31 July 2008

Diagnostic purity around the Aral Sea

“There were no manic depressives in Moynaq (a coastal city on the Aral Sea before it started receding). No cutters. No self-made anorexics. No ADD. No anxiety disorders. No Prozac or Lithium. No twelve-step programs. No sex addicts. No learning disorders. Dysfunction saw far fewer special-interest fragmentations, and biblically old dramas like wife-beating and alcoholism and child abuse were its clearest manifestations. This is not to say the above-mentioned disorders, all of which make metastatic the American specialties of leisure and pleasure, did not exist in Monyaq. Only that no one would have thought to diagnose them. It was as though Monyaq’s population existed in order to prove how much hunger degradation, and disease a human body could stand without parting with its last glint of life. Misery had its own diagnostic purity around the Aral Sea.”
--Tim Bissell, Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia (2003)