In the early days of human history, sanitation didn't exist. Some cultures changed that faster than others, but during the middle ages Europeans thought bathing made them sick (as opposed to the other way around) so used perfumes to hide the stench of their odoriferous bodies. (Just thinking about it makes me a bit nauseous.)
We, of course, thanks to various biologic sciences, know better. Clean is good. Cleaner is better. Sanitized is the best. Kill all those nasty little germs. Right?
Or have we gone too far?
Now, standing in my kitchen eating probiotic (i.e. bacteria laden) yogurt to jumpstart a system that too often stalls, seeing the anti-bacterial soap and dishwashing liquid on the sink, knowing my bottle of bleach and my disinfecting spray are close at hand, I have to wonder.
When I was a child (not quite the neolithic era, thank you), we spend most of each day outside. The tv, for those of us who had one, had a small, black & white picture and only three channels so, after Happy the Clown, Captain Kangaroo, and Gene London, out the door we went. We ate mud pies, swallowed earthworms, splashed in puddles, and got REALLY dirty (as in Mom turned the hose on us before letting us indoors.) And, for the most part, we were healthy.
Growing up, I only remember being ill three times: measles, mumps, and chickenpox. Flu, colds, a sick belly now and again, yeah, but my siblings and I didn't stay down long with any of them.
We always laughed that "God made dirt, and dirt don't hurt." I'm starting to think those words contain more than a grain of truth--along with the sand and gravel.
Today we hear more and more of a variety of illnesses preying on children. Asthma is rife. Some children live with daily doses of steroids. Allergies? Getting worse every day. Chronic diseases seem to shout from headlines followed closely by myriad genetic disorders.
Okay, the proliferation of media may, indeed, have something to do with our awareness, but the numbers don't lie; our children are getting sicker.
There are "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria, but the broad-spectrum antibiotics prescribed don't differentiate. In fact, they have gone a long way, in conjunction with people who don't follow directions, into the creation of our current crop of super-bugs.
Now you may ask, why this discourse on a science-fiction writing blog?
It's the whole "What if" thing.
What if a society, in the name of sanitation, succeeded in killing all bacteria?
In my head, there is a story taking shape around the premise, but I'll not contaminate your thought processes with mine.
If this "What if" intrigues you, grabs a corner of your mind, and you'd like to share your thoughts, I'd love to see them. Do you think we've gone too far?
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