The Social Construction of Allergies

Sorry to hear JT of Greenville, SC, has suffered so from allergies.  Brother Dan way back when, like in the ‘70’s, went in to the doctor when they did those patch tests on a person’s back and his whole back lit up like a neon sign.  He was (is) like allergic to everything: dairy, wheat products, dust, dust mites, super dust—whatever, he was (is) allergic to it.  Time was he would doze off while talking to you from the fatigue of those allergies.  We knew a lot about soy products before other people did. 

I don’t know that Brother Steve has any big allergies.

Brother Dave though he has some strange ones that involve the swelling of body parts.  One time he woke up and there were these red stripes across his back that looked like he had been lashed to mast and whipped with a cat-o-nine tails.  These things are dangerous.  Once or twice or more his tongue has swollen up and his throat too, threatening his air supply.  Just recently he got from the doctor something to put adrenaline into himself in case of emergency.

Me, I have the spring hay fever stuff, with runny eyes, and stuff in the head that too frequently turns into stuff in the chest, and O of course that lactose intolerance I wrote about a while back involving incredibly stinky flatulence.

Now I suppose you could say “allergies” are socially constructed since through out most of human history “allergies” did not exist just people with runny noses and funny stripes on their backs that came out of nowhere.  Now we have a name for those things “allergies” and know something about the causes of these things and how also even to treat them, a little bit, so as to get rid of them.

I suppose the biggest social constructor of whatever has been science.  Sometimes of course they have been wrong.  I have wanted to make a list of now defunct diseases; diseases they said existed but in fact didn’t.  In Dostoevsky, the characters are all the time getting “brain” fever.  I think that’s a sort of historical disease.  And at one time, they thought that out there in outer space was something called “the ether.”  Turns out there are no ether, except the stuff that puts you to sleep.

Now, too, when people die and they write about it in the newspaper, if they say anything about why the person died, they say something like “died of cancer,” or “heart failure,” or “stroke.”  I can remember when a person died and they wrote of “natural causes.”  Nobody dies of “natural causes” anymore.  That’s sad really; it would be kind of comforting to die of natural causes.  The opposite of natural causes would be unnatural causes, like having a tree fall on you or somebody killing you.

But death itself is not a social construction.

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