What the hell is happening to the human species? Is it my imagination or are we wracked with more ailments today than in the past?
The modern variety of Homo sapiens (our species) evolved onto the scene tens of thousands of years ago, but HIV/AIDS crossed over from our simian cousins to our species within my lifetime. That’s probably the most devastating of the new human ailments, but it’s not the only one that seems to have sprung into existence, or at least into prominence, within the last few decades. Consider allergies. I’d swear there is now at least one person and usually many people who are allergic to every substance you can name. Every substance.
Hell, look at peanuts. When I was a kid no one thought twice about brining a peanut butter and jam sandwich or a pack of peanuts to school for lunch. Now, if a somewhat sloppy eater accidentally walks within a mile of a school with a speck of peanut dust stuck to his shirt he’ll immediately be surrounded by a heavily armed SWAT team. The miscreant will then be stripped naked and hosed down before being allowed any closer to the school.
It’s not solely schools that prohibit peanuts and peanut residue. Comedians used to joke about the peanuts that airlines provided with the drinks they served before meals. Then comics started joking about the peanuts that were the only source of nourishment on flights. Now, even that’s gone. If an airline allows so much as a single peanut on one of it’s planes it will find itself facing unruly protests, a boycott of its flights and probably a major lawsuit.
We’re not talking about just the sniffles, sneezes and hives that were considered to be the worst allergy symptoms when I was a kid. Some people go into anaphylactic shock, and some die, if they come anywhere near a microscopic speck of whatever it is they’re allergic to.
There’s explanation for our increased susceptibility to diseases and allergies that sounds right to me. I don’t know if it’s been scientific proven or if it’s just conjecture, but I’m convinced it’s due to excessive hygiene. We’ve got antibacterial soaps, cleansers, clothing, sponges and kitchen and bathroom surfaces. The sponges, clothing and surfaces claim to keep their antiseptic properties even after several washings.
People, people, people! Think about this. Your immune system needs to be exercised to be effective. If you kill all microorganisms before your immune system gets to tangle with them, your immune system won’t get its required workout. Eventually it will atrophy and become ineffective. Then, when something does get through your antibacterial barriers, your immune system won’t be able to protect you.
That’s why I’m a slob. If I drop or spill some microorganism-infested crud on the floor or on a counter, I leave it there. How else is my immune system going to build itself up?
What’s more, you know the five- or ten-second rule some people apply to determine whether it’s OK to eat something after it’s been dropped on the floor? The hell with that! If I come back the next day and it hasn’t sprouted legs and walked off, it’s still fair game for eating. My immune system can take on all contenders.
I consider my slovenly ways to be a public service. After all, as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If you visit me at my place you might be repulsed by the disarray, grunge and guck, but I promise you this: As long as you don’t die in the process, you’ll leave with a much more robust immune system.
If you do die, don’t expect me to dispose of your remains. There is some scientific debate about whether there really is a danger of infection from dead bodies, but with any luck, your decaying corpse will spawn perfect boot camp conditions for my immune system.