25 June 2011

Unhealthful News 176 - But if you try sometimes, you just might find

Last night, I finished reading Mira Grant's novel, Feed.  It is about bloggers and a future filled with zombies.  I trust that is enough information to polarize my readers into those who will absolutely not consider reading it and those who are intrigued.  For the latter, I recommend it as entertaining moderately-light reading with some good deeper messages.  (very minor spoiler alert)  In it, the CDC has become a latter day military + police + homeland security for dealing with the biological threat of zombie virus infection that puts everyone at dire risk.  I think one of the reasons I liked the book is that it is so refreshing to think of government public health people fighting a genuine major health threat rather than fiddling with soda, salt, and e-cigarettes.  Of course, there are hints that they might be part of a power-politics conspiracy, and the author somehow randomly puts them in conspiracy with the tobacco companies, which is quite strange because she has constructed a future where people are protected from cancer and so smoking has become a popular and comparatively non-harmful activity.  I guess she just has some personal pique about that one.

Anyway, perhaps we have people who are just wired to fret about risks and hazards and to try to do something about them, and this urge is not based on the actual magnitude of hazards that are faced.  In a previous era they just would have inflicted that neurosis on their own kids, but now they have found ways to infantilize entire nations.  In the zombie-filled future, they will have something useful to do.  But right now they are like a large politically-powerful standing army during peacetime, an institution that tends to create the urge to fight pointless wars.

Today I went to the funeral for an old friend/classmate/roommate (so someone who was only my age).  People cannot always be protected from the things they choose to do for fun.  I have not changed my mind about that, even though we certainly see how sometimes a single event triggers some people – those with that wiring I mentioned – to direct their crusade in a particular direction.  But most of the time that effort is something that can only make life worse, on average, and usually consists of waging war on some vice that would have turned out to have no effect, in this case.

Today, catching up on the lives people I had not seen or heard about in a while, I became starkly aware of how psychological health matters so much more than longevity by almost any measure.   My friend had more total happiness in his foreshortened life than most people could ever hope to, but I was reminded of how many people do not manage to have much.  In some never-turned-off circuit in my brain, it redoubled my disgust with what passes for do-gooder public health these days, actions that increasingly threaten to worsen people's psychological states for comparatively trivial physical benefits. 

It also occurred to me that he probably would have been a great asset when the zombie war started.

P.S.  This actually does make sense together, at least in my head.  Also, just for today, I am closing the comments.