Tuesday, February 07, 2012

"Christ Stopped at Eboli" is a good read and good on doing good.

The author of the book, Carlo Levi, actually does good in a desperately poor village in Southern Italy, which surprise him.

He didn't go with the intention of doing good. He went because he was sent there as punishment, internal exile, for being politically active against Mussolini.

He wasn't locked up. He was told where the bounds were of where he could go, the edges of the village and give a place to live. His intention was to live quietly.

The people in the village who weren't poor peasants took him into their social group. That he was there as political punishment wasn't mentioned. They needed and wanted someone new to relate to, and they related to him.

The people in the village who were poor peasants found out quickly that he'd been trained as a doctor. He'd never practiced. He'd been an artist and a political activist.

The poor people didn't care that he's never practiced. They assumed that he would practice there. They demanded it of him.

The first person who the poor people demanded he treat died. People didn't hold the death against. The person had been very sick when Levi first saw him.

The village already had two physicians--the one who was almost senile and the one who was money hungry and liked to maximize his charges on people who had little money.

Maybe the peasants sought out the new guy assming he might care if they lived or died, which would be different for a physician in that village.

Nobody cared about him practicing medicine for the poor--not the not-poor people or the police who were supposed to notice what he did.

Then he used cement to fill up some low places in the village where water collected and mosquitos bread. These mosquitos would tend to spread malaria.

He did that, and all of a sudden word came down from outside the village that he couldn't practice medicin anymore, at all.

In his book "Rats, Lice, and History," Hans Zinsser writes that the tiny beings who spread debilitating diseases in poor countries are effectively the allies of the tyrants at the top of the poor countries government. The bacteria and viruses keep the people too tired to for better, fairer government.