Last updated: 23 December 1998
In capitalist society health is the capability to earn, among the Greeks
it was the capability to enjoy, and in the Middle Ages the capability to
[N]o entrance without any exit, no possible society without a spacious
We may finally risk the proposition that precisely because the doctor,
even at the individual sick-bed, has an almost crazy utopian plan latently
in view, he ostensibly avoids it. This definite plan, the final medical
wishful dream, is nothing less than the abolition of death.
[H]ealth is a wavering notion, if not directly in medical terms, then
in social terms. Health is by no means solely a medical notion, but predominantly
a societal one. Restoring to health again means in reality bringing the
sick man to that kind of health which is respectively acknowledged in each
respective society, and which was in fact first formed in that society
What is a health which merely makes people ripe to be damaged, abused,
and shot at again?
[H]ealth is something which should be enjoyed, not abused. A long painless
life to a ripe old age, culminating in a death replete with life, is still
outstanding, has constantly been planned. As if newborn: this is what the
outlines of a better world suggest as far as the body is concerned. But
people cannot walk upright if social life itself still lies crooked.
All in all, even without grotesque visions, every organic desire for
improvement remains up in the air if the social one is not acknowledged
and taken into account. Health is a social concept, exactly like the organic
existence in general of human beings, as human beings. Thus it can only
be meaningfully increased at all if life in which it stands is not itself
overcrowded with anxiety, deprivation and death.
So hardly any of the ills of the body are removed when it is seen in
isolation. That is why all improvers of our situation who merely concentrate
on health are so petit-bourgeois and odd, the raw fruit and vegetable brigade,
the passionate herbivores, or even those who practise special breathing
techniques. All this is a mockery compared with solid misery, compared
with diseases which are produced not by weak flesh but by powerful hunger,
not by faulty breathing but by dust, smoke, and lead. Of course there are
people who breathe correctly, who combine a pleasant self-assurance with
well-ventilated lungs and an upright torso which is flexible to a ripe
old age. But it remains a prerequisite that these people have money; which
is more beneficial for a stooped posture than the art of breathing.
As the sick man does not skip and leap around, his wishes do so all
A Cockaigne of healthiness is spread before us, without pain, with bounding
limbs and a stomach that is always merry.
Exercise of the body without the mind ultimately meant being cannonfodder,
and thugs beforehand.
So the sick man has the feeling not that he lacks something but that
he has too much of something. His discomfort, as something which is hanging
around him and superfluous, has to go; pain is proud flesh. He dreams of
the body which knows how to keep comfortably quiet again.
But the breeding society must first be bred itself, in order that the
new human nutritional value is not determined by the demands of the cannibals.
Only in his brain is man the most highly developed living organism,
not in other organic capabilities however.
If the exploited lives to which so many are returned were worth something,
and if a war did not make up in days for years of lost death, then doctors
could be half content with the course of the last hundred years.
The couch from which the sick man arises would only be perfect if he
was refreshed instead of merely patched up.
Copyright © by Eberhard Wenzel, 1997-2001