Any Excuse For A Hero

What is it with Americans and cancer? Every night this week NBC Nightly News has run another pathetic, embarrassingly nerve-tingling, segment extolling the virtues of ‘celebs’ who have ‘battled’ the dreaded BIG “C”.

“It’s Making a Difference,” quoth Brian “the overly-sentimentalist” Williams, as yet another “survivor” recalls their courageous endeavors to overcome the enemy within, desperate to rob its victim of life itself. Nothing is said of the vast sums of money these well-stashed celebs pay for the finest, and most expensive, treatment America’s specialists can provide. The poor old guy living on a pittance in downtown Kalamazoo is hardly likely to be inspired by tales of Sheryl Crow’s “courageous battle”, or that of some NBC glamor girl.

Cancer is an illness, certainly not to be glorified the way so many Americans glorify war. It bears no relation to war, which is deliberately self-imposed. Illness can overtake the body for many reasons, but “battling” with it seldom achieves a positive result. Though, outrageously costly medical treatment may prove helpful – to the few who can afford it.

Filed under:

3 Replies to “Any Excuse For A Hero”

  1. You know, i remember reading a very interesting article in Omni magazine, YEARS ago, about the role of human pheronomes in the spread of disease throughout groups. The author was basically saying that disease spreads as some sort of social malaise… and can be considered as an indication of the health factor of a community.

    After reading the article, i remember thinking about cancer and how some of it’s characteristics (insidious installation, agressive growth and rapid exploitment of the host) bore some similarities to my ideas of what capitalism, unchecked by conscience, could do to the natural systems around us.

    Simplistic thinking, i know, but to this day i can’t shake the notion that somehow, capitalism is cancerous.

  2. I saw an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America) and she was talking about having had cancer and how she hated the pink ribbon crap. She also has the same attitude you do about “battling” – what fight is there, you just follow doctor’s orders and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not – fate and all that.

    Sister Anan draws a good analogy with capitalism.

  3. Anan – physicians would say its entirely physical, caused by a virus or similar. I’ve often wondered why it is some people catch colds so easily while others can be around infected individuals yet never succumb to this virus. I don’t doubt our lifestyles play a major role in how easily we contract disease. While I worked with animals for over thirty years, never once did I encounter a wild animal suffering from cancer. Not to suggest none existed, but just that it is much rarer in wild, rather than domesticated, creatures. Cancer is also more prevalent today than at other times in history, even allowing for the differences in life-length. Albert Schweitzer wrote in 1913, while in Africa: “On my arrival in Gabon, in 1913, I was astonished to encounter no cases of cancer. I saw none among the natives two hundred miles from the coast. I can not, of course, say positively there was no cancer at all, but, like other frontier doctors, I can only say that if any cases existed they must have been quite rare.” Other early explorers reported similar findings among the Aboriginals of Australia and the Inuit of Canada.

    Your analogy with capitalism is good, and the combinations of stress, unhealthy lifestyles, and easy living associated with it are almost certainly predisposing factors.

    Flimsy – as a Brit, it often seems Americans think totally differently from me. I shouldn’t find it surprising that some are of like mind, but with the plethora of colored ribbons adorning numerous vehicles around the mid-West, it’s easy to assume that is not the case. Good for Barbara Ehrenreich! Sanity rules, OK?

Comments are closed.