Monday, January 07, 2008

Mountains Beyond Mountains Quotes

Last night I finished rereading Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy's Kidder's biography of Dr. Paul Farmer, whose life's work is to help the poor, shafted, and downtrodden people of the world. I wrote a previous post about the book's impact on me, and now that I have a better idea of how I'd like to act on my knowledge of the 1.1 billion people who struggle to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves on less than $1 per day, I decided to reread the book.

Below are a number of quotes that were thought provoking to me. Page numbers are in parentheses after each quote, and unless otherwise stated, Tracy Kidder made each statement:

The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money. (4)

Zanmi Lasante
[Farmer's clinic in Haiti] had built schools and houses and communal sanitation and water systems...vaccinated all the children...greatly reduced both local malnutrition and infant mortality...launched programs for women's literacy and for the prevention of AIDS. (22)

Zanmi Lasante...spent between $150 and $200 to cure an uncomplicated case [of tuberculosis in Haiti]. The same cure in the United States...cost between $15,000 and $20,000.
(22)

I can't sleep. There's always somebody not getting treatment. (Paul Farmer, 24)

[Farmer's indignation] was always directed at...those who felt comfortable with the current distribution of money and medicine in the world. (24)

Giving people medicine for TB and not giving them food is like washing your hands and drying them in the dirt. (Haitian proverb, 34)

Each continued to get what is called directly observed therapy, a community health worker on hand to be sure the patient took the medicines on schedule, and each got the monthly cash stipend--the equivalent of about five American dollars--to pay for extra food, child care, and transportation to a monthly doctor's appointment at Zanmi Lasante...They hadn't lost a single patient in twelve years... (35)

[Many people] think all the world's problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don't believe that. There's a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It's what separates us from roaches. (Paul Farmer, 40)

Preferential option for the poor (Phrase used in liberation theology, developed by Latin American theologians, and adopted by Paul Farmer, 62)

[Haitians are] the shafted of the shafted. (Paul Farmer, 63)

By now he had certainly progressed, as he would put it, from curiosity to indignation. (63)

I think there's a point where you realize the world has just been revealed to you...It's sort of, Oh no, things will never be quite the same again. (Ophelia Dahl, 74)

This is terrible. You can't even get a blood transfusion if you're poor. We're all human beings. (A young pregnant Haitian woman with malaria, 80)

...everyday problems of adequate nutrition, clean water, and illness prevention... (Paul Farmer, 83)

Clean water and health care and school and food and tin roofs and cement floors, all of these things should constitute a set of basics that people must have as birthrights. (Paul Farmer, 91)

If people could be kept from dying unnecessarily, then one had to act. (102)

Lives of service depend on lives of support. He'd gotten help from many people. (108)

Meager incomes don't guarantee abysmal health statistics, but the two usually go together. (125)

Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. (Margaret Mead, 164)

Paul thought two million dollars, maybe four. "No," Jim said. "We're going to ask for forty-five million." (177, regarding the amount of money Paul Farmer and Jim Kim requested--and received--from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

The problem is, if I don't work this hard, someone will die who doesn't have to. That sounds megalomaniacal. I wouldn't have said that to you before I'd taken you to Haiti and you had seen that it was manifestly true. (Paul Farmer, 191)

Cuba seemed to have mostly abandoned its campaign to change the world by exporting troops. Now they were sending doctors instead, to dozens of poor countries. (194)

I've worked 18 years in Haiti, and everything has gotten worse. We haven't done enough yet in Haiti. (205)

PATRIA ES HUMANIDAD (209, a sign in Cuba, meaning "the only [real] nation is humanity")

In his mind, he was fighting all poverty all the time, an endeavor full of difficulties and inevitable failures. For him, the reward was inward clarity, and the price perpetual anger or, at best, discomfort with the world... (210)

I imagine that many people would like to construct a life like Farmer's, to wake up knowing what they ought to do and feeling that they were doing it. But I can't think that many would willingly take on the difficulties, giving up their comforts and time with family. (213)

All suffering isn't equal. (Paul Farmer, 216)

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. (Paul Farmer, 218)

I think of myself more as a physician than as an American. [Russian physician] Ludmilla and I, we belong to the nation of those who care for the sick. (Paul Farmer, 229)

Paul is a model of what should be done. He's not a model for how it has to be done. Let's celebrate him. Let's make sure people are inspired by him. But we can't say anybody should or could be just like him. (Jim Kim, 244)

It should be enough to humbly serve the poor. (Paul Farmer, 256)

It's embarrassing that piddly little projects like ours should serve as exemplars. It's only because other people haven't been doing their jobs. (257)

It seemed to me that he didn't have a plan for his life so much as he had a pattern. (260)

Equity is the only acceptable goal. (Paul Farmer, 261)

That's when I feel most alive, when I'm helping people. (Paul Farmer, 295)

10 comments:

Janna @ Feed Your Pig said...

I just finished reading this book today. Enjoyed it so much. I have saved your blog. Will be doing more reading on it tonight!

Anonymous said...

this book sucked

Luke Carriere said...

Great collection of quotes! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Awsome story. Great quotes. Thanks for the list.

Anonymous said...

book was pretty brutal what kind of american is he helping haitians. lets fix america first? great quotes for my essay thanks dog

Anonymous said...

I finished reading this book for for my Anthropology class about two weeks ago and it has now become one of my favorite. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Great book! To anyone who didn't enjoy it: I challenge you to travel to Haiti or a country of similar poverty and not comeback a changed person. Also, great quotes but you left out my personal favorite. "I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I'm not going to stop because we keep losing."

Anonymous said...

Fabulous book of an life being well lived. It challenged me.

Read also "Strength in what remains" also by Tracey Kidder, about DeoGracias, another Dr. with steadfast determination, a Birundian this time.

Anonymous said...

I've been to a country like Haiti, however the book was simply boring due to its diction ��

quoteschart said...

Supper quotes compilation. Thanks!!