Sunday, February 8, 2009

Which Shore is More Important?

The readings from week four had two distinct branches for me. One dealt with the construction and negotiation of pain, and the other with the need for participation and solidarity to improve life.

How do we negotiate pain? For a vast majority of us, it may be safe to say that we think of the physical aspect of pain when we think about it. One can easily point to the location of pain, as in arms, legs, stomach etc. But can this pain be actually objectified? Most people would agree that we cannot see pain. Can pain be pin pointed? Perhaps not. Then how are we constructing it as a physical element? If we take a more post positivist approach we can perhaps define pain as electrical impulses to and from the brain. In that case, why do we not consider pain as a brain manifestation?

I witnessed first hand the tendency among the Western doctors to quantify pain - tell me on a scale of 1 to 10, where your pain is right now. I wonder how effective such a statement can be, as it is easy to poke holes into such a concept. Could it be that pharmaceuticals have patented mediations for each level of pain and as soon as a patient says my pain is 9, he/she will get medication A and a scale 5 will get medication B produced by another firm? Will it be too wrong to say that this is the politics of pain?

I wonder about the responses of those cultures whose beliefs are more focused on the peace and well being of the mind than the body. Then there are those who can separate their minds from their bodies. How would they construct pain? On what scale? Will it be possible to recreate a specific pain to the finest of details? Perhaps because I did not read the original/entire story of Khol Do I did not understand the pain reference in the excerpt Das (1997) mentions. Would that not be more of a jubilation and elation than pain? Can someone actually feel the pain on another's body? Some may find this idea far fetched. But haven't we heard of tribes/people who can feel sympathy pain?

The other branch I read and enjoyed was the need for participation and solidarity among cultural insiders to effectively improve life. This to me is more effective and perhaps realistic to bring change in people who do not have a voice in the society. Assisting people find their voice seems more rewarding to me than trying to understanding why pain is what it is, and it surprises me to see that health scholars perceive marginalized populations devoid of agency and 'prescribe' interventions and 'improvements.'

It would be a priority for me in my career to learn to recognize what is important and what is not. I would like to lear to sort and filter my needs well, and customize my efforts into those that will really try to make a positive change for those who feel they need one.

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