Many many years ago, ( amazing it does seem to me how long ago that was), I had a high school teacher who introduced our class to the novel "The Thanatos Syndrome" by Walker Percy. I think he was talking about it in conjunction with fluoridation of water, and how we are all forced to drink this type of water (water "fortified" with fluosilicic acid, not the sodium fluoride put into toothpaste), even if we don't want to, and even if there is evidence critical of its' supposed benefits.
So many people in the political arena claim the novel 1984 by George Orwell as their own, and use it as a lens to describe their experience in the world. Doublespeak, and "war is peace", and the Right claiming that "they're making us all believe 2+2 =5 is we accept the reality of trans people" and stuff like that. Everyone is a Winston Smith, observing the evil machinations of our government, at one time George W Bush is a bumbling warmonger, now he's a cute old man who paints paintings of soldiers and "he looked so cute when his poncho blew into his face that one time", and how long ago was that? Well, maybe it's time the people who oppose forced medicalization on the public, people who question corporate science and its insistence on fluoridation and other questionable health and food initiatives, had their own anthem book; and could "The Thanatos Syndrome" be the one?
Granted, there are other books that have been written signaling the peril of our food industry and the dangers of corruption in science. "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair killed two birds with one stone and covered both horrible labor conditions in factories AND unhygienic food preparation practices. "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis is a cautionary tale of greed and corruption in the sciences (and one of his character's names is actually used by Percy in his own novel, for the psychiatrist friend of the protagonist, Max Gottleib).
But those novels don't really combine the possible horrors of callous scientific experimentation with a lack of consent in a thrilling, first person, semi-1984 manner. And while The Thanatos Syndrome does this, I am still hesitant as to whether I can make a strong case...
Another way of saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", when we have a small group of people who think they are better than everyone else, and think they know what is best for everyone else, you have the first plans for the creation of a hell on earth.
(You also have the first inklings of fascism consequently, a rigid non-conformity and standardization punished severely if deviated from)
In this novel, a small group of individuals, including some doctors, introduce "heavy sodium" into the water supply of a select group of people in Louisiana. Because the main character has recently spent the past two years in jail, he hasn't been exposed to the tainted water supply and he has been just enough out of the loop to notice subtle changes in former patients and acquaintances affected by the water when he is released on parole.
His wife has become a genius at bridge and former patients have turned into zombies; female patients presenting rearward because their menstrual cycles have become primate estrus cycles and his patients in general becoming human computers answering questions about calculations and distances between cities without batting an eye and without asking why he even wants to know
But the results of the experiment are clear - crime has virtually disappeared, drug addiction as well, schools in the area have students performing above and beyond national averages, teenage pregnancy is down, and black prisoners at the local prison sing songs of praise as they pick cotton on the prison grounds (!!!)
An interesting aspect of the novel is this little slip of homophobia. I don't know if the author felt this way, but I guess Southerners felt this way. In any case, I'm not trying to judge, I just think it's funny and I hadn't thought about "conversion therapy" in a long time; our experimenters think they know what constitutes a recalcitrant behavior, and homosexuality obviously falls under this category
Thomas More, our hapless main character, can't help but agree with Bob Comeaux, our main perpetrator's assessment of the results of his experiment. But of course he is troubled by the side effects of the additive. Not only are women presenting rearward and acting like automatons, they are also getting into fights with robots, shooting up their horses, and attempting to take out themselves. Plus, and not really emphasized enough in the novel in my opinion, is the fact that none of these individuals was informed and had no choice as to whether they wanted to go undergo this transformation. Their wills have been rejected and their freedoms severely curtailed, by the whims of a few.
Another unfortunate characteristic of the group of individuals who chose to experiment on everyone else is the fact that they're a bunch of pedophiles, and the boarding school that they run uses the sodium ion in a special water source to make sure the children drink eight glasses of the water a day, making them happily compliant, and sometimes even indifferent, to their sexual abuse
The argument Bob Comeaux makes is the argument made by all researchers who are only interested in the success of their enterprise - how dare you question the desire to protect people from dangerous diseases and health conditions? From massive plagues? How can you deprive people of health? Don't you see that the benefits outweigh the risks?
But do they?
Or are the risks being downplayed?
Max Gottlieb describes it as a "simple sodium ion", but the ion in the novel is referred to as "heavy sodium", Na-24, and it is a radioactive isotope of the otherwise benign element. Very reminiscent of the way fluoride was introduced into our water supply, because fluoride's reputation as a violently corrosive and potentially fatal chemical was whitewashed in order to allow its continuation as a vital component of the Manhattan project, used to lubricate equipment against its own corrosive tendencies ( precursor to Teflon) when combined as a fluorocarbon and used to enrich uranium
the cleveland connection
We at the 'Turn are always looking for the Cleveland connection, and you wouldn't think it, but there always seems to be one...
I have visited the old location of the Harshaw Chemical Plant twice, one time many years ago when the buildings were still up, and then recently this past fall. To my great disappointment, the buildings are now gone and the area is surrounded by a wall made by some kind of black plastic fabric. The first time I visited with an acquaintance and I brought my copy of The Fluoride Deception with me. Although the area had long been abandoned, there was a security guard patrolling the area in a white pick up truck, and she asked us what we were doing there. I told her about the book and what the building used to be and she laughed
I know there has been controversy about cleaning the area up because very nearby is a section of a Cleveland Metroparks bike trail
At any rate, many people don't know that Cleveland did participate in the Manhattan project, and that it contained the notorious "Area C", a location where majority African Americans were polluted by fluoride as they worked with it to enrich uranium and provide loads of the resultant substance for the atomic bomb. To anyone in this city who says that fluoride is a benign element, you can look no further than Harvard Road on the west side to find a location where hundreds of people were poisoned by massive amounts of fluoride and not well-educated as to what they were being exposed to, and not very well protected from it.
But since the element was so important to the work of the Manhattan Project, its scientists were desperate to unearth all its health effects and control all information about it so as to control any damage threatened by worker or neighborhood lawsuits. This very same tactic has been used before and since, with other problematic substances and products like radium, asbestos, lead in gasoline, and cigarettes
What's funny about Dr. Comeaux's complaint that if Dr. Fred McKay had hesitated, children everywhere would be suffering from disintegrated teeth, is how that's just simply not true ( as described in one of the excerpts above from Bryson's book. incidentally, Fred McKay doesn't play that big a role in having fluoride put into our water supply).
The Newburgh-Kingston Fluorine-Caries Trial, which is the big study that claims to prove the benefit of fluoride to teeth, was apparently just more experimentation on the part of the scientists of the Manhattan Project. Without making it publicly known, they were much more interested in the non dental medical problems associated with fluoride ingestion, and wanted to control the information coming out about that. A caries prevention study sure is a good cover! ( These are the same scientists and physicians who injected people with plutonium and uranium without their knowledge and consent, check out "The Plutonium Files" by Eileen Welsome. )
At one point, Dr. Comeaux tells Tom to think of "Blue Boy", the name of his experiment, "as another Manhattan Project"
So, where does "tenderness" lead? What is "tenderness", in this case? Is there a real interest in helping others? Or is there more an interest in controlling them? And profiting off that control? Is that interest in helping others a cover for something more nefarious? Convincing people they need to fix something that's not broken, and then ending up with broken people?
I think the book is a good "anthem novel" about the dangers of forcing "medicines" down people's throats. It doesn't have the gravitas or terror of a 1984, but it is a thriller, and what it lacks in melancholy, it makes up for by being a more upbeat, comical take on the absurdity of human beings, instead of a despairingly horrific indictment of one of our greatest dilemmas
Finesse Mandrake has never been to a dentist