“The bitter truth was that AIDS did not just happen to America – it was allowed to happen by an array of institutions, all of which failed to perform their appropriate tasks to safeguard public health.”
Randy Shilts, “And the Band Played On”, 1987,1988
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about thinking lately, and doing a little research into how we express our thoughts.
My particular brain does not always work on a linear, logical path. Over the course of my 56 years on planet earth, I’ve learned to listen to and value intuitive feelings and leaps that occur from time to time.
Our climate crisis, and the very real probability of near term human extinction, scares the living daylights out of me, every single day, almost every single hour. I marvel at my fellow human species for their ability to ignore what I see so clearly.
I hasten to add, I see it not due to any special ability, as any reader of this blog already knows. I seem to have a willingness to follow the logic as best as I am able.
So the day the line floated into my brain, “too much is happening here,” I wondered at the significance.
The line is from the Randy Shilts book, cited above. It is a masterful account of the AIDS crisis, from 1979 to 1987. And I had the line wrong. It was Selma Dritz who was being quoted, and the quote is: “Too much is being transmitted here.”
“The more expert Dritz became about the health problems of the gay community, however, the more concerned she grew. Gay men were being washed by tide after tide of increasingly serious infections.” (pg. 38-39).
This imagery reminds me of the earth, being washed by tide after tide of human waste, extraction, pollution and consumption.
Syphilis and gonorrhea are our pesticides/insecticides….if we stop spraying, the damage can be stopped or mitigated perhaps. Hepatitis A and B, though, affect the whole system, and with the long latency period, allows for transmission to many others….acting perhaps like CO2 and methane.
When HIV first showed up, no one knew what it was, how it was transmitted, or much of anything, really, other than it killed people. People died in low numbers prior to the 1980s. After that, it didn’t seem to affect anyone deemed important to society. So, for five long years, our government decided to do as little as possible to address the crisis.
A lot of people died. They died tired, and worn out from the struggle to get anyone to care, to pay attention. They died angry.
A lot of people died because science didn’t keep up, because science became political, because the government deliberately underfunded the people trying to solve the problem. They didn’t like the subject of the science, so the science languished.
A lot of people died because the media didn’t know how to cover a story like AIDS, what with the whole gay sex component (personal behavior and responsibility) and science? Yawn. Science doesn’t get covered too well.
A lot of people died because the outliers who could see what was coming were told to be quiet, shut up, and hedge the numbers.
30 million people worldwide have died of AIDS since the crisis began. That’s an impressive number. Of those, 636,048 died in America.
Now consider the numbers that will die because of the same combination of neglect, ignorance, political ideology, and sheer inertia due to the environmental factors driving us toward the extinction cliff. Way more impressive.
How do you convey the urgency when so much is happening? There are so many clues that we are heading toward disaster – from tons of krill washing up on the shore lines, to ever larger methane plumes, to the ongoing crisis at Fukushima – that wrapping it into a neat little bow for easy consumption is impossible.
A lot of people have died for really bad reasons. A lot more deaths are coming.
Will we die clinging to electricity and cars, thus insuring a futureless world for our children? Yes, I believe we will. Sorry kids.