“The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down” And “Privilege, Power And Difference”

Fadiman, A. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, pp. 8-77.

This passage is the most amazing as it describes essential treatment methods, childbirth, and generally poor Hmong healthcare. This is important for me because I get the opportunity to get acquainted with the culture of an ethnic group that I have not yet known. This passage tells me that the Hmong culture is impressive, unusual, and different from Western culture. This type of culture is of attraction, as it shows how complex and deprived of comfort the life of some ethnic groups is. The selected passage satisfies part of my interest in the ordinary life of the Hmong, as it shows in what conditions they live, raise offspring, struggle with complexities (Fadiman, 1998). I learned that there is no privilege in this case, and the Hmong are forced to receive the help and services that local authorities can provide. I suppose that social justice is that it is necessary to oppose equal access to education, health care, and other socially essential institutions of life.

Johnson, A. Privilege, Power and Difference, pp. ix-xiv

This passage was chosen because the author raises an essential topic of privilege, discrimination, and inequality. This problem has always been acute and urgent, as people often experience inconvenience and suffering because society does not perceive them correctly. This passage suggests that people could become culturally richer if they exclude inequalities on whatever grounds. Communicating more often with people of other cultures, races, and ethnicities is necessary to receive information about their lives, knowledge, and experience and share one’s own. Privileges are not always beneficial; sometimes, they mean something negative. Blind people receive the privilege of incapacity, which does not make them privileged in the usual sense, but can only harm the perception of life (Johnson, 2017). Initially, it seems that privilege is a social principle of a particular group of people that gives unlimited rights to anything, but this is not the case.

Like any listener, I can sometimes get distracted from the speaker’s narration and lose the conversation thread. This is a significant drawback, as often, people are offended when their speech is ignored. Still, my advantage is that by listening to other humans, I can imagine myself in their place and try to feel what they feel. Naturally, this allows me to give valuable and helpful advice to someone who needs them. From the point of view of intercultural communication, it is necessary to learn patience. That is, it is imperative first to listen and give the speaker the opportunity to finish what they are saying and only then show emotions and reactions.

  • Passage 1 (pp. 16-17). It is a credit to Foua’s general equanimity, as well as her characteristic desire not to think ill of anyone, that although she found Lia’s birth a peculiar experience, she has few criticisms of the way the hospital handled it. Her doubts about MCMC in particular, and American medicine in general, would not begin to gather force until Lia had visited the hospital many times. On this occasion, she thought the doctor was gentle and kind, she was impressed that so many people were there to help her, and although she felt that the nurses who bathed Lia with Safeguard did not get her quite as clean as she had gotten her newborns with Laotian stream water, her only major complaint concerned the hospital food.
  • Passage 2 (pp. 17-18). She was surprised to be offered ice water after the birth, since many Hmong believe that cold foods during the postpartum period make the blood congeal in the womb instead of cleansing it by flowing freely, and that a woman who does not observe the taboo against them will develop itchy skin or diarrhea in her old age. Foua did accept several cups of what she remembers as hot black water. This was probably either tea or beef broth; Foua is sure it wasn’t coffee, which she had seen before and would have recognized. The black water was the only MCMC-provided food that passed her lips during her stay in the maternity ward. Each day, Nao Kao cooked and brought her the diet that is strictly prescribed for Hmong women during the thirty days following childbirth: steamed rice, and chicken boiled in water with five special postpartum herbs (which the Lees had grown for this purpose on the edge of the parking lot behind their apartment building). This diet was familiar to the doctors on the Labor and Delivery floor at MCMC, whose assessments of it were fairly accurate gauges of their general opinion of the Hmong. One obstetrician, Raquel Arias, recalled, “The Hmong men carried these nice little silver cans to the hospital that always had some kind of chicken soup in them and always smelled great.” Another obstetrician, Robert Small, said, “They always brought some horrible stinking concoction that smelled like the chicken had been dead for a week.” Foua never shared her meals with anyone, because there is a postpartum taboo against spilling grains of rice accidentally into the chicken pot. If that occurs, the newborn is likely to break out across the nose and cheeks with little white pimples whose name in the Hmong language is the same as the word for “rice.”

The worldview is a complex mechanism that consists of ideas about the surrounding world and a system of moral values of a particular person. I believe that a worldview is a system of views on the world, society, on a person’s attitude to the world and themselves, and the fundamental life positions of people corresponding to these views, ideals, values. Each culture has its worldview; for example, the Hmong understand what a woman should do during and after childbirth, which goes against Western medicine.

Foua washed newborn babies with water from a Lao stream, while in Western medicine, it is customary to treat and bathe babies in clean water carefully. According to Foua’s worldview, bathing in the stream is normal and does not threaten the child (Fadiman, 1998, p.17). In addition, Western medicine allows women in labor to drink ice water; according to Hmons, they can only drink hot tea or beef broth (Fadiman, 1998, p. 18). From these two passages, it follows that different cultures have their view of the world, and if people get into another culture, it is difficult for them to adapt to it and understand some of its features. In this true story, it happened that the health of a newborn child was often critical because the components of Western medicine did not converge with the traditional elements of Hmong medicine.


Fadiman, A. (1998). The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Johnson, A. (2017). Privilege, Power and Difference. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.