That Which Does Not Kill Me…

One little germ, it might be said,
Leaves some folks stronger, some folks dead,
Some folks crippled, some with scabs…

It might be best to get your jabs.

This was a comment on a previous thread, but I want to talk about it a bit.

“That which does not kill me makes me stronger” I don’t know if the anti-vax people would embrace this if they knew it was written by Friedrich Nietzsche, but I’ve seen variations of this here, there, and everywhere attempting to make a case for gaining immunity the old-fashioned way… by actually coming down with the disease you want immunity from. Silly me, I thought the whole point of immunity was to *avoid* coming down with something. Now that I know it makes me stronger…

And it’s not just Nietzsche (a name which I cannot type in less than a full minute) here–Adler, in psychoanalysis, claiming that overcoming adversity (he was the source of the “inferiority complex”) is what makes us strong, helped to prop up a mythology of “if I throw someone a life buoy, they’ll never learn to swim on their own!” Lawmakers who don’t want to help the poor can claim it’s for their own good; health insurance can be labeled as “facilitating” or “handouts”. And vaccines are taking the easy way out–not natural, not heroic. When we had polio, we had people like FDR who were able to rise above it! (thought experiment–can you imagine how much more he might have accomplished if he didn’t have the constant daily struggles?)

Getting your antibodies the old-fashioned way does not make you any stronger than getting them via a vaccination, except in the “when I was a kid, we had to walk uphill to school and back in 3 feet of snow and rabid ferrets” sort of mythological way. The way generations who suffered were happy to try to relieve their descendants of (mostly). That getting your immunity the old-fashioned way could possibly have killed you does not make it better, or heroic, or any of that shit.

If you honestly believe that overcoming needless adversity (there is plenty of real adversity to overcome) makes us stronger, then take that perfect little infant child of yours, count the perfect toes… and then crush one foot in your hand. The bones are tiny; your hand is plenty strong enough. It won’t kill the kid, but it will give them a needless adversity to overcome. And if that seems horrible… shut the fuck up and get your kid vaccinated.

(I hesitate to add–yes, of course there are some who cannot be vaccinated. This rant clearly does not apply to them, and clearly applies to others all the more, because of them.)


  1. kevinalexander says

    I drove past a high school the other day with ‘Home of the Spartans’ on the sign out front.
    The Spartans tried the Spartan method 2500 years ago and it killed them. No ones’s tried it since. So why does this idiotic trope persist?

  2. Erick Girouard says

    I wise(arse) guy I know well had a different take on that, and it really fits here.
    “That which does not kill you, just frigs you up for a real long time and you’re never quite the same again.”

  3. L.Long says

    I find the quote to be wrong!
    Demotivational has it right….
    That which does not kill you, tries a lot harder next time!

  4. Pliny the in Between says

    If my history is correct, native Hawaiian populations were all but wiped out by ‘no big deal’ diseases like measles because those populations had no natural immunity. They had no natural immunity because, unlike the Europeans who spread the diseases, they hadn’t lost large segments of their populations repeatedly over time to epidemics. Vaccination is a much better way to develop population immunity than differential survival over time.

  5. Cuttlefish says

    Making someone (or, perhaps, someone else) stronger via natural selection is a horrible way to do it.

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