Medical Anthropology is not about medicine, but about Society. It is a tool in which we can divert the gaze of the academics who focus on rituals and symbolism to the more fundamental causes of suffering and violence in our societies, in a predictive manner, so that the information collected from societies and cultures would be useful not only to understand the exotic nature of human thinking but also prevent the all the more prevalent abuse against human beings, usually exotic people, who live marginalized in oppressive societies: Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia in case of American Indians, and also the seemingly integrated aboriginal populations of Canada, USA, Aotearoa and Australia, who have much in common. (influenced by Paul Farmer)
Marginalization happens to every one, they don’t have to be exotic. Women who are partners of men with emotional, psychological and addictive problems, even though they may not share a common culture, but become marginalized, especially if the economic situation is unsteady. We always talk about human rights in Colombia, but what is the root cause of that? It is the same root cause of violence in Mexico, Peru, Honduras and other countries in the hemisphere.
No one pays attention to the fact that majority of the Mexican immigrants are paid less than normal, but they emphasize the fact that very few Mexicans graduate from American high schools where they reside, but they don’t make the connection.
I still remember very clearly, one of my first visits to an Indian Reservation, and discussing the possibilities of Diabetes Prevention. Of course the discourse was strictly on technical terms: low fat food, more exercise, such as is continued to this day. An elderly Lakota man got up and said: Outsiders think Diabetes and Alcoholism are our main problems, but for us, the main problem is lack of employment. Give us jobs and you would see how quickly Diabetes and alcoholism disappears. At that time, I was also working with Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas, an anomalous cultural entity in that, they are deeply Presbyterian but they never lost their language. Also they had one of the highest rates of employment among the Indian tribes and one of the lowest rates of alcoholism. The connection did not go unnoticed by me but to this day, the linear thinking of the western mind, look for cause and effect, and expect correction of deficits and deficiencies, with money put into mechanical projects which produces very little result.