Zapped by antibiotics, the bronchitius is receding. My appetite for life and chicken soup has returned. My mind is growing back. I no longer lust after a Moroccan couscoussier. My old tinny sieve with a scrap of muslin works just fine.
Apropos of nothing, except that I have been lying in bed reading Geoffrey’s Wall’s biography of the French writer Flaubert and thinking about moralizing discourses.
In 19th-century France, epilepsy was considered a ‘moral taint’ indicating family madness. To call somebody an epileptic fool indicated that the person was irrational, morally degenerate and probably had a childhood habit of masturbation. The treatment still involved bleeding with leeches.
Flaubert suffers from epilepsy as well as syphilis. He never mentions his epilepsy except to his closest friends and it is a source of shame, something he even regards as self-inflicted through his dissolute youth — he believes that his excesses can bring on attacks of petit mal — and his biographer says that Flaubert may have died of an epileptic fit, but the family insisted it was a fit of apoplexy. A shameful illness, something to be concealed and kept secret.
About his syphilis, Flaubert is extremely open and has no shame. His friends all have syphilis, they pass it on to their whores and mistresses and wives without any regrets or remorse. The ‘cures’ are dreadful and Flaubert stays away from Paris salons when the mercury blackens his lips, but complains of this to all and sundry. He talks about his ulcerated penis without any qualms and expects unmixed sympathy. It is a very common affliction. Although the syphilitic sores and boils and swollen joints, fevers, other symptoms recur again and again, he keeps believing he is cured of it or has contracted it anew. It is a nuisance but nothing more. Science has not yet shown the dangers of syphilis — when that is proven, it becomes fearful and morally reprehensible.
We still live with the unjustified moral stigma against epilepsy to this day.
Is it possible that ignorance lies at the heart of most moral panics or discourses? How can we talk about alcoholism without resorting to a moralizing discourse?
And there is nothing like reading something about the historical past to make me realise we do not know better than those who lived in past centuries. We do not know more. We just know differently.
The AA of 2050 will reflect the society it draws on, the society it serves. No self-help movement exists in splendid static isolation. To the extent that AA is located in an insular, paranoid, credulous , militarized, divided or aggressively secular society, those attitudes and tensions will characterize AA. There has always been struggle over inclusiveness, differing methodologies, moralities and interpretations of recovery in AA and the struggles will continue. The reality that alcoholism is a highly profitable and lucrative industry for Big Pharma and rehab or therapy professionals is likely to continue and this will continue to cause dissension and resentment, distrust etc. So long as alcoholics remain a stigmatized community, scientific research on alcoholism will be partial, flawed or non-existent. AA is not monolithic and has developed in very different ways in different global locations. There will always be those who want to reform AA or restore AA back to some historical ideal; and there will always be those who will ‘take what they need and leave the rest.’ And alcoholism may remain cunning, baffling and powerful for many years to come.
The rain has stopped and we are headed for another heatwave this weekend. I am making punnets of ice cubes in the freezer so that I can put ice cubes in my dogs’ drinking water and ice cubes in my tepid bathwater and lavish ice cubes on my homemade ginger beer. Guests can demand ice cubes in abundance. There is some kind of farmers’ market this weekend — not the kind with trendy organic vegetables and designer muffins or sourdough breads. This market will have stalls with cattle and tractors and farm machinery and greasy hot dogs with beer on sale, a few trucks piled high with cabbages or maize cobs or large white pumpkins. I am hoping there might be large orange Hubbard squashes or some early apples.