March 18, 2010

"[You, not I, are] killing people on a grand scale"

who report 2008.jpg

A much lauded/quoted report, the World Health Organization's report on social justice

The report detects the subtle causes of social injustice in the world, adeptly avoids simple left/right political tropes and outlines several concrete steps to reduce inequality in an urgent and immediate way.   That was the plan, anyway.

Instead, it concludes the introduction: "Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale." 

The report is here, but I've chosen to link the Slovakian version of the 7.8MB pdf because if you read the English version The Ring will get you, it gets everyone.  From now on, you'll want to sleep with a gun and a crucifix under your pillow.  Works for me.

That the report is so politically biased as to be useless is not here the point, that's for Glen and Rachel to argue.  The point, rather is to show what the purpose of such a document is, why it exists in a medical journal, and how social policy reform is now executed by a few, covertly.

First, simply to show that the report's recommendations are not just vague or impossible, they are not even comprehensible.  Here are some specific recommendations, chosen entirely at random:

  • Set up an interagency mechanism to ensure policy coherence for early child development such that, across agencies, a comprehensive approach to early child  development is acted on.

Fie upon it.  Here's another, this one was in bold:

Adopt a social determinants framework across the policy and programmatic functions of the ministry  of health and strengthen its stewardship role in supporting a social determinants approach across government.

A short one, I assume written in Fortran:

  • Institutionalize and strengthen technical capacities in health equity impact assessment of all international and national economic agreements.

And you'll say, "oh, come on, that's not random, you're just selecting them out of context."  Enjoy your context:

WHO loves transitive verbs.JPG
Don't ask me how I know this, but I am 100% certain this report was typed on a Mac.

The ones you can understand make you a bit uneasy, even if you're for them:

Strengthen gender mainstreaming by creating and  financing a gender equity unit within the central administration  of governments and international institutions.

•Create a dedicated budget for generation and global sharing of evidence on social determinants of health and health equity.

•Build national capacity for progressive taxation and assess potential for new national and global public finance mechanisms.

A working definition of social justice is you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get.  The report is free and in the British Medical Journal, so in that sense it is supremely just.


Now, to why the report exists, what is anyone supposed to do with it?

None of these recommendations can or will be implemented, and, indeed, this report does not exist for that purpose.  The report is pure Borges.  It exists not to be read-- it wouldn't even matter that it was actually written, so long as people believed it had been written; it exists in order to be referenced, to be able to say "the WHO says that social injustice is killing people on a grand scale" (4500 hits); to validate individual's opinions as if they were grounded in science.  The idea is to create a scientific basis for an ideology, in the absence of science.  In psychiatry we call those "thought leaders," and the rest of you laymen call them "experts."

For example, the report allowed this professor of clinical epidemiology to say:
Pointing to the harmful health consequences of the "market oriented economic policies" pursued since the 1980s that have led to a "significant reduction in the role of the state and levels of public spending and investment," the report provides evidence that equity oriented growth can produce the health gains of development without the adverse effects of growth that favours the "interests of a rich and powerful minority over the interests of a disempowered majority."

Fortunately, he knows that the data to which he refers is-- his words-- "not value free."  Unfortunately, he thinks that's a good thing.

Don't get sucked into arguing about this on the basis of politics.  Argue on the merits of the data.  Otherwise, these politically motivated interpretations of reality will lead to stunningly idiotic policy decisions, such as the one quoted by this person who I assume has meningitis:

"If we could do something about prevention, we could empty the hospital wards."
Really? Can the editor of the British Medical Journal be simultaneously politically indignant and naive to think that hospitals fill because people are sick?


So if that's what the report is for-- to serve as a superscript to someone's personal proclivities-- what is the basis of that report?  Not what does it say, but what is the underlying thesis?

Gas up your airplanes.

Part 2 soon. 


"I am 100% certain this rep... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2010 6:59 PM | Posted by Tree Frog: | Reply

"I am 100% certain this report was typed on a Mac."

I made it through an International Law course last semester with a burgeoning "rock star" in African economic treaties. It was by far the worst academic experience I have ever had with 70+ people in the class visibly loathing the professor. Why?

Because they (the report-writing, treaty negotiating people who teach and write the books on the subjects) ALL think and write in that incomprehensible gobblydegook.

The opaque language and unwillingness to be clear is not the sole domain of Mac-wielding liberals. This drivel is being poured forth by nearly the entirety of those in positions of eminence in the field of international treaties, regimes and analysis. Ugh.

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On that note, anyone who di... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2010 9:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Tree Frog's comment, by Selfish American : | Reply

On that note, anyone who disagrees is labeled. "You're AGAINST human rights?!?! HOW COULD YOU!?!?" I would put good money that someone is going to accuse Alone of this showing that 1) he/she didn't actually read the post thoroughly and 2) he/she didn't read the comments.

But you can't avoid labeling. And once you have been labeled, it makes you feel like there's something wrong with you. "I'm not actually against closing the generation gap? look at those poor children on the cover." Reaffirming the "generation gap's" existence.

And of course people are going to be fueling their jet planes. If the US government starts giving money to close the "gap" in other countries, imagine how infuriated the people in our own country will be who are in desperate need of such money. Why should any of us give money to other countries when we have homeless on our own streets?

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There's a difference betwee... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2010 10:30 PM | Posted by Basil Valentine: | Reply

There's a difference between wanting your voice heard and wanting to be listened to.

The report is like politics at the moment. One glorious, shining soundbite backed up by quibbling and qualification that isn't just uninteresting, it's actively unquotable.

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Dude. For serious, (Below threshold)

March 18, 2010 10:38 PM | Posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist: | Reply

Dude. For serious, is running "TLP day" or something:,32068,72508422001_1973118,00.html


Heil Sh*tler!

Was the final photo supposed to be the little chubbler in a "Mac Genius" tee?

Nice post. And I'm a Mac.

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I'll do the classic, "If yo... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2010 11:27 PM | Posted by anony other: | Reply

I'll do the classic, "If you are watching-reading it, it is made for you"
On the grand scale people are making more babies than deaths.

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Don't ask me how I... (Below threshold)

March 19, 2010 12:35 AM | Posted by FunPSych: | Reply

Don't ask me how I know this, but I am 100% certain this report was typed on a Mac.
Huh? Then why's the PDF you linked to created by Adobe Acrobat Distiller 7.0 (Windows)?
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'Cause it wasn't printed... (Below threshold)

March 19, 2010 2:23 AM | Posted, in reply to FunPSych's comment, by RedSun: | Reply

'Cause it wasn't printed on a Mac, silly.

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"Don't ask me how I know th... (Below threshold)

March 19, 2010 7:30 AM | Posted by Adrian Price: | Reply

"Don't ask me how I know this, but I am 100% certain this report was typed on a Mac."

I'm sorry no Mac DTP or Word-processing program would allow such a poor layout in the sample you show. the bullets aren't 'hung' correctly, that alone should point you to a windows direction.

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"Orthodoxy, of whatever col... (Below threshold)

March 19, 2010 4:33 PM | Posted by KD: | Reply

"Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. [...] A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity." (Orwell, Politics and the English Language)

One of my two majors in university, class of 06, was Political Science. (The other was actually useful.) Quite a few courses make students read these kind of tracts.
They are nothing more than political glossolalia. Plenty of students converted to this secular Pentecostalism and started imitating very well.
I came across some that made me reach for the Ativan to stop the screaming convulsions. (Kidding. Mostly.)

Much of what I learned was not taught.
"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." (ibid.)

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Funny how the Mac comment i... (Below threshold)

March 22, 2010 5:29 AM | Posted by MH: | Reply

Funny how the Mac comment is the one everybody is commenting on. Myself included, I suppose. I don't claim to know anything about psychology except what I learned watching House and Bones (which isn't a lot), but apparently the Mac "image/lifestyle/perception" seems to ring truer and deeper than, say, "this person who I assume has meningitis..."

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Nothing makes someone who's... (Below threshold)

March 22, 2010 9:56 AM | Posted, in reply to MH's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Nothing makes someone who's bought into Mac advertising and adopted a brand as their personal identity more pissed off than pointing out that they've adopted a product as their personal and cultural identity. (Full disclosure - I have a mac but I am not one.) Apple's advertising is really quite brilliant in how it not only allows people who know nothing about technology feel technologically superior, but in how sells the idea of being an innovator, creative and individualistic (when people who are married to their Macs/ipods/iphones are so obviously slavish followers - this isn't denying that some of Mac's products are useful or nice to look at, it's just that most actual innovators in art and programming use PCs for a wide variety of reasons).

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It's a Mac all right. Unle... (Below threshold)

March 23, 2010 2:36 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

It's a Mac all right. Unless MS Office comes with Helvetica Neue Ultralight these days.

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The Mac jab rubs people the... (Below threshold)

March 23, 2010 1:45 PM | Posted by Per Jørgensen: | Reply

The Mac jab rubs people the wrong way because it's shorthand for snotty, liberal academic elites. References to Volvo, red wine, and brie serve the same purpose.

Well, if the shoe fits? All right, fair enough. It doesn't fit me, even though I type this on a Mac and I like brie. That's why I don't need to get riled up about it.

That said, here's the fallacy, Alone: The kind of gobbledygook masquerading as science or research you're referring to is not the exclusive province of Mac-using liberals or academics. I've spent most of my working careers inside corporations, and I can assure you the sheer volume of bland, incomprehensible pap that pours out of corporate Windows workstation is staggering. Doublespeak and no-speak aren't characteristics of the left or the right. They're characteristic of dogmatism and poor critical thinking skills across platforms, pun intended.

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"I have a Mac but am not on... (Below threshold)

March 23, 2010 4:27 PM | Posted, in reply to brainchild's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"I have a Mac but am not one" is not full disclosure...

It's fully avoidant tho!

Get a grip silly.

BTW posting this on a pc but I am a mac.

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"it exists in order to be r... (Below threshold)

March 30, 2010 2:06 PM | Posted by Neuroskeptic: | Reply

"it exists in order to be referenced, to be able to say "the WHO says that social injustice is killing people on a grand scale" (4500 hits)"

Quite so which is an outrage... it shouldn't take a reference with the authority of the WHO to say that. On the contrary if the WHO didn't, they'd lose their authority. In my eyes anyway.

By the way, I understood the incomprehensible proposals. You have to read them quite hard I admit.

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We talk about social injust... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2012 8:50 AM | Posted by griddo: | Reply

We talk about social injustice as far as health services and care giving is concerned for so many years now and where`s the answer, still? People all around the world have adjusted to these kind of situations and have taken measures on their own. No wonder the expansion of medical tourism for private health care services. I have recently read this article about people giving testimonials on drug rehab Burbank services. Health care comes prior to every person in bad condition. They pay if necessary, just to see specialists taken care of their problem.

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So why do hospitals fill up... (Below threshold)

April 12, 2014 3:21 PM | Posted by Naive Chloe: | Reply

So why do hospitals fill up?

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