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Sci Tech    H3'ed 6/5/11

The Pandemic Disease of the 21st Century Is on the Rise

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Today I have the grim task of sounding an alarm about the spread of an illness that is rapidly becoming the pandemic disease of the 21st century. It's always been around but was previously contained by strict societal control mechanisms. With those civilized controls swept aside it's spreading rapidly into every domain of modern life. Until recently it was an annoyance but not a major threat, since it was limited to a small group. But with the social confinement mechanisms disappearing the disease is out of control. Every day it gains momentum and extends its destructive force to an ever growing population.

Sadly, there is no cure. Traditional remedies have failed and no vaccine has emerged to stop it. What makes this disease so dangerous is that sufferers do not feel sick. On the contrary, they believe that their symptoms are actually signs of health and vitality. Many are even proud and self-righteous about their symptoms.

The name of this disease is posterior alimentary canal syndrome (PACS).The chief symptom is that sufferers have their heads so far up the posterior end of their alimentary canals that they are oblivious to the world outside themselves. From their limited perspective they forget that there is a world with other people. They are exclusively absorbed in their own views and needs. As you can see, from the location of their heads at the bottom of the alimentary canal, their view would be narrow.

PACS is related to the philosophy of solipsism -- the belief that only you exist and that you cannot know if anyone else exists. In the most extreme, intractable and incurable cases there is an additional symptom: Sufferers think they are smelling roses.

Alarmed at the rapid spread of the disease, epidemiologists have noted that PACS has just passed bullshit as the greatest pandemic threat to civilization. While bullshit is pervasive, it is often transparent, harmless and even playful, PACS is lethal -- it threatens to shatter the fundamental foundation of civilization.

Here are just a few example of PACS invasions:

Cell Phones. The proliferation of cell phones has enabled PACS to spread to swelling numbers of the world population. When cell phones first became popular it was possible to embarrass people for speaking at high volume in public about trivial and personal matters. Some people at airports and elsewhere would walk to a private area to continue their personal chatter if you gave them a "dirty look." That's gone. Almost everyone on cell phones uses public spaces as their private offices, speaking loudly about the most private matters. They thus display the chief symptom of PACS -- acting as if no one else exists. And now if you complain or chastise them they look at you as if you are crazy. This is strong evidence that PACS has taken deep root.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking . While social networking has many useful and positive applications, it has become a convenient platform for PACS infestations characterized by self-promotions and self-branding of personal trivia. Comedian and social commentator Bill Maher gives a graphic example of a typical PACS posting on Facebook that could just as well be a tweet or text message: "I'm taking a dump and eating a banana."

Financial services. They recommend -- you buy, they sell.

Unethical Companies . Few if any ethical companies are left. Businesses and corporations shamelessly use any tactics to part you and your money. You should be particularly wary of special offers that require giving credit card information. These orders are frequently PACS infected. You must read small print and misleading details carefully. Otherwise you will get repeated shipments of products that you don't want and that will be charged to your credit card. You will then have to navigate a Kafkaesque maze to extricate yourself from the infestation. That's why the minute you order something with a cancellation date, mark down the date carefully. Before you buy a product locate the contacts and telephone numbers for customer services, technical support, and other complaint departments -- you'll need them. Check them out before you buy to see if you can actually get through to these locations and if any humanoids are at the other end.

Paranoia . Suspicious, overly cautious and excessively cynical behavior may seem crazy. We used to call it paranoid behavior disorder, a form of psychopathology in which the person is frightened of the world and suspicious of everything and everyone. But the widespread affliction of posterior alimentary canal syndrome (PACS) has made paranoia the new benchmark for sanity and mental health. Trust is the new psychological disorder that needs to be treated and replaced with paranoia. Paranoia is one of the few confirmed defenses against PACS.

Bulletin :

An all-points alarm has just been issued. The pandemic is gaining traction even in sacred spaces. There are no safe havens left to hide from PACS attacks. Police recently ejected a woman from an Amtrak quiet car after 16 hours of non-stop talking on her cell phone -- a new record for a PACS symptom flare-up. Typical of PACS behavior, the woman complained that she was disrespected by the ejection. The other passengers cheered as she was removed by police. Reports of the incident echoed throughout cyberworld.

Could outrage over the growing PACS pandemic lead to violence? Law enforcement agencies worldwide are worried. They are calling for a "Manhattan Project" initiative to stop this pandemic.

Please report sightings of PACS, and the arenas in which you notice it invading, so that we can compile an accurate assessment and track its spread .

While there is no known cure for PACS, one avenue of attack might be useful to explore: Social control and social humiliation. I wonder what would happen if non-PACS infected people when spotting a PACS flareup, pointed a finger and shouted rapidly in unison: "PACS,PACS, PACS,PACS,PACS,PACS -- a PACS on you." It's worth a try until something more effective surfaces -- like waking up to civility.

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Bernard Starr, PhD, is author of The Crucifixion of Truth, a drama set in 16th century Italy and Spain. Starr is a psychologist, journalist, and professor emeritus at CUNY, Brooklyn College. At Brooklyn College Starr taught developmental (more...)

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