The world, your world, my world, our world, is standing on the brink of something. For me to try to describe what that something may be, even if I could – and yes, I can describe aspects of it to some degree – would be pointless and perhaps even misleading due to the inadequacy of expressive words (I will leave that to the politicians and gurus of the world, who foolishly think they have some better grasp of the situation than you or I). Many words, far too many words have and are already being said on that. Voices clamouring for our attention – as if we haven’t already enough to be thinking about. I don’t want to be adding to that clamour unnecessarily, which is mostly why I have not written anything over the past few days. Believe me I have tried, starting and then deleting pieces on various topics of current interest. All of them important issues – in context – but none of them actually addressing the real problems we face.
I began to think “Does any of this really matter?”. In the end, does it really matter? Concluding, even if all is lost, it does not even matter at all. Or to use the lines from perhaps the most successful of music group Linkin Park’s songs, ‘In The End’, from 2001…
I tried so hard and got so far
But in the end it doesn’t even matter
I had to fall to lose it all
But in the end it doesn’t even matter
That position does not come from a state of apathy, as it may appear to do, but from an objective appraisal – an external view, the Carl Sagan’s ‘A Pale Blue Dot’ perspective of our relative importance, taken from anywhere else in the star system (let alone from that of the galaxy or the universe).
Until we can, as a whole, see and accept that view, we will continually be looking for things to do and ways to act to somehow make it better. Well some of us can do that, whether it is to any useful purpose or not, while others will always be scheming how to profit from the situation. Others, perhaps a majority (in plain or willful ignorance) will just ‘party on’ as if nothing was happening. All of that activity totally ignoring the ever present reality that an end will undoubtedly arrive – at a time of its own choosing – to render it all moot and ourselves as history.
This ‘writer’s block’ or whatever you want to call it, occurs from time to time and, as is often the case, I revert for inspiration to my past work. It usually works and this time, following the theme of ‘in the end’, no less so.
The current title of this piece reflects and paraphrases a famous quote by one of humanity’s best known medical experts of the past – Louis Pasteur. I wrote an article on this blog, September 28, 2013, using as a title the words Pasteur is said to have spoken: “Messieurs, c’est les microbes qui auront le dernier mot.” Translated as – “Gentlemen, it is the microbes who will have the last word.” – a subject which, especially in recent times, I expect many of us have thought on with some concern.
This article, of which I repeat the introduction below (follow the links above or below to continue with the major part), has become the most read of any other on this blog, before or after it – a fact that I am at a loss to understand. My personal views may have changed (or relaxed) marginally since 2013 but not to the point where I want to retract anything said back then, proving (if only to myself) that there is something enduring about what I do. Which may be the kind of inspiration I need, to say more.
The Last Word
From the start of my involvement with blogging and social media I have built up a list of favourite quotations. Among them is the following from Louis Pasteur the microbiologist and discoverer of the role of microbes in the process of fermentation and who played a large role in the field of immunisation and vaccinology, among other things. He said: “It is the microbes that will have the last word.”.
Of course Pasteur didn’t actually say that. He was French so if he said something on that at all it would more likely have been the same as the title of my article: “Messieurs, c’est les microbes qui auront le dernier mot” (Gentlemen, it is the microbes who will have the last word.)”.
Pasteur’s view was quite prescient and may well be proven so within the foreseeable future and perhaps sooner than most of us would like to contemplate.
End Of An Era
Until I remembered Pasteur’s quote I was considering an alternative title for this post. It would have been: “The Era Of Antibiotics Is About To End”. This is a paraphrase of the title of an article I just read here [Edit Note: no longer available] at Get Holistic Health website. The article refers to a current report [Edit Note: now links to a 2019 updated version – which includes the original] from the premier US health agency the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is not the only source of such news of course, the subject quandry has been fairly openly broadcast even on mainstream news outlets.
What does this mean? Well, read the article, but basically it means that we have already lost the war against the microbes. Governments know that. Pharmaceutical corporations know that. In fact the pharmaceutical industry has all but ceased research for new antibiotic drugs, knowing that they can’t win. They can’t discover new and more effective remedies faster than the microbes can evolve to negate their effect.
Antibiotic remedies were first discovered a little more than eighty years ago by Alexander Fleming and only started to be introduced into medical practice not much more than seventy years ago. Antibiotics were never going to be a long term solution for infection control. Pasteur foresaw that. Can a discovery that has an effective lifetime of only 70-80 years be truly called a success? This is only a blip, an instant, a moment, in the timeline of human existence. In fact, introduced only a handful of years before I was born, the practice of using antibiotics may not outlast my own lifetime. They may have lasted a little longer but through overuse, misuse and abuse, their effectiveness has been ended earlier than may have been expected if utilised wisely and appropriately.
The Get Holistic Health article that I referenced previously, offers an alternative solution. Well they would do that wouldn’t they? That is their business, promoting holistic health.
It is common sense really. What did humanity do to fight off infection and disease for the thousands of years prior to the seventy year blip that is the antibiotic era? Well, they sought and found natural holistic remedies. Otherwise they simply died. Mostly they died. That is the same range of choices that will face humanity in the, hopefully, thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of years or maybe only tens of years that we can look forward to as a viable species on this planet. We will re-seek and re-find natural remedies for our ills, or we will die from them. Many will die.
Without the support of modern medicine that has only been made possible by the abundant resources of the only slightly longer blip in our history represented by the fossil fuel era ie. oil, coal and gas (which is also coming to an end very soon), life expectancy, human mortality, will start to return to pre-industrial era levels such as it always has been. We are living in a bubble and that bubble is about to burst. The problem is that most of us, in fact practically all of us, have not experienced life (well, what we currently refer to as life, and we have little or no memory of any other) outside of that bubble. Living in a bubble has its advantages but it is also virtually impossible to imagine with any real sense of perspective just what conditions are like outside of the bubble. We are about to find out.