Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Long Defeat

[Paul Farmer to Tracy Kidder] "'...I have fought for my whole life a long defeat. How about that? How about if I said, That's all it adds up to is defeat?'

'A long defeat.'

'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. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I don't dislike victory. You and I have discussed this so many times.'


'No, no, I'm not complaining,' he says. 'You know, people from our background- like you, like most PIH-ers, like me- we're used to being on a victory team, and actually what we're really trying to do in PIH is to make common cause with the losers. Those are two very different things. We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it's not worth it. So you fight the long defeat.'... 'I don't care if we lose, I'm gonna try to do the right thing.'

'But you're going to try to win.'

'Of course! We're not, you know, masochistic. And then all the victories are gravy, you know? The other option is to be jaded because you've been fighting a defeat for eighteen years, and trying to stop it, at least save the elbow joint for Kenol, you know.' He's referring to a current patient, a boy back in Cange whose hand got caught in a sugarcane press- 'a low medieval device,' Farmer called it- and ended up with gangrene. In the end, his arm had to be amputated above the elbow joint.

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