By Emily Martin
Versatile our bodies : The function of Immunity in American tradition, From the times of Polio to the Age of AIDS through Emily Martin. Beacon Press, Inc.,1994
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Additional resources for Flexible Bodies: The Role of Immunity in American Culture from the Age of Polio to the Age of AIDS
I remember Wendy's gentle sensitivity as we attended meetings of a polio support group and tried, without giving offense, to interview some of its members. I remember Monica's unaffected interest and social grace as we attended a seminar designed to teach new owners of low-income houses how to plunge a toilet, change a furnace filter, and free a stuck garbage disposal. I remember Karen-Sue's courage, and hilarity, as we made our way through a day on a high Page xx ropes course for the training of corporate employees, leaping off poles, climbing towers, and, finally, her pluck as she was chosen as the member of our small group who would be hoisted by rope over a make-believe "acid lake" in a problem-solving exercise.
There is no way adequately to encompass in words the gratitude I feel for the hard work, original insights, long patience, steady commitment, and skillful ethnography of Bjorn Claeson, Laury Oaks, Wendy Richardson, Monica Schoch-Spana, and Karen-Sue Taussig. During each of the three years of the project, three of them were involved as field-workers. In my mind's eye, I remember each of these students at a particular moment that epitomizes for me his or her unique contribution. I remember Bjorn's earnest seriousness while watching a science film with a group of high school students studying for their high school equivalency degree and his wide-eyed appreciation as the students revealed and demolished the metaphoric structure of the film.
That's true for all illnesses. It's painfully obvious for illnesses said to be of the immune system. But all illnesses are, in fact, since being ill comes down to being unable to distance oneself from pathogenic agents. So why do we have this proliferation of terminal illnesses at a period of civilization as developed as ours? My hypothesis is that it's this very civilization that continuously submits our minds and bodies to stresses and strains and thus gradually destroys our immune systems. I'm surprised doctors aren't saying this.