I’ve always enjoyed an undeservedly hardy immunity to common disease: I feel it’s harder to get me sick & keep me there. I claim nothing superhuman about this; it may be nothing better than dumb luck. Certainly I have not engaged in enough practices of exercise and sanitation to merit this gift. This has barely faded now into my late 30’s, and my practices are only marginally better than they ever were. Couple this with a freakish insensitivity to temperatures to which others react more acutely than I do and it’s an outright fluke I’ve not been more sick. I maintain a low-level paranoia that it’ll all crash down on my head at any moment. I’d be well and truly fucked then, and I actually have medical insurance.
Speaking of being fucked, the only good thing about having a pathetic sex life (despite having baller sex GAME, I hasten to add, perhaps too desperately) is the decreased risk of catching anything through that channel. I was pre-pubescent when the fear of AIDS blossomed into the public’s shared memespace. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never had sex without contraception, and when I’ve gone without condoms it was with someone I felt was low risk. Not a perfect record but trying for zero risk is psychotic and fantastical.
It’s all well and good that rich people have been able to survive 20+ years after HIV infection, but never kid yourself that nobody dies from AIDS anymore. There’s still no cure and, misadventure notwithstanding, whatever gets you in the end will have likely rode in on its shoulders. I think it’s worth reminding ourselves exactly how HIV works.
(And before anyone is tempted to crawl up my ass, I do not purport any expertise in this realm. This is the broad strokes of how I understand it as a layman.)
Normal viruses usually don’t get the chance to do much damage. The immune system’s T-cells swoop in and excrete the compounds that kill them off. The symptoms you experience aren’t so much from the viruses themselves as they are from the process of evicting them. A normal virus is primarily bent on carnage, nothing more. But HIV is a shapeshifting sonuvabitch and usually a few survive the immune system’s initial bombardment, so a few sneak through, and then it’s all over. Rather than attack the body directly, HIV attacks the body’s defenses, using its own adaptability to do its dirty work by inserting its genetic code into T-cells to make them into HIV factories. Insidious, isn’t it? It’s a numbers game: The body risks ever larger turf to HIV every time it attempts an attack. Eventually a balance between functional T-cells and corrupted ones is upset, and a normally mundane infection compromises the entire system, the condition we call AIDS, leading to death.
One wishes one could attribute some deeper motivations to HIV than the blind idiot urge to consume that is almost certainly its drive. Which is why it is even more disconcerting to find an analogous pathology in supposedly higher organisms: humans.
Lest you think I mean Agent Smith had it right that mankind’s proper kingdom is not Animalia, but Virii, fear not. We are hideously mammals. But if we consider Humanity as a single organism, it’s quite astray of optimal health. There are elements of said organism that have convinced themselves that the rest of it is incidental at best and more often inconvenient to their preferred state. To this end they have persuaded other elements of lesser value to them to be their proxies for pennies on the dollar of what they themselves reap. These secondary elements, fancying themselves more favored than they are, aspiring to communion with this ideal, likewise delude still hierarchically, perceivedly-lesser elements with pointedly incorrect information. The line between sheer incompetence and outright malice is all that divides corrupted data from corrupted data collectors. The electoral college of the state of Florida is well-aware of that distinction.
But let me not leave any confusion in the reader’s head: I am of course speaking of outlets that are serving as willing mouthpieces for those who have no higher standards than themselves. There are the obvious ones, and it is to these truckstop gigolos I hope the comparison to AIDS, associated in their minds with groups they on the whole despise, is most repellant. I suppose it may be too much to hope that the types who so shamelessly, unceasingly prevaricate no matter how often & completely they’re exposed would allow themselves to consciously acknowledge this apt parallel’s application to their lives. I say it regardless, because it is the truth, and better that it’s out in the open.
But the situation is so much more dire than a clump of deluded assholes: the entire information dissemination organ of the organism is undermined. Be it viral or genetic, civilization’s neurological system is deteriorating. The former vanguards of uncompromising reportage are all now on the take, be it within the law in the form of advertising & lobbying, or above it in outright payola. Free speech is allowed so far as its reach is minimal and lost in a sea of those similarly exercising their right, veracity be damned. The coin of information has been devalued by rampant inflation. Qui custodiet ipsos custodes? Not just graffiti in Watchmen.
Ultimately, who is the authority who settles the argument? All that’s needed to undermine facts is the kernel of anything less than impartial, immediately-demonstrable certainty, even if it can be debunked. When even the supposedly controlled, unimpeachable results of science are called into doubt, what are you meant to believe? You are meant to believe in a god, mediated by people who posture themselves as specially-chosen by the uninterrogatable. Traditionally, that meant a church, but too many became hip to that scheme. Now it’s an institution: America, capitalism, intrinsic exceptionalism.
There is no more unabashedly stark an avatar for precisely this self-cannibalistic Moloch than Wall Street investment banker Martin Shkreli. You’ve heard of this weaselly little libertarian, who naturally subscribes to the notion that if one can potentially profit off of something, no matter the damage it might do to the larger organism, one is leaving money on the table someone else of lesser scruples will just pick up. In his case, he did this by buying the rights to an AIDS medication that’s gone generic & raising its price by over 3,000%, essentially dooming all but the richest to quicker demises. While exposure did shame him down to only doubling the medication’s price, he nevertheless holds a monopoly on these pills, of which he could still jack up the price whenever his black shriveled heart desires.
Martin Shkreli is a macrocosm of HIV: hardly the origin of such a callous, greedy mindset, nor sadly the apotheosis, either, and not likely to stop converting the world he sees into dollars for any good goddamn reason. And Martin Shkreli is a microcosm of the omnivorous zombification of an onerously large portion of the population whose own individual glories are paramount to all others, even as they overtax the system that makes said glories possible. The various flagella of the right wing agenda only complete the complete its connection to HIV. Fractal conservativism wrecking the boat from which they throw T-cells into the harbor. It is really is elephants all the way down.