Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Astrology of the "Anti-Vaxxer" Movement

As an astrologer, I am very accustomed to be considered a non-scientific flake along the lines of readers of tea leaves, 900-number psychics, UFO cultists, and Creationists who believe in Intelligent Design. When I was a youngin in my twenties, flush with the enthusiasm of How Astrology Really Works, I spent a lot of energy trying to persuade skeptics that there was Really Something to This, that it went Way Beyond Nationally Syndicated Horoscope Columns, et cetera. Now, in early middle age, with a limited amount of energy at my disposal, I content myself with preaching to the converted. To those who refuse to let me do their charts, I sometimes mention a late twentieth-century French statistician named Michel Gauquelin who tried to disprove astrology but in the process wound up proving its validity, and published his findings. I can speak of Gauquelin in one breath, a reasonable amount of time to waste considering that most skeptics would never bother to read him or even Google him. (After all, the man was French, and therefore probably pro-butter and God knows what else.)

I do not have children of my own, but if I did, I would 1.) have them vaccinated per their pediatrician's recommendations and 2.) be incredibly worried that due to the narcissistic, non-scientific, borderline-child-abuse whims of a subset of affluent, so-called highly educated parents, my little darlings would be at much higher risk throughout their lives for contracting measles, polio, and various other diseases that were until recently eradicated, due to loss of "herd immunity" (that ensures the 5% percentage of individuals for whom vaccines do not "take" will be protected due to the immunity of 95% of everyone else). And in case you don't know what can happen when a woman contracts measles during pregnancy, let me assure you that it is not pretty. And how about traveling to distant (and not-so-distant) lands even beyond the Magic Kingdom without proper inoculation?

In the age of the Internet, people acquire "facts" via all sorts of sources: some highly rigorous and scientific, others not. Celebrities and charismatic charlatans often come off more humane and believable than nerds in white coats whose idea of a good time involves isotopes and leptons. Therefore, a long-since-debunked article by a long-since-discredited doctor not worthy of mentioning by name, a highly un-scientific study that linked vaccines to the increase of autism, matters not to the legions of "anti-vaxxers" who would apparently rather see their children, or their children's classmates, fall ill and possibly die or be scarred for life by contracting measles, polio, and so on. Anything to avoid autism! Their motto seems to be: "Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up."

Babies being born at the time of this writing (indeed, since 2012) all have the Uranus-Pluto square in their natal charts. I am sorry to make this prediction, but given the current climate, a certain number of these babies and toddlers will wind up dying or being left deaf, brain damaged, or crippled from their New Age parents' refusal to protect them against diseases that had taken so many lives and ruined countless others prior to the 1960s. Perhaps this is part of what lies behind the saying "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it": parents of my generation (post-Uranus-Pluto conjunction, i.e., born post-1966) do not remember seeing kids our age in iron lungs or buried in little coffins. We were all inoculated, with the possible exception of those who were raised in hippie communes. Many of our parents of the late silent and early baby boom generation were also inoculated against polio et al. as soon as these vaccinations became obtainable. Apparently, in a country like Mexico, most children are vaccinated -- yet are less likely than U.S. children to land on the autism spectrum.

I was shocked to learn that children without medical conditions like cancer were allowed to enter public school sans vaccinations. Perhaps the "politically correct" movement has gone too far -- you can't send little Sophie to school with a PB&J sandwich just in case her classmate who is fatally allergic to peanuts decided to take a bite, and you can't give little Taylor 30 cupcakes to share with his classmates to celebrate his birthday because cupcakes contain such evil toxins as sugar, chocolate, and flour, yet it is perfectly okay not to send your Precious Snowflakes to school unvaccinated. Why? Because some grade-B actor said so on a segment of Celebrities Without Cerebellums Sound Off. It is time for doctors throughout the U.S. to take a stand on vaccinations and say that yes, in this case, they do know better; that the uninformed opinion of nutjob parents is not, in fact, factually valid.

I wanted to bitch-slap the woman I read about the other day in a New York Times article who refused to let her sixteen-year-old daughter receive a rubella vaccination even if it meant her missing a semester of AP-level classes, and do worse damage to the mother who refused to take her young son for a tetanus shot after he cut himself on a metal fence because according to her, he had such a strong immune system (and she knows this how, exactly...?) and she didn't want to expose his body to unnecessary toxins (even though vaccines are not toxic). If you let your ten-year-old child walk home from school or ride a bike by himself, you may have to deal with a visit from Child Protective Services, but if you let your ten-year-old child heal himself from a cut on a metal fence, that's okay because it's "organic." Never mind that plenty of people died from tetanus and so on for decades before the U.S. government sanctioned the spraying of carcinogenic pesticides on apple crops.

In the same way I was embarrassed to learn that I shared the same sun sign as Bush the Younger and the same moon sign as Mitt Romney, I am embarrassed that a particular subset of my generation (which used to be called "X" but now seems to be called nothing at all) cannot seem to marry education and affluence with reason. Way-ass back in time, baby boomers accused my generation of being apathetic morons. We simply didn't care the way they did in the '60s. To which we replied, "Yeah, whatever." I remember at that time, as a know-it-all, overprivileged grad student dropout, thinking that if only my generation was collectively getting the same "starter" opportunities as our parents sans the ridiculous debt, recession, outsourcing, and wage freeze combined with escalating cost of living that ensured that only the strongest, best-connected, and luckiest of us would survive (if you were just average, too bad for you), we would face life approximating a fair fight. Now, to my mortification, it is the best and brightest of us -- and mostly "liberal" to boot -- who embrace anti-scientific anti-intellectualism when it comes to vaccinating one's kids. No better than the pro-gun nuts who will keep voting Republican, against their own best interests, until their homeless status renders them ineligible to vote.

Autism may very well be on the rise, but there are possibilities other than vaccines to consider: more diagnoses, for starters (whereas in prior generations a child might be labeled retarded or simply "difficult"). Environmental conditions. (We wrecked the weather, after all.) Addiction to electronic devices at a tender age. The increasing age of parents bearing children. The increasing surveillance children are under: forget "helicopter parents," we are now in an era in which chidren appear to need to be bubble-wrapped in order to make it through their day. There is little or no freedom, experimentation, recess, fun, art, daydreaming, or boo-boos allowed -- but plenty of pressure to succeed right out of the gate. To fail at anything is not an option. To be bored is not an option. It is the inalienable right of every child to be continously entertained, preferably at great expense, and also be given the message that they are the center of the universe. This may not be a recipe for autism, but neither is this rigid, smothering, consumer-oriented attitude a recipe for optimal mental health. And I hate to say it, but my Pluto-in-Virgo and slightly younger Pluto-in-Libra contemporaries are to blame for this attitude. Despite the inarguable, scientific proof that U.S. children are much less likely these days to be abducted, molested, or killed than in the 1970s and '80s, today's generation of parents have a different perception, refusing point-blank to allow their children anywhere near the same amount of collective freedom (which admittedly shaded into wholesale neglect at times) that they had (and mostly survived). Except, of course, freedom from inoculation.

The final Uranus-Pluto square of this era is fast approaching (March 17), which could indicate a health epidemic as well as more global violence and brutality. Yet I fear that it will not be until the Saturn-Neptune square of 2016, with Saturn in Sagittarius (international law) and Neptune in Pisces (mass infection), which will create the awareness necessary for mass vaccinations -- due to avoidable tragedy.

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