So far as the profession's present-day valid contribution to disease prevention is concerned, it consists in supervising the sanitary institutions of our cities and states. This is not enough. As important as is public hygiene (sanitation), private hygiene is even more important. The principles of Hygiene must be applied to individual habits and to the removal of causes of disease from the individual life. It is not sufficient to clean our streets, empty our garbage cans and drain stagnant ponds; our habits of eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising, smoking, passional indulgences, etc., must also be carefully analyzed and correct rules emphasized. Hygiene can offer the sick no special advantage that can equal that which will accrue to man in maintaining health, thus preventing the evolution of disease. The performance of doubtful, yet "beautiful" cures by the cure-mongering professions, which necessitates the multiplication of practitioners, rather than promoting the public interest, is a way of life that no intelligent and informed people should long tolerate.
Preventive measures are certainly of far more value than remedial ones, and here the specifics of the medical profession are valueless. At intervals some medical propagandist breaks into print with some comical remarks about the need to prevent disease, but he always has in mind the need to sell more vaccines and serums. His proposed war on disease is as much of a sham battle as President Johnson's "war on poverty." Three years ago at the World Health Assembly held in Geneva, a new kind of physician and his education was discussed. The report of this meeting said of this new physician that, "his aim will be to prevent illness. He will be a social scientist, knowing his patients' social background and their families, and ready to change people's settings and way of life to save them from disease."
A kind of medical aristocrat is here proposed who will change people's way of life and their settings. He will govern out of the depth of his great wisdom, acquired from what source? What do physicians know about the relations of ways of life to illness? To give them this knowledge would be to revolutionize the profession and destroy the drug industry and it will not be done. That a change in the ways of life is essential to both the preservation and restoration of health has long been proclaimed by Hygienists and the medical profession has denounced this as faddism and quackery. Are they likely to make an about-face at this time and become quacks and faddists? Not if we know the industry and its economic moorings.
Any serious proposal of a program that is genuinely designed to prevent disease will be sure to meet with stubborn opposition from those who have a vested interest in disease. Prevention, if genuine, would put the disease treaters out of business. Without the sick man the entire medical industry would collapse; consequently, it becomes necessary that there shall always be a sick man.
The medical profession has never placed the issue on health, but has blithely assumed that the sick, like the poor, we shall always have with us. It is now held that health is a mirage, an illusion that only cranks and radicals or extremists think is a genuine possibility. This assumption is essential to the very continuance of the medical industry. If it becomes generally known that health is a universal possibility, there is always the danger that the suffering millions who are now subjects of the merciless exploitation of the medical industry may demand that a genuine health program be provided them.
To be at ease, to have their powers at command, to have mind and body on good terms, to be free of pain, to have their instincts perfect, their senses sources of real pleasure, to be free from fever and fits of passion--these are states that to the people seem Utopian and are by the profession untaught. But to all of these and much more is man entitled. He is rich by divine descent. In substantial health, what a rich domain lies spread before him! Heaven with its overhanging canopy of of blue; earth arrayed in clothing of green and bedecked with vari-colored flowers; sunrise and sunset, sunshine and shadow, star and cloud, dawn and eventide--these constitute a beautiful home for man and beckon him to the enjoyment of healthy life. But, lured by the revolving, parti-colored false lights, modern man finds himself in an inextricable maze, to escape from which will require a radical about-face in his ways of life.
Though rotten with falseness, the old systems are supported by the conventionalities and proprieties of society, the conservatism which age begets and the power which is conveyed by long-continued custom. They are fixtures and are presumed to be permanent. They have rooted themselves deeply into the ideas, notions and customs of men. They are welded with the hopes and the fears of their votaries; they are fully protected and fortified, for fallacy always braces itself. Error must outwardly brace itself or fall, for its support is entirely external. It is destitute of internal force and every position which it assumes violates the law of gravity.
Germs are said to be the cause of disease, but the exception is the rule in this case. Instead of everybody being infected by all germs at all times, only a few are infected at any given time, and then not by all germs. One may have pneumonia, but it is rare that he also has typhoid or smallpox with the pneumonia. It would seem that if one's resistance is sufficiently low that he can be infected with pneumonia germs, it will be sufficiently low for him to be infected at the same time by any germs.
Germs are as ubiquitous as the orthodox God. They are inescapable and barricades against omnipresence are ridiculous. To suppose that disease is due to something against which man lacks the power to protect himself is to implicate the forces of creation or evolution and assume that man has not been as well provided for as the lower animals. It is to assume that man's constitution is not as well adapted to his natural environment and not as adequately surrounded by the requisites of healthy life as is, for example, the turtle. There is a whole group of "science writers" who account for the decline and disappearance of ancient civilizations by having them destroyed by mosquitoes, flies, fleas, etc. These men are so scientific that they have swallowed--hook, line and sinker--the whole confusing muddle that constitutes the etiological hypothesis of the so-called medical profession. They never question; they never doubt; they simply parrot the follies of the poison pushers. Nature is kind but precise, gentle but exacting, loving but severely just, and whoever chooses to place his reliance in art rather than in her makes a mistake, often a fatal one. So long as there is life, an effort for its preservation is the proper use of it. Its abuse can only snuff it out quicker. Were human beings half as careful as they are careless of health, they would know but little illness; were they half as reverent of the laws of being as they are audacious in their violation, health would now be the rule and disease the exception. If one course of life is rewarded with health and an opposite course is penalized with disease, shall we not choose the healthful course? Nature does not look with serene and placid eye upon ignorance and recklessness.
Some organisms are so weak from birth that they are not physically strong enough to resist the effects of the commonest kind of daily violations of the laws of life. The answer to the problem that some organisms are capable of resisting violations for a lengthy period is found in the possession by the living organism of compensatory provisions which, in all cases of health, are capable of neutralizing effects that would otherwise be permanent.
Parents can transmit to their offspring only such organizations as they carry potentially in their germinal elements, but they have control over the environmental elements of the evolution of their offspring. The child may be better or worse than the parents, depending on the control of nutritional and kindred factors. It may be an improvement on or a degeneration from the parental stock, according to favorable or unfavorable evolutionary conditions; but it must have the same relations to the organizations from which it is derived that the giant oak has to the acorn, the unfolding of which gave rise to it. The seed or egg and other circumstances being equal, inferior or superior to the parental seed, egg or circumstance, so will the plant, animal or person equal, be inferior or superior to its parental stock.
The greatest perfections are the most spontaneous outgrowths of nature. With the forces of life doing the best possible for the unfolding new organism, its parents are often unwittingly tugging in the opposite direction. The forces of evolution are frustrated, but the parents are convinced that nature is at fault and that somehow the poisons of the physician or the kind knife of the surgeon can and will correct her mistake. Instead of relying upon the doubtful arts of physician and surgeon, we should rather ask ourselves: where is the defect in carrying out the Hygiene of nature? The defect is ours, not that of nature.
It was the view of the early Hygienists that health reform was to anticipate: to remedy is to do away with present pathological conditions in the system, to preserve health is to prevent the development of pathology. There are diseases, such as cancer, cerebral hemorrhage, etc., the mortality from which can be reduced only by prevention and not by any remedial processes. Prevention in these cases requires the preservation of high level health and this calls for continuous self-control in the ways of life. The need for self-control makes retrogression possible. Where this possibility is realized, it is proof that the control we exercise over ourselves and our circumstances is unworthily exercised.
Most people expect too much from their partial ways of life. They should not expect to escape the development of all disease, even if they comply with all the sound rules of dietetics. They should only expect less disease, for health does not rest upon right food only. To escape disease entirely, the organization must be perfect, the environment must be equally so, and the total way of life must conform with the laws of life in every particular. Polluted water, contaminated air, poisoned and processed food, and many other elements of present-day life render the escape of all illness impossible. Few, if any, are perfectly organized; nobody conforms to the laws of life in all their particulars. Complying with one or two conditions of health will not assure health.
We must show the people how to keep well. It is one thing to tell them how to do a thing--it is quite another to show them how to do it. Ours is a practical age and the best of all instruction is that of example. To see a thing done is to learn how to do it; to do it is to make the knowledge more fixed. Merely to be told of it is not enough. We need to illustrate our Hygienic principles to the people, to show that we have and maintain better health than they because we live better; that while they are feeble, we are strong; while they are sick, we are well; while they take poisons, we employ the normal things of life and let poisons alone; while they live ignorant of the general and special conditions on which health depends, we are growing, every day, more and more wise in such matters. Such testimony will tell. It is of no use to preach Hygiene to the people unless its benefits are obvious in our own lives.