Know the enemy
December 1, 2002 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Know your enemy. AIDS Pathology. The HIV Life Cycle. Images of HIV.
posted by wobh (29 comments total)
How can any of you worship a God that made that thing?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:13 AM on December 1, 2002

not to split hairs... but is it really an "enemy"? I don't want HIV, don't want anyone else to have to have it either... but the metaphor is a little extreme.
posted by cadastral at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2002

I know we saw one of these last year, but I thought I'd bring it back along with these others.
posted by wobh at 8:17 AM on December 1, 2002

enemy (n)
4. Something destructive or injurious in its effects: “Art hath an enemy called Ignorance” (Ben Jonson)
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:22 AM on December 1, 2002

cadastral, this isn't meant to be snide at all - I'm really interested to know why you think the metaphor is extreme, and (presumably) counterproductive. (kind of a hobby of mine, and others, I guess... with all the recent talk of Lakoff et al, we seem to be turning into Metaphiltor!)
posted by stonerose at 8:25 AM on December 1, 2002

Cadastral, it's not a metaphor. HIV isn't evil, it has no motivation or intention. But it is an enemy and it will remain one as long as its survival comes at our expense and is of no benefit to us.

Pretty Generic, as for worshipping a god that made it—why not? Ducking my head in the waters of unreason for a moment, a god that made such a tiny thing which can cause such great misery is surely one to be held in fear and awe. And HIV is only one of many, many more.
posted by wobh at 8:31 AM on December 1, 2002

wobh: Good point, but the masses of innocent babies and godfearing hetrosexual adults dying of the disease in sub-saharan Africa indicates that this God is pretty unconcerned about how much you worship Him. It would seem sensible therefore to regard Him with the natural reaction of hatred and revulsion.

Theoretically speaking, of course.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:41 AM on December 1, 2002

Pretty_Generic: You could choose to react that way (to either God or to HIV) but I hope you and others who read those links get something more out of them than hatred and revulsion.
posted by wobh at 9:05 AM on December 1, 2002

Correction: More than just hatred and revulsion.
posted by wobh at 9:06 AM on December 1, 2002

I got plenty out of your fine links.
I don't hate God, I don't believe he exists. I'm just unable to understand how so many people can praise Him after he creates these things.

And scrapie of course.

Plunge - We're meant to believe that God is like a person, since He created us in his image. In "The Silence of the Lambs", Hannibal Lecter paints lovely, beautiful, majestic pictures, but we don't praise him as a consequence of the other... stuff he does. God is no different.

Christ, that was a bad simile. True though.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:24 AM on December 1, 2002

Pondering the origins of scrapie does make a person rethink their beliefs in a greater being...
posted by Plunge at 9:29 AM on December 1, 2002

I'm glad you agree.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:34 AM on December 1, 2002

Metatalk: This is not supposed to be a theology debate.
posted by wobh at 9:36 AM on December 1, 2002

cadastral, i'm really interested to know why you think the metaphor is extreme

I'll go out on a limb and say that my estimation of an "enemy" has something to do with 'malicious intent.' A deer could crash through the windshield of your car and injure you, but the deer's not your 'enemy.'

I'm not sure exactly why, but it strikes me in the same way as high school teachers that "anthropomorphize" the lessons... ("The warm air molecule wants to get from the inflated balloon to the uninflated balloon..." [the air molecule doesn't "want" anything... and presenting it in this way is ultimately injurious to the lesson plan])

The HIV virus is just an organism that has evolved to exploit us, and does so more lethally than most. Should we try to treat/prevent it? Well, yes... absolutely. Should we think of it as an enemy, no... not productive. (that seems awfully Buddhist... not my intention, I assure you)
posted by cadastral at 10:14 AM on December 1, 2002

Plunge: Perhaps but not necessarily in the direction you might hope. But it is moot whether you believe it is probability or providence that brought us HIV. Here it is. This is how it works.

Cadastral: The deer analogy is false. The deer certainly did not "intend" for you to hit it with your car. Viruses are not organisms in the usual sense of the word either. They did evolve though, and this one evolved to lethally take advantage of us in a manner that has created considerable chaos medically and politically.

I happen to think it is foolish to blame it for all the mess we are reading about today. Surely we have paved its way. But it's not irrational at all to consider it an enemy.
posted by wobh at 10:30 AM on December 1, 2002

Know your enemy = Face your death.
".....and everyone owes a death."--Steve King
posted by JohnR at 11:07 AM on December 1, 2002

Rather than talking about whether it's rational/true to call it an enemy, why not consider whether it's useful to do so? War metaphors (war on drugs, war on poverty) are oft-used and abused, but maybe this kind of anthropomorphization is useful sometimes to mobilize productive emotions? On the other hand, perhaps calling the virus the enemy takes attention away from the human behavioral/political/economic factors that facilitate the spread of the disease. i.e., "virus as enemy" draws attention away from "unsafe sex-practitioners / greedy drug companies / certain religious fundamentalists -as enemy..."
posted by stonerose at 11:10 AM on December 1, 2002

From the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus FAQ
The primary mode of transmission is through bite wounds. Casual, nonaggressive contact among cats does not appear to be an efficient route of spreading FIV.
Can I become infected with FIV from an infected cat?

No, almost certainly not. Although FIV is structurally similar to HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) and causes a disease in cats similar to AIDS in humans, it is a highly species–specific agent and affects only felines.
posted by wobh at 11:13 AM on December 1, 2002

The deer analogy is false. The deer certainly did not "intend" for you to hit it with your car.

Exactly my point. (cadastral: my estimation of an "enemy" has something to do with 'malicious intent.')

If you can prove that the virus intends to do damage... then you have an enemy. If not, then it impedes productive discourse to label it as such.
posted by cadastral at 11:36 AM on December 1, 2002

Stonerose: a good point. That's also what several other threads today are about (or should be about). But here I'd like to talk about the virus as an enemy. If, reading the rest of the stories posted here today you conclude that the virus is actually only a minor figure in this whole drama, so be it.

Cadastral: it appears we have different definitions of enemy. Mine does not require intent to do damage.
posted by wobh at 11:57 AM on December 1, 2002

(crap!) Cadastral: does require a benefit at our expense which makes the deer an obstacle not an enemy and HIV and enemy and not an obstacle. (from now on I'm composing these in another editor and pasting them in).
posted by wobh at 12:02 PM on December 1, 2002

wobh: No hard feelings, and I'm enjoying our discourse. But if we were to extend the analogy a bit.

If we were to dilute 'enemy' to be anything that benefits from causing injury, then where does it stop? Evolution is very much a 'zero sum game,' each species' success comes at a cost to many others.

HIV has evolved to take a certain tack in its life cycle... restricted transmission vectors, period of disease morbidity where the virus is still transferrable. Ebola, for example, takes a different route, a 'scattershot' infection causing rapid (infectious) hemorrhaging and death. An Epstein-Barr virus, such as genital herpes might not kill us at all... it's found an evolutionary niche in the 'lifetime morbidity/periodic transferability' market. This is an over-long and meandering attempt to show (in a hopefully non-slippery slope way) that we could dilute our estimation of 'enemy' to include anything... termites... a cold... dutch elm disease, but it's just not productive.

One species succeeds to the detriment of another... it's a very western approach to make these things 'oppositional' or 'enemies'... but I'm just not buying it. I hope this doesn't sound flaky.
posted by cadastral at 12:47 PM on December 1, 2002

evolution is not a zero sum game. at the very beginnning, in the primordial gloop, there was much less variety than there is now.

any defintion of enemy based on intent excludes relationships between "lower" animals. is the cat the natural enemy of the robin only if it's conscious?!
posted by andrew cooke at 12:57 PM on December 1, 2002

evolution is not a zero sum game.

Most teleologists would disagree. Fundamentally, it is strikingly zero-sum.

any definition of enemy based on intent excludes relationships between "lower" animals. is the cat the natural enemy of the robin only if it's conscious?!

Yes... If I'm understanding you correctly. Though I'd replace "conscious" with "sentient" (in the "self aware" sense of "sentient"). I don't think 'natural enemy' is a particularly productive (or definable) term, either.
posted by cadastral at 1:10 PM on December 1, 2002

My last post today (it's been fun guys and gals, really). I gave a better definition of 'enemy' way up here. I grant that it's a subjective judgment but I maintain it's useful.

By phrasing it so with the links I used I was hoping to draw out some respect for the virus, because you can respect and even admire an enemy while still fighting him. What was the line from Ender's Game? Something like, "You're friends will lie to you, but your enemy will always tell you the truth." Which is stretching the word 'tell' quite a bit but that was the sentiment and one of the reactions I had.
posted by wobh at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2002

A good and thoughtful thread... I respect your take on the matter.
posted by cadastral at 1:33 PM on December 1, 2002

Creator - A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh. -Mencken
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:31 PM on December 1, 2002

Something good has come from the appearance of HIV. Vectors (gutted viruses used to deliver therapeutic genes into cells) based on HIV and other lentiviruses are among the most promising for use in gene therapy of a wide variety of diseases.
posted by shoos at 1:48 AM on December 2, 2002

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