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Title: People Who Get Rubbished
Authors: Scheper-Hughes, Nancy 1944-
Date: 1997
Source: New Internationalist 295: 20-22
Abstract: In Brazil my studies have focused on police and death - squad attacks on 'street children' who are often described as 'dirty vermin' so that metaphors of 'street cleaning', 'trash removal', 'fly swatting', 'pest removal' and 'urban hygiene' have been invoked to garner broad - based public support for police and death - squad activities against them. Most blatant was the Candalaria Massacre of 23 July 1993 when a group of off - duty plain - clothes police opened fire on 50 street children who were lying in a huddle near Candalaria Church in elegant downtown Rio. Eight died, six on the spot and two at a nearby beach where they were taken and executed. Opinion polls published in local newspapers showed considerable support for the police. Many 'ordinary' citizens reported being 'fed up' with the criminal, dirty and disorderly behaviour of street children. Today, both are almost completely physically dependent, immobile and incontinent, but only Dad, at 95, is painfully conscious of his condition. Mom is maintained by a plastic sack of nameless brown liquid, suspended from a moveable pole and dripped by tubing into her abdomen. A victim of Alzheimer's, she has lost language and she communicates by howling, though true to her reserved character, always gentle and lady - like. When not thrashing about she seems resigned but with the hopeless, open - eyed and desperate stare of a hooked rainbow trout. When Mom sees me, and when - ignoring the nurse's rules - I release her from her hook and line and wheel her into the sunny courtyard, she smiles and is attentive to the birds overhead. Around the corner, virtually trapped in his semi - private room which he shares with a more robust but ill - mannered bully who steals his socks and shirts, Dad is maintained by three or four tins of milky liquid protein - calorie EN - SURE. At every given opportunity he spills the sticky stuff into his wastepaper basket into which he also occasionally urinates and defecates because he cannot, he complains, get to his bedside porter - potty on time. And so the wise man who taught me courage under fire - 'Nil Desperandum!' was his lifelong motto - the organic intellectual who introduced me to multiple ways of seeing and knowing the world now disparagingly calls himself 'Little Jack Horner' - that is, 'stuck in his corner'.
Format: commentary/letter
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