Tonight, while enjoying a nice dinner, I got a call from the director of my son’s preschool. She was calling to tell me that they had made the decision to put my son in a different class because two children in the class he was supposed to be in have “opted out” of their vaccines. This may not sound like a big thing. He is still in the Tuesday-Thursday class, and since he doesn’t start school until next Tuesday, it’s not like he has to get readjusted to a whole new class. No harm, no foul. Actually, this is a big deal–a very big deal. You see, my son is immunocompromised. He has cancer. He was fully vaccinated and supporting the whole “herd immunity” thing before his cancer diagnosis, but that darn chemo wiped out his immunity to the communicable diseases against which he had already been vaccinated.
So, parents who choose to not vaccinate because you feel it’s the “right choice for your family”, I would like to thank you. Thank you for adding yet another worry to my plate and my husband’s plate. You see, we already worry about a lot–it’s an unfortunate part of your child having cancer–you worry every night. On top of worrying about things like relapse, organ toxicity brought on by chemo, debilitating late effects of chemo, secondary cancers brought on by chemo, the mental effects of having more than three years of painful treatment, we now get to worry about, of all things, measles. And mumps. And whooping cough. And chicken pox.
Let me explain something about having a child with cancer to you: everything is robbed from your child in some form or another. Friends, Halloween, Christmas, play dates, school. It’s all taken away at some point or another and in some form or another because we have to protect our children from germs, because if they catch the wrong germs during the worst part of treatment, they can die. My son was isolated from everyone except immediate family for an entire year. For parents whose children are going through chemo, the decision to send them to school is a momentous one. It requires a leap of faith and trust in the surrounding community, in your child’s teachers and administrators, and in the families sending their children to school. It requires herd immunity. Now, even though my son is now in a different class than your unvaccinated children, I get to worry about him using the communal bathroom, the playground, and even walking around the halls with them. If there is an outbreak of measles in, say, Austin this winter, I won’t know if you have relatives in Austin and went to go see those relatives for Uncle Bobby’s birthday. I won’t know if your child was exposed to measles at the Austin Chuck-E-Cheese and then showed up at school on Tuesday. Oh, I’m sure you’ll do your due diligence and call the school to inform everyone that your child has come down with a case of the measles once it appears, but, the damage is done–the exposure to my immunocompromised child has already happened. It’s too late. Your choice just earned him a ticket to the hospital. Your choice just earned him a lot of shots and more toxic drugs in the desperate effort to stave off whatever disease your unvaccinated child passed to him. If, God forbid, he does come down with that disease, your choice just earned him a trip to the Pediatric ICU for a while–days, maybe weeks. Your choice may cost us our son. Who knows–it depends on how his already stressed body handles everything.
People like to say that in choosing to not vaccinate, they are making the “best choice for their family”, and that, after all, their children are the ones at risk, not other people’s children. No, sorry, you’re wrong. Choosing to home school is a choice that is made in the best interest of a family–it impacts nobody but your family. Choosing to eat all organic and locally grown food is a choice that impacts nobody but your family. For that matter, choosing to eat nothing but fast food and frozen meals is a choice that impacts nobody but your family. Choosing to not vaccinate impacts my family and my immunocompromised son. It impacts the teacher who is pregnant and teaching your non-vaccinated child. It impacts the man going through chemo who happened to be behind you in the grocery store when your unvaccinated child sneezed. It impacts the mom next to you at the pick up line at school who is on immunosuppressive drugs for her rheumatoid arthritis and who is bending down to hug her child just as your unvaccinated child coughs. Your “choice” has repercussions for your community.
Part of the cost of living in a first world country is that you have to do things that support the community in which you live. You pay taxes to pay for the police that respond to your 911 calls, to pay for the teachers who teach your children, and to pay for roads to be plowed and paved. You obey traffic laws to ensure an orderly flow of traffic. You don’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater because to do so would cause pandemonium and chaos. Sometimes, to live in a place with the privileges we enjoy here in America, you suck it up and do things you don’t want to do because it’s for the communal good. If everyone chose otherwise, we would not be a first world country. We would be a country without laws, roads, and schools. We would be a country overrun with disease. Your responsibility to your community is to vaccinate your child. The number of people who actually, literally, physically can’t have vaccines is extraordinarily small. The number of people who choose to not vaccinate is not–it’s growing. These people cite a vague unease about the number of vaccines a child gets or statistics they learned from Internet memes on autism. They confess conspiracy theories about Big Pharma and how it’s all a ploy to get doctors and pharmacists rich. They share anecdotes of a college friend’s neighbor’s son who got so sick from his vaccine he was hospitalized. They say their child got incredibly sick from the one round of vaccines he or she got at his 2 month visit, and they said they’re not vaccinating anymore. Guess what–if your child is sitting here today, talking, walking, eating, laughing, playing, and learning, he or she wasn’t that ill from the vaccine. He or she got a fever and reacted to the vaccine–it doesn’t mean they had an “adverse” reaction.
I am horrified, non-vaxxers, that you are so quick to forget the lessons of history. You’re spoiled and selfish because you have never seen the horrors of a society in which vaccines are not available. Perhaps you should talk to my mother about her neighbor growing up–the one who contracted German measles while pregnant with her third child. That third child was born deaf and with brain damage, thanks to his mother catching that communicable–and now preventable–disease while pregnant. Perhaps you should talk to anyone over the age of 60 about what it was like when polio was around–how nobody was allowed to go swimming or use public drinking fountains for fear of catching that dreaded–and now preventable–disease. Perhaps you should talk to the parents of a child with cancer whose daughter spent a month in the Pediatric ICU during treatment because she caught chicken pox–a preventable disease–from an unvaccinated classmate. Perhaps you should take a trip to a third world country and explain to them why they should not be lining up in droves to get their children vaccinated by the Red Cross or other relief organizations. Perhaps, better yet, you should keep your children out of school.
I think the main issue with how progressives/leftists talk about “cultural appropriation” is that is used so goddamn lazily, and usually in an attempt to be woker than thou, instead of actually examining or explaining the issue at hand.
This makes it very easy for people (especially ones who aren’t familiar with online activism terms) to think that the takeaway message is “mixing cultures or doing something from another culture is Doubleplus Bad and Stealing Culture, the only way to preserve culture is to build a fence around it so it doesn’t get diluted and bastardized by contact with outsiders, so DON’T!!! TOUCH!!!” a message that is in fact pretty fucking close to what people like Richard Spencer want to push. (And people like him actually like this misuse of “cultural appropriation” because they see it as a reflection of their ideas about “racial consciousness” and that “culture = race/ethnicity”.)
The only way to really avoid this danger is to be specific about what the problem, and stop counting on the buzzwords to do all the work to show how woke you are. Just screeching “stealing culture!!!!” doesn’t do shit, and probably sends a very different message than you intend. You have to get off your ass and specify that the issue is things like “it’s wrong and harmful that POC/immigrants get stigmatized for their food, language, music, religious practices, hair/clothing styles, etc., while white people who do it are applauded for being cosmopolitan and cool,” or “large corporations making ripoffs of traditional art or craft styles can financially harm traditional artisans, which in turn can financially harm their families and communities,” or “misrepresenting symbols or practices from another culture can lead to misinformation that reinforces stigma against that group (or could even just be plain ol’ insulting to them if you don’t do your research on the topic),” or even stuff that should be common sense like “if you make or are inspired by another culture’s food/art/etc., it’s basic decency to give credit to where you got your inspiration.”
Creating functioning civilizations in your fiction
Let’s be frank: a lot of this section is likely to be left out of your novel. Why? Because the ins-and-outs of how a city or village functions on a very basic level isn’t really that enthralling. Here and there, a detail will peek through into your narrative, but whole chunks of these thoughts will be jotted down as notes and then left alone forever.
So why does it matter?
Like so many other aspects of worldbuilding, you–the writer–knowing every tiny detail will help you create a full, vibrant world on the page. You might not actually outline the history of your city’s sewage systems (ahem. we can’t all be Victor Hugo.) but if you’ve thought about these logistics and answered them even in a brief note to yourself, then the parts of your civilization that you do see on the page will feel consistent and real in an important way.
(There is also some inevitable overlap between these aspects and your culture, so some questions might lean in that direction. Let it be a jumping-off point for more contemplation as you create.)
If you’re not a freak of nature like me and don’t want to spend time making your world absurdly flawless and perfect, than feel free to skip this entry. (But, I mean, why are you even following this blog if that’s the case??) Onward!
Where did basic building materials come from, both currently and historically?
How uniform or varied are the buildings and houses of your civilization (both in style and material)?
How has the climate affected building style?
How culturally ingrained are the visuals (the cityscape) of the civilization?
How tight or spread-out are the buildings and homes in relation to one another? Is that because of culture or landscape necessity?
How has the city/town/village adapted to developing technologies and systems?
How accessible is water? How is it collected and distributed?
What foods are grown/bred locally? What is imported?
How is the harvest of food handled on a logistical level? How are its ethics and its importance viewed by society as a whole?
Where do people go to the bathroom? How is sewage disposed of or recycled?
Does everyday life produce trash, or are all things reusable or recyclable?
Does plastic exist? If so, how ubiquitous is it?
How is trash handled and disposed of?
What is/are the city’s primary energy source(s)?
Do the people pay taxes? How else might city funds be raised?
Do they have a money system?
Is it used only within their town, or across the country?
Is money balanced with bartering, or does one take precedent over the other?
How is value determined, especially in a barter system?
What is the money based on? (gold? Or some other precious metal? Or some other resource entirely?)
How willing are citizens to pay for non-necessities and how does that affect the local businesses?
How is construction handled? By large groups of people or small teams with big equipment? Or magic?
How are children educated? Who oversees it, if anyone?
How important is education to the people and how is that reflected in the system, facilities, and schedule?
What purpose does the downtown or “hub” area primarily serve?
Farmer’s Market or local market
When people get sick, what do they do? Do they have healthcare choices or do they only have the one doctor or single hospital where they have to do if they need help? How is healthcare paid for?
How are injured or dying people transported?
What kind of law enforcement does the city have? How much power do they possess? How are they viewed by citizens?
Is there some sort of fire department? Is it a city branch or is it volunteers? How are they prepared to fight fires?
What natural disasters are common and how is the town prepared for them? What happens when they occur?
What popular entertainment venues are there? How are they funded and run? What is their reputation?
What different entertainment options are there for the rich and the poor, or whatever class system your town has?
How are classes separated within the city?
If magic exists in your world, how is its use controlled or maintained within urban areas?
What kind of transportation do people use, in general? How is the town equipped to handle it?
If traffic jams can happen, how do people deal with them? What steps has the city taken to ensure smooth traffic flow?
What is it like when you first leave the city or village?
Distance to neighboring town?
Development of roads beyond the city (and who maintains them)?
What might be the first thing a newcomer to the city notices upon entering? Will she have an easy or difficult time navigating the place if she’s never been there before?