There has been a good deal of puzzlement expressed on Television about the widespread anti-vaccination sentiment on the political right. I have a theory about it, but inasmuch as I have never actually had a conversation with someone who so much as voiced doubts about the procedure, my theory is purely speculative. Indeed, if you were inclined to snark, you might say it is philosophical.
I begin, as I so often do, with the wise saying by Freud that in an analysis, if there is any topic that the patient finds it unacceptable to discuss, sooner or later the entire analysis comes to be about that topic. [I have been unsuccessful in my search for the text, and when I Googled it, I came up with my own blog!!]
In America today, it is no longer forbidden to talk about previously unmentionable parts of the body, or about previously unmentionable sex acts, or about the excretory functions of the human body, or about religion, or about money in politics [although you are not supposed to name names], or even about inequality of wealth and income. But it is absolutely unacceptable to talk about class. Not surprisingly, therefore, most of the public discourse is covertly about class.
In the United States, there are sharp differences in taste, behavior, and life chances that everyone knows about and immediately recognizes, but which no one is willing to label as distinctions of class. All of us are aware of these differences -- in tastes in drinks, food, restaurants, amusements, and television shows, in clothing and makeup, differences in speech patterns, in relations between men and women. We are also aware individually, but less so collectively, of the sharp differences in life chances facing different segments of the society. As I have often observed, two-thirds of the adult population in America do not have college degrees. This large majority of Americans cannot aspire to be doctors or lawyers or college professors, or corporate management trainees, or high school teachers, or FBI agents, or elementary school teachers, or Walmart store managers.
The vast majority of these folks are, and aware that they are, lower class, looked down on subtly or not so subtly by television commentators and other opinion makers. They are also more or less excluded from the benefits of such economic growth as has taken place in America in the last several decades. Not surprisingly, they are resentful and angry, and their resentment and anger is focused more on the insults of class than on the raw numbers of wage stagnation and real income loss.
I am convinced that the rejection of vaccination is one more instance of this anger against class disadvantage. It goes along with the widespread belief that White people are under assault, that religion is under assault, that traditional values are under assault, and that the people who are doing the assailing are the same snooty, stuck-up, college graduate know-it-alls who laugh at people who doubt global warming and believe the biblical stories of creation.
There is really no point trying to counteract this rejection of medical science with facts or arguments, because although the rejectionists may not be Ivy League graduates, they are not stupid, and about the fundamental question, "Am I being disrespected?," they are in fact right.
So what on earth is up with the upscale college educated New Age vaccination rejectionists, who do not fit this profile at all? I am not entirely sure, so I shall leave that for another day.