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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Polio In Syria

The greatest threat humanity faces is not an impending Zombie Apocalypse.  It's not secret government programs to inflict mind control through fluoride or immunization programs.  It's not even that the actual calamity that is war, although war is always a contributing factor, World War I being an example.
That threat is the same as it has always been - disease.
Living in the comfort of clean buildings in clean cities with access to public healthcare and pharmacies on every corner, it's easy for we of the Privileged World to buy into the myth of a superhuman, more "natural" ancestor that was better off than we are today. 
In truth, however, our ancestors led shorter lives and were crippled by illnesses we brush off as easily-treated inconveniences.  This was a problem exacerbated by urban density and mobility, as best exemplified by The Black Death
Illness does not know rank, nor river bank - it infects king and pauper alike.  It took the recognition of this simple fact, that what cripples one of us puts us all at risk to spur a culture shift that began to recognize people not as immutable silos, but parts of a system.  Public infrastructure, civic duty, cleanliness, conflict resolution and yes, immunization programs and even wealth redistribution are responses to this reality.
But we've become complacent.  We take the boons of civilization for granted; instead of considering the impact of issues like individual civic engagement, income levels, housing and access to proper nutrition, justice and healthcare on society on a whole, we've started look at our neighbours through a lens of "us" and "them" again.  We do this at our peril - poverty and crime aren't individual issues, they are social sicknesses, signs of a system out of balance.  When society becomes sick, when it goes to war with itself, illnesses of the individual follow.
Take Syria, for example.  The government chose the path of violence over the path of compromise, leading to an ever-escalating conflict that has seen the return of illnesses once considered eradicated within their borders. 
Diseases don't use passports, nor do they care about state-of-the-art metal detectors.  The infectious illnesses in places like Syria will spread, eventually finding their way to places like Canada.  Were we to have a fully-immunized populace, this would pose no problem; the immunity of the individual would protect the masses.
But we've been cutting back on in-school health programs as cost-savings measures.  As more and more people slide out of the middle class into poverty, the correlating access to preventative medicine, everything from infectious disease inoculation to proper dental care will decrease, increasing susceptibility to other illnesses.  Conditions of poverty are not conditions of cleanliness, creating incubators for disease. 
Then, there's the green-living naturopathic movement that, in its extreme forms, views medicine as detrimental to the God-given immune system strength that was the gift of our superhuman  ancestors.  Add to this the anti-centralized government movements that see inoculations, fluoride and taxation as systems of state control that enslave the people against their will.  The extremes of the Tea Party crowd have made it clear they are willing to let the State crumble as they stand tall in conviction of their individual righteousness.
Society has increasingly moved into a laissez-faire, individualistic pattern of behaviour.  The Syrian civil war was unfortunate, but fundamentally not our problem.  Poverty and insufficient education and civic engagement among certain demographic groups living in expanding pockets of society are the fault of the people themselves; it's their responsibility to pull up their own bootstraps.
As the fringes of our social system decay, we are collectively becoming more susceptible to civic viruses, as we're witnessing within our system of governance.  As that system is increasingly crippled by democratic deficiencies and service/infrastructure rot, we are collectively becoming more susceptible to the epidemic that has done in Syria; if that happens, it won't take long for infectious diseases of the body to follow.
The solution to this impending problem, the "burning platform" issue, is the same now as it has ever been; recognize the whole as more than the sum of its parts.  Accept that individual freedom in a social context cannot exist without an equal measure of civic responsibility.
And for God's sake, think ahead.  After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 
That's offering value

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