Sunday, November 26, 2006

Diplomat from Planet MCS

The Gideons have done well with bibles, but I would really like to have them turn their hand to distributing a video produced by Alison Johnson, chair of The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, entitled Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: How Chemical Exposures may be Affecting your Health. I saw it yesterday under the impression that it was a new release and thought it was destined to change public perception of MCS. I learned today that it's been out since 1998 and I realized how little anything relating to MCS has changed in at least the last eight years. Not a particle of blame for this stasis can be attached to Alison Johnson or filmmaker Richard Startzman. It can only be that too few people have seen their work. (More recent videos adddress Gulf War Syndrome and the health impacts of 9/11.)

There aren't many things in life with which I can't find some fault, but I'd be hard pressed to criticize one directorial decision in the MCS documentary. It draws the viewer into the lives of a broad spectrum of people with MCS, including professionals, laborers, children, and Gulf War vets. It would be a blind eye and a hard heart that could discount this collection of humanity as a bunch of psychosomatic whiners. I particularly felt for the mother of a 7-year-old as she recounted his long, heart-wrenching, and sometimes-terrifying suffering, her own feelings in check just below the surface as she spoke. I also can't forget a man who had been living in a tent for months, through all weather, seemingly without a dent in his good-natured disposition.

The filmmakers select the most serious, well-spoken doctors and academics to expound on the nature of the disease, its causes, prevalence, etc. No airtime is given to the quacks who cry quackery. The patients' accounts of their experience indirectly suggest the organized cruelty dealt out to those with MCS, along with quotations from medical reports used to deny them disability benefits, and a brief allusion by one doctor to powerful enemies. There is also a poignant moment in which the former owner of a home pesticide company, now himself sick, expresses remorse for dismissing the pleas of a distraught mother for her chemically-sensitive child's safety.

But there is nothing heavy-handed in this film. It gently points to the implications for everyone in the emergence and increasing prevalence of MCS, but it doesn't try to force any particular conclusion. Nor is there any defensiveness in its tone. A viewer naive to the subject wouldn't suspect that everyone involved in the project was shut out of public discourse or under attack in some way or other. It is the perfect vehicle for educating people to the extent they are open to learning. I wish I could give a DVD copy to my doctor, my neighbors, my employers, my landlord, my friends, the neighborhood library, my congresswoman, and my local PBS affiliate. Yes, I'd like a copy of it in every hotel room, or least have it available for free streaming over the web.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Hi Masked Avenger,
So glad to see you back posting.

I'm pretty pissed right now, just have to share something with you. Check out my most recent entry (Shocking Comments).