In an interview that St. Jude Milhon conducted with Richard Preston for Thresher, Preston dropped a bit of “knowledge” that has always stuck in my head. In an interview dedicated to the possibilities for bioterror, Preston said, “Martin Hugh-Jones told me that his all-time favorite bioweapon is Brucella. It’s a bacterium that gives you a subtle long-term brain infection that changes your personality for the worse. That happens after you’ve received antibiotics that don’t completely wipe out the Brucella in your brain but make you think you’re cured. The organism makes you prone to irrational rages and it also confuses your judgment. ‘And the best part of it,’ he said to me, ‘is that you don’t know you’re going mental! Imagine the effects of this on a group of generals and leaders trying to run a war!”
A brief googling found no discussion of any relationship between Brucellosis and human behavior, but I’m going to run with it… since I’m probably infected and therefore my judgment is poor.
Now, dig this… from Wikipedia. “It is transmitted by ingesting infected food, direct contact with an infected animal, or inhalation of aerosols… also by consumption of unpasteurized milk products.” So I’m thinking less about some nefarious terrorists than the avenues via which Brucella may be making everybody even crazier than usual (or haven’t you noticed?).
For starters, we’re hearing ever more about the distribution of infected meat as the result of careless factory farming and I suspect that what we know is just the tip of the iceberg. Pink slime sounds like a Brucella factory to me. Regarding direct contact with animals… who has lots of direct contact with lots of animals? Ted Nugent… and the people in the heart of the heartland of America who voted for Rick Sanitarium. I rest my case. And who drinks lots of unpasteurized milk? The very sort of people who avoid factory farm-infected meat. Hah! We’ve hit all the major population centers. Operation Zombie Apocalypse complete!
As I was wistfully imagining the scenarios that are likely to occur as people become even more rage-filled and irrational (It seems to crop up lately on airplanes. Apparently, the Postal Service has been displaced as a major vector for Brucellosis.), I happened to go onto facebook where someone had posted a link to this summation of a Scientific American article from 2008 titled “Infected with Insanity: Could Microbes Cause Mental Illness?”
The culprit here is not Brucella but — among other things — the effect of prenatal influenza on children.
I imagine that the list goes on and that there are all sorts of invasive physiological factors that — in combination with species-wide genetic predispositions, bad memes, weird imprints and raging hormones make the possibility of ever having an actual “age of reason” about as likely as Donald Trump suddenly explaining Kierkegaard’s stage theory to Aubrey O’Day.
In conclusion, let me make it clear that — although this slight meditation is build on the flimsiest of substance — you can in no way trust your mental ability to judge it as anything less than the most important thing you will read today.