Eula Quotes

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Wealthier countries have the luxury of entertaining fears the rest of the world cannot afford.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Our willingness to believe the news is, in many cases, not entirely innocent.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Fear is isolating for those that fear. And I have come to believe that fear is a cruelty to those who are feared.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Our fears are informed by history and economics, by social power and stigma, by myths and nightmares. And as with other strongly held beliefs, our fears are dear to us. When we encounter information that contradicts our beliefs, as Slovic found in one of his studies, we tend to doubt the information, not ourselves.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
idea that you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you feel about it. Or, as Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
And when comfort is what we want, one of the most powerful tonics alternative medicine offers is the word 'natural.' This word implies a medicine untroubled by human limitations, contrived wholly by nature or God or perhaps intelligent design. What 'natural' has come to mean to us in the context of medicine is 'pure' and 'safe' and 'benign'. But the use of 'natural' as a synonym for 'good' is almost certainly a product of our profound alienation from the natural world.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
But risk perception may not be about quantifiable risk so much as it is about immeasurable fear.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
That so many of us find it entirely plausible that a vast network of researchers and health officials and doctors worldwide would willfully harm children for money is evidence of what capitalism is really taking from us. Capitalism has already impoverished the working people who generate wealth for others. And capitalism has already impoverished us culturally, robbing unmarketable art of its value. But when we begin to see the pressures of capitalism as innate laws of human motivation, when we begin to believe that everyone is owned, then we are truly impoverished.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
An apology is also an admission of guilt
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
We are, in other words, continuous with everything here on earth. Including, and especially, each other.
Eula Biss
And I suspect that Coca-Cola, unpoisoned, is more harmful to our children than vaccination.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
The problem has not been finding a place where I belong, which is how a children's book might tell it, but of finding ways of insisting on belonging nowhere.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
If we imagine the action of a vaccine not just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of a community, it is fair to think of vaccination as a kind of banking of immunity. Contributions to this bank are donations to those who cannot or will not be protected by their own immunity. This is the principle of herd immunity, and it is through herd immunity that mass vaccination becomes far more effective than individual vaccination.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
However we choose to think of the social body, we are each other's environment. Immunity is a shared space--a garden we tend together.
Eula Biss
I felt sick with hatred then for my own people. If you had asked me why I hated them, I might have said that I hated them for being so loud and for being so drunk. But now I believe I hated them for suddenly being my people, not just other people. In the United States, it is very easy for me to forget that the people around me are my people. It is easy, with all our divisions, to think of myself as an outsider in my own country. I have been taught, and I have learned well, I realize now, to think of myself as distinctly different from other white folks - more educated, more articulate, less crude. But in Mexico these distinctions became as meaningless to me as they should have always been.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
We do not tend to be afraid of the things that are most likely to harm us. We drive around in cars, a lot. We drink alcohol, we ride bicycles, we sit too much. And we harbor anxiety about things that, statistically speaking, pose us little danger. We fear sharks, while mosquitoes are, in terms of sheer numbers of lives lost, probably the most dangerous creature on earth.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
But for now I prefer to think that I will go somewhere that is not so overimagined.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Purity, especially bodily purity, is the seemingly innocent concept behind a number of the most sinister social actions of the past century.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
I know you're on my side," an immunologist once remarked to me as we discussed the politics of vaccination. I did not agree with him, but only because I was uncomfortable with both sides, as I had seen them delineated. The debate over vaccination tends to be described with what the philosopher of science Donna Haraway would call "troubling dualisms." These dualisms pit science against nature, public against private, truth against imagination, self against other, thought against emotion, and man against woman.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
A trust—in the sense of a valuable asset placed in the care of someone to whom it does not ultimately belong—captures, more or less, my understanding of what it is to have a child.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
While we routinely call for more vaccine testing, and more human trials, the unspoken assumption is that we do not intend our children to be the subjects of those trials.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
The more comfortable we are, research suggests, the more destruction we are likely to be causing.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
the lies we want to believe tell us something about ourselves.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
If vaccination can be conscripted into acts of war, it can still be instrumental in works of love.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Debates over vaccination, then as now, are often cast as debates over the integrity of science, though they could just as easily be understood as conversations about power.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
The Bible is the inerrant word of God,' Eula whispers, as defiantly as a whisper can be. 'And you only believe that because of how another group of men interpret the first group of men. People say you're supposed to put your faith in God, not men.
Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies)
For toxicologists, “the dose makes the poison.” Any substance can be toxic in excess. Water, for instance, is lethal to humans in very high doses, and overhydration killed a runner in the 2002 Boston Marathon. But most people prefer to think of substances as either safe or dangerous, regardless of the dose. And we extend this thinking to exposure, in that we regard any exposure to chemicals, no matter how brief or limited, as harmful.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Immunity is a public space. And it can be occupied by those who choose not to carry immunity. For some of the mothers I know, a refusal to vaccinate falls under a broader resistance to capitalism. But refusing immunity as a form of civil disobedience bears an unsettling resemblance to the very structure the Occupy movement seems to disrupt--a privileged 1 percent are sheltered from risk while they draw resources from the other 99 percent.
Eula Biss
By then I had moved often enough not to have the usual illusions about a clean slate or a fresh start or a new life. I knew that I could not escape myself. And the idea of beginning again, with no furniture and no friends, was exhausting. So my happiness then is hard to explain. I am tempted now to believe that entering the life one is meant to inhabit is a thrilling sensation and that is all.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Not having money is time consuming. There are hours spent at laundromats, hours at bus stops, hours at free clinics, hours at thrift stores, hours on the phone with the bank or the credit card company or the phone company over some fee, some little charge, some mistake
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
This is why the chances of contracting measles can be higher for a vaccinated person living in a largely unvaccinated community than they are for an unvaccinated person living in a largely vaccinated community.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Sonata,” he says, “means ‘sounding together.’ It is an argument in which one theme is presented in opposition to another and they struggle until one wins, in the resolution. It is a beautiful form, it has endured into this century.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
We had been arguing for hours and it was dark in the room. We sat silently on the couch, I was tapping my foot against the table. He glanced at the green digital glow of the clock. “2:05 is beautiful,” he said. I looked, and it was.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I was only going to stay six months. I stayed three years, and I never stopped thinking about leaving. But when I left, I left my entire life behind. I have to explain to you why I no longer live in New York, but first I have to explain to myself why I stayed so long.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
If by years of patient suffering, God can manage to take the harshness out of my voice, then the time has been well-spent.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Capitalism has already impoverished the working people who generate wealth for others. And capitalism has already impoverished us culturally, robbing unmarketable art of its value.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
The belief that public health measures are not intended for people like us is widely held by many people like me. Public health, we assume, is for people with less—less education, less-healthy habits, less access to quality health care, less time and money. I have heard mothers of my class suggest, for instance, that the standard childhood immunization schedule groups together multiple shots because poor mothers will not visit the doctor frequently enough to get the twenty-six recommended shots separately. No matter that any mother, myself included, might find so many visits daunting. That, we seem to be saying of the standard schedule, is for people like them.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
One of the paradoxes of our time is that the War on Terror has served mainly to reinforce a collective belief that maintaining the right amount of fear and suspicion will earn one safety. Fear is promoted by the government as a kind of policy. Fear is accepted, even among the best-educated people in this country, even among the professors with whom I work, as a kind of intelligence. And inspiring fear in others is often seen as neighborly and kindly, instead of being regarded as what my cousin recognized it for - a violence.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
We do not know alone. Dracula
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Mother: “Rumi wrote that…roughly…the only thing that will be with you to your grave is your work. Only your work will speak for you after you’re gone.” There
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Words like ‘custody’ don’t mean the same thing to him. I don’t want us to own anything together. “You don’t want to be happy,” he accuses me.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
She was poisoned, but the reason she was crying was that her husband didn’t want her anymore.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
The tradition of the personal essay is full of self-appointed outcasts. In that tradition, I am not a poet or the press, but an essayist, a citizen thinker.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
In France, a law now requires large companies not to expect their employees to send or respond to emails after work hours.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
A poem is something that happens between people, O’Hara insisted in his manifesto for Personism,
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Never forget that work is the story we tell ourselves about money.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Maintenance is the tax I pay on this life, I think. And that is why I want to do it by hand, with heavy shears.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Some apologies are unspeakable. Like the one we owe our parents.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
True empowerment of students, I came to realize, necessarily means a certain disempowerment of teachers.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
In the past few decades quite a few people have suggested -- citing most often the offence of impossible proportions -- that Barbie dolls teach young girls to hate themselves. But the opposite may be true. British researchers recently found that girls between the ages of seven and eleven harbor surprisingly strong feelings of dislike for their Barbie dolls, with no other toy or brand name inspiring such a negative response from the children. The dolls "provoked rejection, hatred, and violence" and many girls preferred Barbie torture -- by cutting, burning, decapitating, or microwaving -- over other ways of playing with the doll. Reasons that the girls hated their Barbies included, somewhat poetically, the fact that they were 'plastic.' The researchers also noted that the girls never spoke of one single, special Barbie, but tended to talk about having a box full of anonymous Barbies. 'On a deeper level Barbie has become inanimate,' one of the researchers remarked. 'She has lost any individual warmth that she might have possessed if she were perceived as a singular person. This may go some way towards explaining the violence and torture.
Eula Biss (The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009)
Perhaps the starkest measure of the failure of our economic policies,” Binyamin Appelbaum writes, “is that the average American’s life expectancy is in decline, as inequalities of wealth have become inequalities of health.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Black is closing in around my eyes. I realize with a great, tired sadness that I am losing the world. The walls, the molding on the door frame, the yellow of the lamp, his back at the sink… are all achingly beautiful. I reach out and feel myself groping in the air, feel myself falling great distances, feel nothing at all. Suddenly, with a red rush I can breathe and I can see. I get up from the floor before he turns around and says, “You look flushed.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
What he is drawn to in their philosophy, he tells me, is the idea that you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you feel about it. Or, as Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” What has been done to us seems to be, among other things, that we have been made fearful. What will we do with our fear? This strikes me as a central question of both citizenship and motherhood. As mothers, we must somehow square our power with our powerlessness. We can protect our children to some extent. But we cannot make them invulnerable any more than we can make ourselves invulnerable. “Life,” as Donna Haraway writes, “is a window of vulnerability.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Do people know which risks lead to many deaths and which risks lead to few?” the legal scholar Cass Sunstein asks. “They do not. In fact, they make huge blunders.” Sunstein draws this observation from the work of Paul Slovic, author of The Perception of Risk.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
One of the paradoxes of our time is that the War on Terror has served mainly to reinforce a collective belief that maintaining the right amount of fear and suspicion will earn one safety. Fear is promoted by the government as a kind of policy. Fear is accepted, even among the best-educated people in this country, even among the professors with whom I work, as a kind of intelligence. And inspiring fear in others is often seen as neighborly and kindly, instead of being regarded as what my cousin recognized it for—a violence.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
The study looked at two groups of people, one vaccinated against the flu and the other not vaccinated. After both groups were asked to read an article exaggerating the threat posed by the flu, the vaccinated people expressed less prejudice against immigrants than the unvaccinated people.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
In a section of The Vaccine Book titled “Is it your social responsibility to vaccinate your kids?” Dr. Bob asks, “Can we fault parents for putting their own child’s health ahead of that of the kids around him?” This is meant to be a rhetorical question, but Dr. Bob’s implied answer is not mine. In another section of the book, Dr. Bob writes of his advice to parents who fear the MMR vaccine, “I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the disease increase significantly.” I do not need to consult an ethicist to determine that there is something wrong there, but my sister clarifies my discomfort. “The problem is in making a special exemption just for yourself,” she says. This reminds her of a way of thinking proposed by the philosopher John Rawls: Imagine that you do not know what position you are going to hold in society—rich, poor, educated, insured, no access to health care, infant, adult, HIV positive, healthy immune system, etc.—but that you are aware of the full range of possibilities. What you would want in that situation is a policy that is going to be equally just no matter what position you end up in. “Consider relationships of dependence,” my sister suggests. “You don’t own your body—that’s not what we are, our bodies aren’t independent. The health of our bodies always depends on choices other people are making.” She falters for a moment here, and is at a loss for words, which is rare for her. “I don’t even know how to talk about this,” she says. “The point is there’s an illusion of independence.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
There are some words that seem to well up from inside me without reason. I will be walking along an empty hallway, leaning against the wall of an elevator, looking at the ceiling of my apartment when I find myself saying, “sorry.” But I am not saying it to anyone else, it is only for the sound of the word, the feel of it.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Caretaking, she suggests, is not an inherent threat to liberty. “From a feminist, caring framework,” Peterson writes, “liberty is not defined as complete separation and independence from the parent.” If fathering still reminds us of oppressive control, mothering might help us imagine relationships based not just on power, but also care.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
So, Clara, tell us what happens when a group begins to pray about the same thing,” Cecilia said. “Well, first of all, more people know about the need. More people get involved in bringing a person or a situation before God. He doesn’t need to be reminded because He knows everything. But He wants us to participate in people’s lives and the things going on around us. He wants us to partner with Him in His plan to draw people to Himself. So the end result of a lot of people praying about the same thing is increased glory to God. That’s the way it works. When we pray, we participate in what God is doing. He gets the glory, and we get the privilege of walking with Him, and in that process we are changed. And guess what happens from that change? He gets the glory.” “How do you figure that?” Eula said. “Philippians 2. Paul talks about having the same mind that Jesus had. He didn’t have to come here and give up His life. He didn’t have to be obedient and die on a cross. But He humbled Himself. And look at what happens at the end of that passage. God raises him up to the place of highest honor and gives Him the name above every other name. Every knee is going to bow, every tongue will declare that Jesus Christ is Lord—now get this—to the glory of God the Father. The whole point of the work of Jesus, the whole reason for His sinless life, the reason for the miracles and raising Him from the dead was the glory of God.” “Praise Jesus!” Tressa said.
Chris Fabry (War Room: Prayer Is a Powerful Weapon)
Do people know which risks lead to many deaths and which risks lead to few?” the legal scholar Cass Sunstein asks. “They do not. In fact, they make huge blunders.” Sunstein draws this observation from the work of Paul Slovic, author of The Perception of Risk. In a study that invited people to compare various causes of death, Slovic found that people tended to believe that accidents cause more deaths than disease and that homicide causes more deaths than suicide, when the opposite is true in both cases. In another study, people significantly overestimated the fatality rates of highly publicized or dramatic dangers like cancer or tornadoes. One could interpret this, as Sunstein does, to mean that most people are just wrong about risk. But risk perception may not be about quantifiable risk so much as it is about immeasurable fear. Our fears are informed by history and economics, by social power and stigma, by myths and nightmares. And as with other strongly held beliefs, our fears are dear to us. When we encounter information that contradicts our beliefs, as Slovic found in one of his studies, we tend to doubt the information, not ourselves.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
I begin my days by practicing piano, which I do badly but with ardor. Then I read for a while. I write until I’m too hungry to keep writing and then after lunch I spend some time in my garden before writing again. I want to also study French, but I rarely do. As I meander my way through one of these days, it occurs to me that my work life resembles the life of an eighteenth-century aristocrat.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Immunity is a public space. And it can be occupied by those who choose not to carry immunity. For some of the mothers I know, a refusal to vaccinate falls under a broader resistance to capitalism. But refusing immunity as a form of civil disobedience bears an unsettling resemblance to the very structure the Occupy movement seeks to disrupt—a privileged 1 percent are sheltered from risk while they draw resources from the other 99 percent.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
One of the mysteries of hep B immunization is that vaccinating only “high risk” groups, which was the original public health strategy, did not bring down rates of infection. When the vaccine was introduced in 1981, it was recommended for prisoners, health care workers, gay men, and IV drug users. But rates of hep B infection remained unchanged until the vaccine was recommended for all newborns a decade later. Only mass vaccination brought down the rates of infection, and it has now virtually eliminated the disease in children.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Vaccination works,” my father explains, “by enlisting a majority in the protection of a minority.” He means the minority of the population that is particularly vulnerable to a given disease. The elderly, in the case of influenza. Newborns, in the case of pertussis. Pregnant women, in the case of rubella. But when relatively wealthy white women vaccinate our children, we may also be participating in the protection of some poor black children whose single mothers have recently moved and have not, as a product of circumstance rather than choice, fully vaccinated them.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Whiteness is not a kinship or a culture. White people are no more closely related to one another, genetically, that we are to black people. American definitions of race allow for a white woman to give birth to black children, which should serve as a reminder that white people are not a family. What binds us is that we share a system of social advantages that can be traced back to the advent of slavery in the colonies that became the United States. 'There is, in fact, no white community,' as Baldwin writes. Whiteness is not who you are. Which is why it is entirely possible to despise whiteness without disliking yourself.
Eula Biss (Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation)
Piff and his team of researchers found that the rich are more likely than the poor to cut off other vehicles when driving through intersections. And they’re less likely to stop for pedestrians. They’re more likely to cheat in a game, and more likely to think of greed as good. But money is not to blame for this, Piff suggests. What’s to blame is the comfort that a higher class status affords—the independence, the insularity, the security, the illusion of not needing other people. “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
In 2012, a Taliban leader in northern Pakistan banned polio vaccination in his region until the United States ceased drone strikes there. Vaccination campaigns, he claimed, were a form of American espionage. While resembling the rumors of secret plots in Nigeria, this was, unfortunately, more easily verifiable. In pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the CIA had used a fake vaccination campaign—administering real hep B vaccine, but not the three doses necessary for immunity—to gather DNA evidence to help verify bin Laden’s location. This deception, like other acts of war, would cost the lives of women and children. The Lady Health Workers of Pakistan, a team of over 110,000 women trained to deliver health care door-to-door, had already endured years of brutal intimidation by the Taliban and hardly needed association with the CIA. Not long after the Taliban banned immunization, nine polio vaccinators, five of them women, were murdered in a coordinated series of attacks.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
I gave my son a lavishly illustrated edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for his fourth birthday, and it did not take very long for me to realize that this was a gift for me, not for him. As Alice engaged in repartee with a dodo early in the book, my son became bored. Alice’s bewilderment and disorientation, which I had anticipated might speak to my son’s experience of being a child in an adult’s world, spoke instead to my own experience navigating the world of information. Being lost in Wonderland is what it feels like to learn about an unfamiliar subject, and research is inevitably a rabbit hole. I fell down it, in my investigation of immunization, and fell and fell, finding that it was much deeper than I anticipated. Like Alice, I fell past shelves full of books, more than I could ever read. Like Alice, I arrived at locked doors. “Drink me,” I was commanded by one source. “Eat me,” I was told by another. They had opposite effects - I grew and shrank, I believed and did not believe. I cried and then found myself swimming in my own own tears.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Perhaps what matters,” Sunstein muses, “is not whether people are right on the facts, but whether they are frightened.” And people do seem to be frightened. We are locking our doors and pulling our children out of public school and buying guns and ritually sanitizing our hands to allay a wide range of fears, most of which are essentially fears of other people. All the while we are also, in our way, reckless. We get intoxicated, from the Latin “to poison,” for fun. This contradiction leads Sunstein to worry that regulatory laws based on the priorities of the general public maybe prone to a pattern of “paranoia and neglect.” Too much attention may be spent on minimal risks, while too little is paid to pressing threats. Paranoia, the theorist Eve Sedgwick observes, tends to be contagious. She calls it a “strong theory,” meaning a wide-ranging, reductive theory that displaces other ways of thinking. And paranoia very frequently passes for intelligence. As Sedgwick observes, “to theorize out of anything but a paranoid critical stance has come to seem naïve, pious, or complaisant.” She does not believe that paranoid thinking is necessarily delusional or wrong, but only that there is value to approaches that are less rooted in suspicion. “Paranoia,” Sedgwick writes, “knows some things well and others poorly.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
many of us find it entirely plausible that a vast network of researchers and health officials and doctors worldwide would willfully harm children
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
In proposing that one truth may derail another, it invites an enduring question—do we believe vaccination to be more monstrous than disease?
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
In the nineteenth century, poor urban women could give birth in charity hospitals for free, though wealthier women still gave birth at home. As childbirth moved into hospitals, the maternal death rate rose dramatically. Childbed fever, as puerperal sepsis was called, was spread by doctors who did not wash their hands between exams. But doctors blamed it on tight petticoats, fretting, and bad morals.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Having virtually invented a paid profession and being almost exclusively available to the rich, doctors were suspect to the working class.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Unvaccinated children, a 2004 analysis of CDC data reveals, are more likely to be white, to have an older married mother with a college education, and to live in a household with an income of $75,000 or more—like my child. Unvaccinated children also tend to be clustered in the same areas, raising the probability that they will contract a disease that can then be passed, once it is in circulation, to undervaccinated children. Undervaccinated children, meaning children who have received some but not all of their recommended immunizations, are more likely to be black, to have a younger unmarried mother, to have moved across state lines, and to live in poverty.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
What are some of the possible or likely consequences of thinking of the body as a complex system?” Martin asks. “The first consequence might be described as the paradox of feeling responsible for everything and powerless at the same time, a kind of empowered powerlessness.” If one feels at least partly responsible for one's own health, she explains, but understands one's body as a complex system linked to other complex systems, including the community and the environment, the task of controlling all the factors that might affect one's health becomes overwhelming.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
But if disease is a punishment for anything, it is only a punishment for being alive. When
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
When the last nationwide smallpox epidemic began in 1898, some people believed that whites were not susceptible to the disease. It was called “Nigger itch,” or, where it was associated with immigrants, “Italian itch” or “Mexican bump.” When
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Mother: “He made me feel like I wasn’t really a writer if I wasn’t published. It was as if my poetry didn’t mean anything unless it was accepted by someone else.” After
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
The release loop was tight, but I thought if I was drowning I would be able to pull anything.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Quite a bit of human solidarity has been sacrificed in pursuit of preserving some kind of imagined purity
Eula Biss
as Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” What
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
One of the most frightening things about children, in my experience, is their intelligence. They inevitably know more than we suspect them of knowing. They appraise us with devastating accuracy. And they are aware of injustices we have learned to ignore.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
I realized this is what white people do to each other—they cultivate each other’s fear. It’s very violent.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
As one Chicago real-estate magazine puts it: “For decades, a low rate of owner occupancy, a lack of commercial development … and problems with crime have kept prices lower in East Rogers Park than in many North Side neighborhoods.” And so my feelings about fear are somewhat ambivalent, because fear is why I can afford to swim every day now.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
hope more white people don’t move here.” My husband isn’t prone to sentimentality of any kind, or to worrying about white people, so I asked him why, and he said, “Because, kids were playing basketball by the school and they had cheerleaders cheering them on, and black men say hello to me on the street, and I love our little fruit market, and I don’t want this place to change.” But this place will probably change, if only because this is not a city where integrated neighborhoods last very long. And we are the people for whom the new coffee shop has opened. And the pet-grooming store. “You know your neighborhood is gentrifying,” my sister observes, “when the pet-grooming store arrives.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
I think you should define the word ‘gentrification,’” my husband tells me now. I ask him what he would say it means, and he pauses for a long moment. “It means that an area is generally improved,” he says finally, “but in such a way that everything worthwhile about it is destroyed.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
It takes me some time, standing in front of this poster, to understand why the word “diverse” strikes me as so false in this context, so disingenuous. It is not because this neighborhood is not full of many different kinds of people, but because that word implies some easy version of this difficult reality, some version that is not full of sparks and averted eyes and police cars. But still, I’d like to believe in the promise of that word. Not the sunshininess of it, or the quota-making politics of it, but the real complexity of it.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
he does not seem to feel the need to explain the new century’s shopping spree for identities, particularly white identities that have remained untainted by colonialism.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Clinton chose his language very carefully. About Rwanda, he said that, at the time, he “did not fully appreciate” the extent of the genocide. Not that he did not know. Because he did know. The Washington Post reported piles of bodies six feet high, and the evening news showed rivers choked with corpses. Regret, not action, had been his policy decision. Regret, he hoped, would not cost him anything.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
I apologize for slavery. It wasn’t me, true. But it might have been my cousin.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
I had, a decade earlier, read through 2,354 New York Times articles reporting lynchings between 1880 and 1920, so the events of the past year were less startling to me than the persistence, for well over a century, of the notion that the routine murder of black men is necessary for our collective safety.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Being a guest in someone else’s home and slowly beginning to suspect that you have done something wrong, something of which you were not previously aware, is how it feels to have a dawning understanding of what it means to be white in this world.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
More than two hundred antilynching bills were introduced to the U.S. Congress during the twentieth century, but none were passed. Seven presidents lobbied for antilynching legislation, and the House of Representatives passed three separate measures, each of which was blocked by the Senate.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity”).
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Between the 1930s and the 1970s, urban renewal programs demolished 1,600 black neighborhoods, and 90 percent of the low-income units destroyed for urban renewal were never replaced. Between 1934 and 1962 the FHA and the Veterans Administration financed more than $120 billlion worth of new housing, but only 2 percent of this went to nonwhite families.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
When I think about the nature of guilt, I think, inevitably, about “Notes of a Native Son.” In that essay James Baldwin writes about the bitterness and anger that destroyed his father, and then about the bitterness and anger he feels toward his father, feelings so closely tied to his feelings about his country that they cannot be untangled. “I saw nothing very clearly,” he writes, “but I did see this: that my life, my real life, was in danger, and not from anything other people might do but from the hatred I carried in my own heart.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
The word “pioneer” betrays a disturbing willingness to repeat the worst mistake of the pioneers of the American West—the mistake of considering an inhabited place uninhabited. To imagine oneself as a pioneer in a place as densely populated as Chicago is either to deny the existence of your neighbors or to cast them as natives who must be displaced. Either way, it is a hostile fantasy.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
A Union soldier serving in the South said of the freedman, “Human or not, there he is in our midst, millions strong; and if he is not educated mentally and morally, he will make us trouble.” That, in short, is the theory on which our public school system is based. By 1880 it had already developed its fundamental characteristics—it was, and is, as Michael Katz writes, “universal, tax-supported, free, compulsory, bureaucratic, racist, and class-biased.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
By the time I left New York, I knew that success and failure are silly terms in which to speak of living a life.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Women apologize as often to their friends as to strangers. Men rarely apologize to their friends. "Men," the linguist Janet Homes writes, "seem to avoid apologies where possible.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Perhaps I will tell them that your race is like your name—it is a given, and you must define your own name so that it does not define you.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Meanwhile, when I walk home from the train station at night I watch unmarked cars pull in front of black teenagers, who are patted down quickly and wordlessly. Some of the teenagers, my husband observes, carry their IDs in clear cases hanging from their belts for easy access.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
I once met a man of pro-football-sized proportions who saw something in my hesitation when I shook his hand that inspired him to tell me he was pained by the way small women looked at him when he passed them on the street—pained by the fear in their eyes, pained by the way they drew away—and as he told me this, tears welled up in his eyes.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
And as in any feudal system, the people on whom the entire system depended were robbed, as completely as possible, of their power. The students were, for the most part, unable to hold inept teachers accountable, to protest the wasting of their own time, to influence the grounds on which they would be evaluated, to demand anything, really, of substance from the institution.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Courts send black teenagers to jail for possession of marijuana, while white college kids are sentenced to community service for driving while intoxicated, a considerably more deadly offense. And Evangelicals editorialize about the sexual abominations of consenting adults, while very little is said about the plague of date rapes in college towns.
Eula Biss
It is not that the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was. It is that the heroine is not convinced she is the heroine or that the story is true. The heroine knows that New York is just a city-- just a place to live. And, like any other place, it demands that you make your own story.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
But when relatively wealthy white women vaccinate our children, we may also be participating in the protection of some poor black children whose single mothers have recently moved and have not, as a product of circumstance rather than choice, fully vaccinated them. This is a radical inversion of the historical application of vaccination, which was once just another form of bodily servitude extracted from the poor for the benefit of the privileged. There is some truth, now, to the idea that public health is not strictly for people like me, but it is through us, literally through our bodies, that certain public health measures are enacted.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
When you use BUMMER, you implicitly accept a new spiritual framework. It is like the EULA agreement—the user agreement—that you clicked “OK” on without reading. You have agreed to change something intimate about your relationship with your soul. If you use BUMMER, you have probably, to some degree, statistically speaking, effectively renounced what you might think is your religion, even if that religion is atheism. You have been inducted into a new spiritual framework.
Jaron Lanier (Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now)
Debates over vaccination, then as now, are often cast as debates over the integrity of science, though they could just as easily be understood as conversations about power. The working-class people who resisted Britain's 1853 provision for free, mandatory vaccination were concerned, in part, with their own freedom. Faced with fines, imprisonment, and the seizure of their property if they did not vaccinate their infants, they sometimes compared their predicament to slavery.  Vaccinations, like slavery, raises some pressing questions about one's rights to one's own body. But as the historian Nadja Durbach has noted, antivaccinators were often more interested in abolition as a metaphor for individual liberty than they were in the cause as a shared purpose. It was not in the recklessly selfless spirit of John Brown, who was hanged with his sons for their doomed effort to free slaves, that white workers resisted vaccination. "Anti-vaccinators were quick to draw on the political, emotive, or rhetorical value of the slave, or of the colonized African," Durbach writes of the movement in Britain. "They were quicker still to claim that the suffering of white English citizens took precedence over that of the oppressed elsewhere." Their primary concern, in other words, was with people like them. 
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
A hush came over the crowd… they were seeing a real book for the first time.
Eula McGrevey (Progtopia (Book 1 of The Progtopia Trilogy))
We believe that modern-day Hitlers have deliberately adulterated the oral polio vaccines with anti-fertility drugs and contaminated it with certain viruses which are known to cause HIV and AIDS,” the chairman of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria maintained, urging parents to refuse vaccination.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Observing that we have waged wars on poverty and drugs as well as cancer, Susan Sontag writes, “Abuse of the military metaphor may be inevitable in
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Unvaccinated children, a 2004 analysis of CDC data reveals, are more likely to be white, to have an older married mother with a college education, and to live in a household with an income of $75,000 or more—like my child.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
To the men and women who dreamed of freedom and dared to make it happen-
Eula McGrevey (Progtopia (Book 1 of The Progtopia Trilogy))
A farmer’s crops weren’t doing well. He had tried everything he could with the land and soil he had, but no matter what he did, year after year, his harvest grew smaller, his bounty less plentiful. So, he up and moved, searching for a new land, a new beginning. After a long journey, he came upon the most ideal, freshest, nutrient-rich soil on earth. Living there in prosperity, he felt the urge to plant something to pass onto future generations so they could see what he was blessed with. He tilled the soil, and with tender love and care, he planted an acorn. He watched as the tree broke the soil, making its way upward. Young, healthy, and free. Year after year, he saw it expand, stretching its branches in all directions, letting it be, never pruning it, never tending to it. Under its own direction, it took off, soaring upward and outward, becoming the mighty oak seen from all directions. “People traveled from far and wide to admire the tree, wanting one for themselves. They all asked the farmer, ‘What did you do to grow such a majestic oak tree?’ “His answer, always the same. ‘I don’t do a thing, I just let it grow on its own.’ “Most turned away, perplexed by his explanation, convinced he was hiding something from them. Others, however, listened, reproducing the same results. “Time passed and eventually the farmer was no longer, but the tree remained a steadfast fixture on the farmer’s land. Eventually, more people moved into the area. They were different from the man. They considered themselves to be more educated, more advanced than a simple farmer. They disliked his gigantic symbol of individual success. “So they hatched a plan. They conspired with each other and decided to stop making it about the tree. Why don’t they turn the people’s attention to the branches? Brilliant. So, year after year, they would rev up the citizens over a blemish on a branch. One was crooked, another’s bark was too thick, some had too many leaves, others didn’t have enough. The people who cared passionately about more foliage fought with those who wanted less. Citizens who wouldn’t stand for crooked branches ganged up on those who only wanted them to be straight. All the while, the elites stood back, stirring the pot, and achieving their plan to eliminate the tree. Every once in a while a side would win, and a branch would be cut off. Others would chop one off from spite and anger. As the years passed, branch after branch not escaping the scourge of the bickering groups, the tree finally was nothing more than a trunk. The people who were so used to fighting with each other gazed upon one another from either side of the pathetic, devoured symbol. They realized they had destroyed the once extraordinary, grand oak. But it was too late. The elites got what they wanted.
Eula McGrevey (Progatory (Book 2 of The Progtopia Trilogy))
In this case, I can only hope that my life, which is my crime, might also serve as my apology.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
Mother: “I couldn’t stand his friends from medical school. They were all pompous and awkward. They knew how to memorize but they didn’t know how to be human. Rochester was cold and ugly. Everything there was the same color. I was incredibly lonely.” She
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Mother: “I’m amazed that more people don’t commit suicide. They just keep on living. It’s so hard and they just keep doing it.” Useful
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Mother: “He used to say that you could lock me in a closet and I’d still get something out of it. I guess that’s true.” An
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Mother (over and over again): “What you have to understand about men is that they aren’t like us. They don’t have feelings.” My
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
She talks to herself as she hollows out a stoneware bowl. She is saying something about containment. She talks to her dogs and to the chickens. She has said so many things that have gone unheard. Off the record. Mother:
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
This is the year that everyone is trying to fly around the world in a balloon. I don’t know why.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I wake up afraid that she will be taken and folded up in a closet like clean linen.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I think I remember him saying that the problem with a tire fire is that it can smolder for years, burning quietly but uncontrollably.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
You know, she used to tear down parts of that house and put them back together herself.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I’m afraid something will happen to my hands,” he says, “I need my hands.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
He is someone who believes he can break things, or he believes that anything can hurt him.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
He thinks I don’t pay attention. He has been talking and I have been silently naming the scents of everything we are crushing under our feet as we walk.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I come home to an empty house and fill the sink with water. The pigeons above the window are clucking. I let the dishes slip under the bubbles and I close my eyes. I listen to the perfect, whole, round sounds of glass against porcelain under water.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
He hears his mother and his sister-in-law talk about how lonely it is to be married to a musician, how many nights they spend alone. He wonders if I would be unhappy. I don’t say anything. I like to spend my nights alone.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
My mother was in the bathtub crying and I was standing outside the door waiting, just in case she decided to slip her head under and keep it there. The other kids were upstairs. The problem was about money, of course. She was afraid she wouldn’t have enough for us to eat.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I was shaking when I asked my mother, “Do you think you eat enough?” She was silent for a long time until she said quietly, “That is between me and God.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I bent over, sick, and leaned my head against the softness of his stomach. He wrapped his arms around me, rocking gently. He said, “We should take you to the ocean, maybe that’s what you need to feel better.” He sang into my ear, under his breath. Silly songs. “That’s the recipe for making love…
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
We are not close,” he said, and let the effect linger before he said, “We live five hundred miles apart.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I pause when the man at the register lays down a red carnation with my change, says quietly, “This is for you,” and turns to the next customer. As I am starting my car I see another woman smiling and stepping into her car, holding a white carnation.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I move one seat closer to the couple on the bus. They are holding hands but she is looking out her window and he is looking at his lap. They don’t seem to be mad at each other.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
We drove past our old house,” the woman told me, “and I noticed that the tree he had watered through the droughts and cared for over the years had been cut down. He must have noticed too. I didn’t say anything. I thought, ‘I won’t talk about it until he does,’ but he didn’t say a word.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Today I noticed a slim bar of soap lodged deep in the throat of the sink. My fingers can’t reach that far down the drain. It is leaching away into the water, every day.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I asked him for a bedtime story. I didn’t really want a story, I just wanted him to talk to me. He couldn’t think of anything. When I woke up he was gone but there was a letter on my bed that began, “So, you wanted a bedtime story….
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
I don’t know….” He has been saying this over and over, ending every thought with it. Finally I ask him, “What don’t you know?” He pauses. “Lots of things. Your favorite color, for example.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Whenever a tool is handled with ease and with a minimum of false motions, so that it will produce accurate and satisfactory results, it is handled in the right way. The constant aim of every carpenter, especially the apprentice, should be to eliminate false motions in everything he does.” — Carpenter’s Tools, H. H. Seigele
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
When he says, “Why can’t you follow a recipe?” I am hurt, because I know that he is not just asking why I can’t be told what to do, but also why I can’t let things be simple.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
The laws of water are very difficult. No matter how many times it is explained to me, I don’t understand how the tides work. I know, of course, that water will seek a level. I know that it will only flow down.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Sometimes he gives a little flourish with his fingers that makes me wonder if all his movements are a quiet performance.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
Things with her, he says, were a disaster in slow motion.
Eula Biss (The Balloonists)
But refusing immunity as a form of civil disobedience bears an unsettling resemblance to the very structure the Occupy movement seeks to disrupt- a privileged 1 percent are sheltered from risk while they draw resources from the other 99 percent.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Perceptions of risk—the intuitive judgments that people make about the hazards of their world,” the historian Michael Willrich observes, “can be stubbornly resistant to the evidence of experts.” We do not tend to be afraid of the things that are most likely to harm us. We drive around in cars, a lot. We drink alcohol, we ride bicycles, we sit too much. And we harbor anxiety about things that, statistically speaking, pose us little danger. We fear sharks, while mosquitoes are, in terms of sheer numbers of lives lost, probably the most dangerous creature on earth.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Intuitive toxicology is the term that Slovic uses for the way most people assess the risk of chemicals. His research reveals that this approach is distinct from the methods used by toxicologists, and that it tends to produce different results. For toxicologists, “the dose makes the poison.” Any substance can be toxic in excess. Water, for instance, is lethal to humans in very high doses, and overhydration killed a runner in the 2002 Boston Marathon. But most people prefer to think of substances as either safe or dangerous, regardless of the dose. And we extend this thinking to exposure, in that we regard any exposure to chemicals, no matter how brief or limited, as harmful. In exploring this thinking, Slovic suggests that people who are not toxicologists may apply a “law of contagion” to toxicity. Just as brief exposure to a microscopic virus can result in lifelong disease, we assume that exposure to any amount of a harmful chemical will permanently contaminate our bodies. “Being contaminated,” Slovic observes, “clearly has an all-or-none quality to it—like being alive or pregnant.” Fear of contamination rests on the belief, widespread in our culture as in others, that something can impart its essence to us on contact. We are forever polluted, as we see it, by contact with a pollutant. And the pollutants we have come to fear most are the products of our own hands. Though toxicologists tend to disagree with this, many people regard natural chemicals as inherently less harmful than man-made chemicals. We seem to believe, against all evidence, that nature is entirely benevolent.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Infectious disease is one of the primary mechanisms of natural immunity. Whether we are sick or healthy, disease is always passing through our bodies. “Probably we’re diseased all the time,” as one biologist puts it, “but we’re hardly ever ill.” It is only when disease manifests as illness that we see it as unnatural, in the “contrary to the ordinary course of nature” sense of the word. When a child’s fingers blacken on his hand from Hib disease, when tetanus locks a child’s jaw and stiffens her body, when a baby barks for breath from pertussis, when a child’s legs are twisted and shrunken with polio—then disease does not seem natural.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
In this context, fear of toxicity strikes me as an old anxiety with a new name. Where the word filth once suggested, with its moralist air, the evils of the flesh, the word toxic now condemns the chemical evils of our industrial world. This is not to say that concerns over environmental pollution are not justified—like filth theory, toxicity theory is anchored in legitimate dangers—but that the way we think about toxicity bears some resemblance to the way we once thought about filth. Both theories allow their subscribers to maintain a sense of control over their own health by pursuing personal purity. For the filth theorist, this meant a retreat into the home, where heavy curtains and shutters might seal out the smell of the poor and their problems. Our version of this shuttering is now achieved through the purchase of purified water, air purifiers, and food produced with the promise of purity.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
range of chemicals in umbilical cord blood and breast milk might mean for the future of our children’s health, we do at least know that we are no cleaner, even at birth, than our environment at large. We are all already polluted. We have more microorganisms in ...our guts than we have cells in our bodies—we are crawling with bacteria and we are full of chemicals. We are, in other words, continuous with everything here on earth. Including, and especially, each other.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
We are justified in feeling threatened by the unlimited expansion of industry, and we are justified in fearing that our interests are secondary to corporate interests. But refusal of vaccination undermines a system that is not actually typical of capitalism. It is a system in which both the burdens and the benefits are shared across the entire population. Vaccination allows us to use the products of capitalism for purposes that are counter to the pressures of capital.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
But how we should care for other people remains a question. In his discussion of efforts to control childhood obesity, the philosopher Michael Merry defines paternalism as “interference with the liberty of another for the purposes of promoting some good or preventing some harm.” This type of paternalism, he notes, is reflected in traffic laws, gun control, and environmental regulations. These are limits to liberty, even if they are benevolent. Interfering with the parenting of obese children, he argues, is not necessarily benevolent. There is risk in assigning risk.
Eula Biss
The extra time and trouble required to follow Dr. Bob’s alternative schedule are hard to justify unless the dangers of contracting infectious diseases early in life are minimized and the dangers of vaccinating early in life are exaggerated. Much of The Vaccine Book is devoted to this minimization and exaggeration. Tetanus is not a disease that affects infants, according to Dr. Bob, Hib disease is rare, and measles is not that bad. He does not mention that tetanus kills hundreds of thousands of babies in the developing world every year, that most children will encounter the bacteria that causes Hib disease within the first two years of their lives, and that measles has killed more children than any other disease in history.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
And allowing oneself to remain vulnerable to disease remains a legal privilege today. Dictionaries aside, what it means to have a conscience may be no more clear to us now than it was in 1898. We do recognize when it is lacking—she has no conscience, we say. But what exactly is missing? I put this question to my sister, who teaches ethics at a Jesuit college and is a member of the North American Kant Society. “It’s tricky,” she says. “In the eighteenth century, Kant wrote that we have a duty to ourselves to examine our conscience. This implies that it’s not transparent, that it must be scrutinized and deciphered. Kant thought of conscience as an inner judge and used the metaphor of a courtroom to explain its operation. In the courtroom of conscience, the self is both judge and judged.” I ask her if this means our conscience emerges from thought and is a product of our minds. “It’s an evolving concept,” she says. “It may have once been more closely associated with the emotions, but we still say we feel a pang of conscience—it involves a unity of thought and feeling.” Kant, she tells me, called the inner judge a “scrutinizer of hearts.” “The part that’s tricky,” my sister says, “is how you discern between a sense of discomfort and what your conscience is telling you.” This question remains with me, and I am disturbed by the possibility that I could mistake the call of my conscience for something else. I ask a former professor of mine, a novelist who teaches the Old Testament as literature, how one recognizes one’s own conscience. She looks at me sternly and says, “It’s a very distinct feeling. I don’t think one’s conscience is easily confused with any other feeling.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
All sorts of risk-benefit analyses and models of herd immunity tend to produce the conclusion that vaccination benefits the individual as well as the public. When Harvard researchers recently used game theory to build a mathematical model of vaccination behavior during an influenza epidemic, they found that even “a population of self-interested people can defeat an epidemic.” No altruism is required.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Why target two and a half million innocent newborns and children?” Barbara Loe Fisher asks of the hep B vaccine. The implication behind the word innocent is that only those who are not innocent need protection from disease. All of us who grew up during the AIDS epidemic were exposed to the idea that AIDS was a punishment for homosexuality, promiscuity, and addiction. But if disease is a punishment for anything, it is only a punishment for being alive. When I was a child, I asked my father what causes cancer and he paused for a long moment before saying, “Life. Life causes cancer.” I took this as an artful dodge until I read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s history of cancer, in which he argues not only that life causes cancer but that cancer is us. “Down to their innate molecular core,” Mukherjee writes, “cancer cells are hyperactive, survival-endowed, scrappy, fecund, inventive copies of ourselves.” And this, he notes, “is not a metaphor.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
The pediatrician Paul Offit mentioned to me, during an interview about his work, that he had recently seen two children hospitalized with influenza. Both had been immunized against everything on the childhood schedule except the flu, and both ended up on heart and lung machines. One lived, and the other died. “And then the next day, when someone comes into your office and says, ‘I don’t want to get that vaccine,’ you’re supposed to respect that decision?” Offit asked me. “You can respect the fear. The fear of vaccines is understandable. But you can’t respect the decision—it’s an unnecessary risk.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
The idea of preventive medicine is faintly un-American,” the Chicago Tribune noted in 1975. “It means, first, recognizing that the enemy is us.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
live in
Eula McGrevey (Progtopia: Book 1 of The Progtopia Trilogy)
When I stepped onto the bridge over the Iowa River and stood looking out across the water, I knew I was home. I was wrong about that, as it turns out. And I know now that my certainty was based on a series of troubling misconceptions, but it would be years before I would lose the comfort that certainty gave me.
Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays)
The woman who invented the Landlord’s Game, Elizabeth Magie, was an advocate of that tax. As an unmarried woman with her own home, rare at the time, she struggled to support herself on the $10 per week she earned as a stenographer. “If we could be reduced to the character of a machine,” she remarked, “having only to be oiled and kept in working order, $10 perhaps would be sufficient.” Rather than marry out of economic necessity, she advertised herself for sale to the highest bidder as a “young woman American slave.” This made national news and caused a small scandal. Her brother, embarrassed, said she was just trying to publicize her writing. As well as being an inventor, she was also a poet.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Perhaps the starkest measure of the failure of our economic policies,” Binyamin Appelbaum writes, “is that the average American’s life expectancy is in decline, as inequalities of wealth have become inequalities of health.” Meanwhile, life remains the ultimate privilege, the living lording over the dead.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Speaking of privilege, David said when he gave me her biography, it is a privilege to spend your life writing. Not a luxury, he clarified, but a privilege.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
I regard the wheelbarrow full of fresh dirt resting above my unquiet grave. Now I’m in the hole I dug myself, I think with amusement. It feels like an accomplishment
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Attitudes toward the state easily translate into attitudes toward vaccination, in part because the body is such a ready metaphor for the nation.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
AIDS education taught us the importance of protecting our bodies from contact with other bodies, and this seems to have bred another kind of insularity, a preoccupation with the integrity of the individual immune system. Building, boosting, and supplementing one’s personal immune system is a kind of cultural obsession of the moment. I know mothers who believe this is a viable substitute for vaccination, and who understand themselves as raising children with superior immune systems. But children with superior immune systems can still pass disease. Pertussis, like polio and Hib disease and HIV, can be carried without symptoms.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
in this approach, is determined by how much you have of three kinds of capital—economic capital, cultural capital, and social capital. Or, what you own, what you know, and who you know.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
When I started riding a bike I realized there’s a real relationship between a body powering itself going down the street and the way you interact with your community,” Smith says. “The violence of the power of a car is an alienating device. It’s the last thing we need in our neighborhoods.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Bicycles are sometimes kindly accommodated by cars, often ignored, occasionally respected, sometimes nervously followed, and frequently not even seen. In this sense, riding in traffic is not unlike being a woman among men.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
We shouldn’t ask our rich to be good, in other words, we should ask our economic system to be better.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Henry George, who proposed that profits made from a natural resource, like land or coal or oil, should be distributed equally among everyone. No individual, he argued, should build a fortune by laying claim to a collective resource. George believed that everyone was entitled to profit from their labor, but that profits made from the ownership of property should be heavily taxed. The woman who invented the Landlord’s Game, Elizabeth Magie, was an advocate of that tax.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
the Pigouvian tax, a tax that’s added to the price of a thing because of the social cost of that thing. Like the tax on cigarettes.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
We don’t have to privilege accumulation over distribution. But that is the rule that governs our everyday lives—our work and our play.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Wealth is not without its advantages and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive,” John Kenneth Galbraith writes in the great first sentence of The Affluent Society. “But, beyond doubt, wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Opportunity hoarding is the term for this, and it takes the form of admissions procedures, testing, tuition costs, licensing, ranking, and all sorts of credentialing.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Your class, in this approach, is determined by how much you have of three kinds of capital—economic capital, cultural capital, and social capital. Or, what you own, what you know, and who you know.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Part of what makes a job good, they understood, is the sense that what you do matters.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Art unmakes the world made by work.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Maintenance, she wrote, was the work of protecting progress, sustaining change, preserving the new, and keeping the dust off invention.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
The romance of treason never occurred to us for the brutally simple reason that you can’t betray a country you don’t have,” James Baldwin writes. You can’t be a traitor if you’ve never been a citizen.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
TIAA is the largest agricultural investor in the world, the third largest commercial real estate manager in the world, and number 80 on the Fortune 500.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Clara took a sip of coffee. “Having lots of people pray about something doesn’t force God to listen or act. God knows everything. Prayer is not informing Him because He already knows what we need and why we’re crying out.” “So why pray at all?” Cecilia said. Clara held up a hand. “Now you asked me to answer you and I’m trying to do that.” Cecilia smiled and sat back, also raising a hand as if the floor was Clara’s. “God does hear what we pray. You don’t need a megaphone or a million people to get His attention. But the point of prayer is not to get what we want. Prayer changes the person who prays. You take the parent who prays that a child will get on the straight and narrow. You know I’ve been there with Clyde. We’ve all been heartsick about something or other regarding our kids. But what I’ve found is this. Whenever I was worried about Clyde, God was doing something in me. He wanted to turn my heart around as much if not more so than my son’s. God helped me trust Him in greater ways than I ever thought possible because of that boy and what he dragged me through.” “And he dragged you through a lot,” Tressa said. “Mmm-hmmm,” Eula agreed.
Chris Fabry (War Room: Prayer Is a Powerful Weapon)
I’ve been reading the psychologist Paul Piff, who quotes Jesus in a paper titled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior.” Piff and his team of researchers found that the rich are more likely than the poor to cut off other vehicles when driving through intersections. And they’re less likely to stop for pedestrians. They’re more likely to cheat in a game, and more likely to think of greed as good. But money is not to blame for this, Piff suggests. What’s to blame is the comfort that a higher class status affords—the independence, the insularity, the security, the illusion of not needing other people. “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Nearly all people in nearly all nations, for nearly all of human history, he observes, have been poor. Widespread poverty is not an anomaly. But widespread affluence is.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
The game was informed by the theories of Henry George, who proposed that profits made from a natural resource, like land or coal or oil, should be distributed equally among everyone. No individual, he argued, should build a fortune by laying claim to a collective resource.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
The musician breaks the rules of work by playing, rather than working. It’s queer, in that it’s a transgression.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
I have passed through several classes in my adult life, including the precariat. But I don’t believe that to be true. I have always remained, more or less, in the class into which I was born.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
The middle class, in this approach, lies between the capitalists who have control and the workers who are controlled. The middle class includes small-business owners who are both capitalists and workers, salaried managers and supervisors whose financial interests are entangled with the corporations they serve, and educated professionals who have enough capital to make investments. This is a middle class with capitalist aspirations. And that is why Marx considered this class dangerous. It is a class of conflicting allegiances and internal contradictions.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
This is practice. And practice is all I want out of art.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Most people, Wright observes, prefer not to think of class as a means of control or exclusion, but as a collection of things that can be acquired, like property and education. Your class, in this approach, is determined by how much you have of three kinds of capital—economic capital, cultural capital, and social capital. Or, what you own, what you know, and who you know.
Eula Biss (Having and Being Had)
Eula-Beulah was prone to farts—the kind that are both loud and smelly. Sometimes when she was so afflicted, she would throw me on the couch, drop her wool-skirted butt on my face, and let loose. “Pow!” she’d cry in high glee. It was like being buried in marshgas fireworks. I remember the dark, the sense that I was suffocating, and I remember laughing. Because, while what was happening was sort of horrible, it was also sort of funny. In many ways, Eula-Beulah prepared me for literary criticism. After having a two-hundred-pound babysitter fart on your face and yell Pow!, The Village Voice holds few terrors
Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)
If we do not yet know exactly what the presence of a vast range of chemicals in umbilical cord blood and breast milk might mean for the future of our children's health, we do at least know that we are no cleaner, even at birth, than our environment at large. We are already polluted. We have more microorganisms in our guts than we have cells in our bodies- we are crawling with bacteria and we are full of chemicals. We are, in other words, continuous with everything here on earth. Including, and especially, each other.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)
Consider relationships of dependence,' my sister suggests. 'You don't own your body- that's not what we are, our bodies aren't independent. The health of our bodies always depends on choices other people are making.' She falters for a moment here, and is at a loss for words, which is rare for her. 'I don't even know how to talk about this,' she says. 'The point is there's an illusion of independence.
Eula Biss (On Immunity: An Inoculation)