumcision may guard against the spread of the HIV virus. All over the internet and media, there are mixed reviews on whether this should be accepted and implemented into at-risk populations. On one end, there has been a documented statement that clearly claims how circumcision does not prevent HIV infection by arguing its cultural biases, effectiveness, and politics. On the other hand, there also seems to be an overwhelming amount of research that has been conducted with evidence of circumcision’s protective effect. It remains true that circumcision practices are usually a result of cultural views, but when it comes to the issue of public health, tensions rise. Regardless of the positive and negatives aspects of circumcision, I believe that if the government was to enforce this throughout poor countries, it will be hoping to prevent and steer the spread of disease at the expense of causing violence towards the bodies of many that have no say.

Interestingly, a short video was posted regarding an article that stated that the Obama administration had presented an initiative on the circumcision of millions of African men. Are human rights going to be respected or denied? Will this be medically ethical? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Without Poverty, There Would Be No Violence

While deaths during heat waves seem understandable, a red flag should have been set when high mortality rates were evident in Chicago’s 1995 summer heat wave. It is a shame that deaths through preventable causes are only made aware after the lost of hundreds of innocent lives. Scientific studies during the aftermath of the heat wave showed that the weather was not sole attributing factor to the deaths of many. The causes include the climate as well as the living conditions many individuals had to deal with. Klinenberg argues that “in 1995, the city’s climatic, sociospatial, and political conditions were all extreme: not only was the weather unprecedentedly severe, in addition the advancing state of poverty and the inadequacy of the state’s response created an unusually deadly crisis” (242). The geography of urban vulnerability goes to show how social organization is controlled by economic and political powers. In this particular case, the community that was affected more severely than others revolved around African Americans populations whom lived in close proximity to dangerous environments, unsanitary conditions, and unsafe water sources.

The deprived community were not given adequate amounts of water access and suffered through violent struggles. The link between poverty and violence is continually seen throughout history. In the case of the Chicago residents during the 1995 heat wave, poverty-stricken civilians rebelled by leaning towards violence, but the results ended without any positive gain. The United Nations website provides a document that highlights the issues upper developing countries face. One of its passages mentions the following:

“Low income leads to low savings; low savings lead to low investment; low investment leads to low productivity and low incomes. Poverty leads to environmental degradation, which in turn undermines the assets of the poor and exacerbates poverty. Poverty can lead to violence and conflict, and the associated destruction of physical, human, social and organizational capital in turn causes poverty to intensify”.

Also, for more information as to how the media covered news on the 1995 Chicagoheat wave, see below.

Their Pain is Kept Silent

Chiwengo’s article on how “pain remains untranslatable”, with an emphasis on Congolese women who have experienced rape, greatly relates to this blog page as a whole (92). The human rights discourse fails to protect the values of everyone due to the fact that its ideas are a direct reflection to power relations and dominance. Many worldwide conflicts and narratives go unheard of. The international community fails to hear memorial narratives and violence goes unnoticed only until moral and political involvement takes place. To objectify the pain of the victims, the film Hotel Rwanda was produced in order to “ensure that Western spectators would identify with the victims” (85). By recreating the images of the Rwanda genocide, attention was brought to the international community “which desires to offer assistance” (91).

One passage from the article that stood out to me was how “sexuality is intertwined with power and militarized masculinity” (90). Sexualized power should be brought to the attention of many. Economic and political structures are at the root of why women, like the Congolese, were raped in high numbers. The essence of rape is about power, not sexual desire. I encountered a blog that provided statistics on rape in Africa alone. The blog’s first sentence reads: It is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read. This sentence speaks a lot for itself. I hope that through media, more attention is brought to countries suffering from poverty and despair since “human rights are given more attention in developing countries than in some developed countries” (79).

The following clip provides account of personal stories and information about sexual violence in Haiti. Perhaps by taking a look at more images and listening to more stories, the international community will more likely try to put a stop to the harms people suffer from.