Our bodies, societies, and planet are inflamed for the same reasons

Activist, film director and best-selling author Raj Patel was dressed as a genetically modified tomato when he met Rupa Maria, MD, more than a decade ago. They were at a protest organized against the use of pesticides, and Maria – a musician and doctor – was performing at the event with her world band Rupa and April Fishes. Patel says the two quickly became friends.

Patel is a widely published author, perhaps best known for his New York Times bestselling book, Nothing value. He is also a film director and research professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. Maria is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), whose research investigates the intersections of social structures and disease, and the effects of colonial culture on health. She is also the CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Deep Medicine Circle, a woman of color leadership, and who runs a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the San Francisco Bay Area, focused on decolonizing agriculture and restoring relationships with nature through food.

Maria and Patel recently co-authored the book Flaming: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injusticepublished in 2021 by The Macmillan Company.

“We had been planning the book for years, and a publisher picked it up while the pandemic was spreading in the United States [in spring 2020]Patel says. “Our lives during the pandemic have resonated with the writing. Among us, we have experienced bushfires, being climate refugees, long-term COVID-19, deaths of loved ones due to COVID-19, food system illnesses, racism and gun violence. We have braided This pain and anger through the book.”

Their book highlights the links between health and the structural injustices prevalent in modern societies, and its structure continues through the different anatomical systems of the body as a framework for discussing not only the health crises facing society but also grievances in food, racism, climate, and the medical industry. and beyond.

“The vision was to have a book that overturns the way the body is taught, as separate systems of isolation within the body,” Patel says. “As you move through the book, it becomes increasingly clear that you cannot understand, say, the gut without understanding the brain and the complexity of systems within systems.”

The connective thread throughout the book is inflammation, and the many interconnected ways that “inflame” our bodies, our communities, and our planet.

Patel says the conversation about inflammation began between him and Maria after a “powerful” conversation Maria gave at the University of Texas, which he attended.

As I drove her to the airport, it became clear that my work on the food systems and peasant/working-class struggles of the global south resonated on the front lines of the struggle for indigenous and racial justice, and [both our works] caused by inflammation.

Patel explains that inflammation is the body’s natural response to the risk of damage, and it’s a necessary start to the healing process — that is, until the causes of inflammation become established.

“When the damage—and its danger—comes every day, the body never gets a chance to heal,” he says. “Harm and risk of harm are not evenly distributed. Social injustice – the fear of losing your car, home, or life to powerful people due to any real or perceived wrongdoing – is something that working-class communities, women, and communities of people of color can feel every day. How much it hurts like exposure to pollution, inclement weather, and the daily physical workplace. The concomitant inflammation puts the bodies of people in those societies into healthier lives that are poorer than the richest white men on earth can ever imagine.”

As the book’s subtitle suggests, the book delves into the idea of ​​”deep medicine,” which Maria explains is a way of seeing and how larger social structures contribute to disease, and then working with that understanding to redesign those structures.

Maria says that the concept of deep medicine contrasts with “shallow medicine,” which tends to focus on the cause of disease caused by a single individual. While working on the book, she says, she and Patel were able to combine their perspectives and research from years of working with communities around the world “discussing food systems, land use, medicine, biology, history, and cosmology.”

With her band, Maria has toured 29 different countries over the decades. She says that when she went back to the same communities many times again over the years, she was able to see certain patterns emerge related to how people got sick, and who got sick or not. She says that these observations became the basis that eventually led to the concepts covered in inflamed.

“The book grew out of these ideas while traveling,” she says. “[About 18 years ago] I began to notice that all these different groups that were marginalized or socially oppressed, or from societies that had suffered from colonialism, were suffering. People were suffering in very similar ways. I started calling it “Colonial Syndrome”.

She says the communities she and Patel have had the opportunity to watch and work with through the story told by the book is that our bodies, our communities and our planet are being damaged by the same cosmology that cuts off our ties to one another and the web of life that keeps us healthy.”

Once the co-authors realized that inflammation was a rope between physical health and many of the grievances of today’s social and economic systems, the problem was figuring out what to include and what to leave out of the book, says Patel, because they began noticing evidence everywhere “connecting physical inflammation with inflammation.” planet, and the machinations of colonial capitalism.”

“Once you see inflammation and its pathways and causes and effects, you can’t not see it,” he says. “New York times I featured a piece about the race to steal the microbiome of indigenous communities in the Amazon region to heal those in the global north whose guts have been compromised by living in cities,” Patel adds. “This kind of colonial plunder is exactly what we anticipated in the book.”

Patel says he enjoyed learning from Maria about the ways the body “transmits the insults of capitalism through the mind to the cellular level.”

“To see how payday loans correlate with higher rates of inflammatory markers, and that the best medicine is not anti-inflammatory pills but banning payday loans, is something I was surprised. It seems obvious now, but it was surprising to find out as I write. [the book]. “

Patel says since it was posted inflamed It has been used and quoted in movements around the world. If he could leave the readers with one go of the book, he says it would be “organised!”

“There is nothing in the book that you can do on your own,” he says. “Sure, eat healthy food, turn off your phone at night, sleep well, exercise and spend time connected to the web of life. These are all things that, if you can do them, you probably already are. The problem is that the ability to do that is not evenly distributed. Safely, no one. And capitalism will not allow everyone to be safe. So medicine [to cure this situation] It is bypassing capitalism. This is not something that can happen through one’s will. Only through collective power. So, organize! “

April M. Short is an editor, journalist, documentary editor and producer. She is a writing fellow at Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Previously she worked as managing editor at AlterNet and award-winning senior writer for Santa Cruz, California’s weekly newspaper..

source: Independent Media Institute

line of credit: This article was produced by local peace economyThe Independent Media Institute project.