Hookworm and the class struggle…

Wow. It’s almost as if there is a long-running class war where the rich try to demoralise and demean the poor, kick them in the teeth and then blame them for not having a nice smile. I know, I know, crazy conspiracy theory...

“Bringing a condition under human control often poses a challenge to old hierarchies of wealth, privilege, or status. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, many poor rural whites in the South were afflicted with a chronic sickness later discovered to be caused by the hookworm parasite. People with the disease were listless and eventually became slow-witted. Popular belief held that the condition reflected the laziness and lax moral character of the victims. When Charles Stiles demonstrated in 1902 that hookworm was the cause and that the disease could easily be cured with a cheap medicine, he was widely ridiculed in the press for claiming to have discovered the “germ of laziness.” The discovery was resisted because it meant that southern elites had to stop blaming “poor white trash” for their laziness and stupidity and stop congratulating themselves for their superior ability to work hard and think fast – a supposed superiority that served to justify political hierarchy.”38
[38 Deborah A. Stone, The Disabled State (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984), 93-94. The history of medicine is full of stories of resistance to discoveries that would make disease controllable. See, for example, Charles Rosenberg, The Cholera Years (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).]
(Stone, 1989:295-6)
Stone, 1989. Causal Stories and the Formation of Policy Agendas. Political Science Quarterly Vol. 104 (2), pp. 281-300

On medical foul-ups, see also: Medical hubris and arrogance leads to iatrogenic agony.


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