Yes, my tweets/posts recently have had less overall humor and a bit more anger. Sorry — that’s just me reacting to recent events.
I don’t suffer fools and the venal very easily — especially when they are fools who should know better.
Take vaccines. History shows that the single greatest killer of people is disease. Smallpox, TB, polio, diarrheal diseases of children, typhus, malaria, plague…. Measles also makes that list. We have some effective tools to limit…or even eradicate… some of those diseases, as we did with smallpox. Instead, as a species we have people who reject decades of experience and scientific study, who are letting some of these diseases persist. Polio is one horrific example, where semi-isolated groups are using religion and politics to prevent children from getting the vaccine. We are so close to eliminating that terrible scourge and there is evidence the disease is making a comeback.
Measles is still endemic in much of the world, killing many every year. It and smallpox were two highly contagious and deadly diseases that swept through new populations of indigenous peoples when introduced, often killing more than half of the population, and sickening the rest. (See this for some historical context.) We were able to eliminate smallpox completely. With will, we should be able to do the same with measles.
Why is it a concern? Measles is not simply a rash. In a percentage of people it is crippling…or deadly. I had a relative who went completely deaf before she was 10 because of measles; she was born before the vaccine was widely available. One of her friends died from the disease. Those are terrible — and not rare — outcomes. It’s worse when you consider that those who refuse to vaccinate also endanger the lives of children and adults in whom the vaccine did not gen up full immunity, or who cannot be vaccinated because of underlying medical conditions. I had measles as a child and I still remember how terribly sick I was. I would not wish that, nor the horrible potential side-effects, on anyone I cared about.
Someone sent me an article that had statistics showing that (effectively) early vaccinations were not understood as requiring a booster, and maybe not as effective for life-long immunity as having the disease. He was implying that this was somehow “proof” of something…that the vaccine shouldn’t be used, perhaps? That was the implication. Instead, it is simple statistics and medicine that can be understood with minimal effort, and understanding that correlation does not prove causation. However, to a paranoid, everything is proof of a conspiracy, and everyone who disagrees is part of the conspiracy. Facts are simply attempts to fool the naive into believing there is no conspiracy.
Conspiracy? To do what? Protect people from a potentially crippling and deadly disease? Yeah, right, that’s evil. I can see hundreds of thousands of people signing on to actively promote that as a conspiracy. Some no-nothings said the same kinds of things about the smallpox vaccine, and the polio vaccine. It’s easy for them to switch to measles now because they haven’t seen the widespread devastation those diseases caused. They never knew people — friends and family — who had to spend the rest of their lives in an iron lung, or who died from measles-caused encephalitis, or died gasping for breath as a result of pertussis.
Think about it: someone refusing vaccination for their children is basically saying “I’m going to gamble with their health and physical safety, and that of everyone they encounter, because I believe that vaccination causes … well, something.” The link with autism has been thoroughly debunked, as has every other myth I’ve heard about. It’s a terribly selfish and anti-social attitude with no foundation. Tens of millions of people have received the vaccine over the last 50 years, and there has been no correlation found with anything…other than being less likely to get measles. And here’s what someone with autism has to say about all this.
One of my favorite high school teachers had a withered arm from polio. I worked with someone who had a useless arm caused by polio because his parents didn’t get him vaccinated. They both managed okay with only one good arm, and they were thankful that they hadn’t died, but it was a life-long loss. My aunt became a recluse because of her loss of hearing. And to think of all the heartbroken parents who lost children to a preventable disease…. The human loss (and potential for loss) is heartrending.
As a parent, I am deeply concerned about my child, even thought she is now an adult. What angers me is that people are willing to endanger others — including her and the rest of my family — because of paranoia and willful stupidity. If it was only them, natural selection would help take care of the problem, but they pose a danger to me and my family, too by rejecting standard vaccination: our immunity may not be sure, and will likely degrade with time; there are also succeeding generations who may be at risk.
Of course, most of them have been vaccinated against measles and they are only willing to make the choice to endanger the next generation…they are safe, and hypocritical. They should eschew all medicines for themselves, including antibiotics, flu shots, and tetanus inoculations, too. Those things have “chemicals” in them and are advocated by the “medical conspiracy.” Expose them to rabies and TB and cholera and malaria while we’re at it. Let’s speed up that natural selection a little…it’s the closest we can (legally) come to getting a little chlorine in the gene pool.
It isn’t only the stance on vaccines that make me angry these days. The sanctimonious pinheads who are elected to office (and the no-nothings, bigots, and lazy who vote for them, or who don’t vote at all) also add to my anger level. These are the people who blame the sick, the elderly, and the poor for their bad luck and disadvantaged environments. Despite too many of the rich having way more of everything (except compassion) than they will ever need (and those same people claiming to follow a religious figure who instructed his followers to give everything to the poor), the hypocrits continue to pursue policies that further disadvantage and hurt the most impoverished among us. These same jerks seek to exclude and injure others because of their skin color or heritage, although they use indirect terms to pursue that goal. They seek to deny happiness to people who are born with different sexual orientations, and they treat women as less than even second-class citizens through oppressive health and employment regulations. So many of them claim to follow religions that command they love one another, yet they pay no attention to people dying in other countries …and often they are eager to send our military to kill even more. These are the people who, in the interests of making yet more money for the uber-rich, refuse to take actions that will help address climate change and reduce the pollution in our world. These are the people who seek to destroy knowledge and spread falsehoods because they know the facts do not support their world view (I’ve blogged about this here, before).
I have spent much of my life trying to provide education to those who want it, to help them succeed and make the world a better place. I have family and friends, including many who will long outlive me. I want them to have a world where human life and dignity are valued — for everyone. Where they do not need to fear preventable disease. Where they are allowed to worship — or not — as they see fit, and to not be subject to physical harm because they do not share someone else’s beliefs. Where they can love who they want, without criticism because of skin color, or body shape, or background. A world where if they fall ill, or a natural disaster befalls them, they do not need to make a choice among food, shelter, or health care, because they cannot afford more than one and they have no other options. I hope for a world where knowledge is valued above myth and superstition. I want those who follow after to have heroes based on something they can aspire to other than fame for a big butt or speed on a sports field. And I want them to live in a world where their leaders are actually concerned about their welfare, rather than the interests of the monied few.
Recent news has not done much to make me believe that world is within reach, and each day is one less I will have to see a change. It brings despair that my efforts have been for naught, and concern for the future they will inherit. So yes, I am angry. You should be too.