A friend of mine was ill recently. He wrote
I believe that this type of disease, i.e. the common cold and similar afflictions are expressions of weakness and fundamentally psychosomatic…
implying that illness was an expression of moral failure. I should add that this friend is really, really strong. He integrates strength of character, strength of morals, and strength of body.
His opinion on disease is not uncommon. It is an echo of many thousands of years of human thought and tradition. Recall that the germ theory of disease, and even the contagion theory are relatively recent, and were all rather contentious at the time. The best explination, the best way to make sense of apparently random weakening and/or death is ill favor from the gods. This could be because the gods are whimsical, or it could be that one has displeased them, or failed to live up to their standards. Alternately, it could even be that the disease is God’s way of bringing his faithful home, i.e. the Koran’s statement that he who dies from disease is a martyr, or the tolerance, even embracing, of death from disease while on pilgrimage.
Right. So people are “the explaining animal,” always looking for sense and meaning in a world which is in fact dominated by chance. That does not make the explination correct or true. And in this case, it is false false false.
Yes, a healthy body, good diet, fresh air, exercise, regular sex, all of that does contribute to a stronger immune system better able to ward off pathogens. But if this was enough, then European diseases would not have killed 90 FUCKING PERCENT of the population of the Americas. The natives ate only organic food, worked out all the time, didn’t breath industrial pollutants, and, ok, so I don’t know how often they got laid, but they pretty much lived the way the health gurus tell us we should. And they died in the millions from smallpox, measles, influenza.
We can beat these diseases. In fact, many of them have been beat, or are on their knees. But some are still with us. If we want to get rid of the little bastards, then it helps to put the blame on the right place. And we do want to get rid of them.