Sunday, July 10, 2011

"You're not gonna BELIEVE this shit"

I mentioned that I am reading a collection of stand-up gigs by deceased comedian Bill Hicks, some of which occasionally connect with issues I've raised on The Harvest before. In one New York City performance in 1990, Hicks imagines what will happen if AIDS is cured:

I don't know how much Aids scares y'all, but I got a theory: the day they come out with a cure for Aids, guaranteed one-shot, no-problem cure - on that day there's gonna be fucking in the streets, man. 'IT'S OVER! Who are you? Come here. What's your name? No, it's over! YEAH! WHOOOOOOHOO!' Man, there's gonna be news cameras on every corner. 'They're fucking everywhere! This is Dan Rather and you're not gonna believe this shit.'

It might seem ludicrous, but I wrote before about a possible role of modern medicine and sanitation in causing the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. Until the mid-20th century, such promiscous behaviour was dangerous, but the development of decent treatments decreased the health costs of promiscous sex:

Thornhill et al. (2009) noted that the predictions of the parasite-stress model are consistent with the marked increase in the liberalization of social values that began to occur in the West in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., civil rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, anti-authoritarianism, etc.). In the West, but not outside of it, infectious-disease prevalence was reduced dramatically a generation or two earlier as a result of widespread availability of antibiotics, child vaccination programs, food- and water-safety practices, increased sanitation and vector control...

The AIDS disaster in Africa seems to have reversed this development in some places, with people taking extra precautions and drifting towards monogamy to avoid disease.

So Hicks is broadly right! If they cure AIDS there could be another Sexual Revolution, albeit not necessarily played out by people 'fucking in the streets'!

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