Friday, June 6, 2014

Agape's TRINITY : dawning the Age of Antibiotics , October 16th 1940 , New York City

To female members of the media reading this blog : 

Another 16th day , July 16th 1945 , is considered the dawn of the Atomic Age , our new age of possible instant global death , and it is a day well marked by (male) historians and (male) journalists alike.

But who marked then - who will mark now (because its seventy fifth anniversary is next October 2015)  - of the dawning of a more hope-filled and life-saving age, our current Age of Antibiotics ---- if not you ?

On October 16th 1940, registration day for America's first ever peacetime draft , all media eyes (along with the eyes of a good many diplomats from Germany and Britain)  were on the 1a students of  New York's Columbia University.

After all , three thousand of Columbia's students had famously voted to never again to go to war - would they now register , to fight a new possible war ?

No eyes were on another part of the near-deserted Columbia campus (all classes were cancelled to ease the registration process) as a new class of medication was about to undergo its first critical (systemic/internal) test on an actual human patient.

Columbia's medical school dean knew of this crucial test but deliberately chose not to release a press release about it - so how could any media have reported upon it ?

But would they have anyway ?

Because as America girded up for a possible war, 1A young men and their medical conditions - war medicine - was the new priority.

Lowest of the lowest priorities - for news media and medical researchers alike - was 4F medicine - social medicine.

For that was the news that had greeted all of Columbia's medical researchers as they returned to work in the Fall of 1940.

Even lower still in priority were any pioneering efforts to help the 4Fs of the 4Fs.

People like the young men with weakened heart valve conditions likely to die at some point of invariably fatal subacute bacterial endocarditis , because they were judged unfit not just for military life but even for work in the crucial war industries.

This instrumentalist view of humanity : viewing the worth of your fellow human being by only what they can contribute to the war effort - was really done best by Hitler and Stalin.

But America was willing to give it the old school try - starting with the SBE sufferers.

However - and thankfully for all humanity - one Columbia medical professor, Dr Martin Henry Dawson , felt quite differently.

He began his own Manhattan Project - Agape penicillin - on that October morning.

A military hero of WWI,  he nevertheless felt that one of the best ways to combat Hitler was morally - by showing in practise how much we opposed the Nazis' instrumentalist view of humanity.

So on October 16th 1940, he felt America should show it cared at least as much about its unfit 4F youth as it did about their fit 1A companions.

A  Jew, Charles Aronson , firstly, and then a black man , Aaron Alston - in 1940 America they were practically 4F simply by ethnicity alone - were the two patients who got the first ever needles of penicillin-the-antibiotic that day.

Aaron eventually died but amazing, Charles survived : a hopeful start to the new Age of Antibiotics.

So on October 16th 2015, seventy years later, will the New York media mark the start of the American peacetime draft registration - still very much a part of American life ?

Or will the New York media mark the start of the Age of Antibiotics  , still very much part of everyone's life around the world ?

Or hopefully both - seeing how intimately the two events were intertwined,  way back in October 1940 .

But I doubt - if left to the men alone - it'll ever happen.

A 1999 Newsday-Newseum survey of 35,000 American men and women revealed a perhaps not so surprising difference of opinion as to the top news story of the 20th century.

The men thought it was the death-dealing Manhattan Project and its atomic bomb.

But the women thought it was the life-saving Manhattan Project and its wartime vision of cheap abundant penicillin for all humanity.

So women, particularly if you work in the media - its time to step up to the plate and make sure that , this time , the dawn of the Age of Antibiotics gets its due ...

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