unwell: here’s health

A melody of maladies, a symphony of symptoms, a harmony of ailments, treatments, and cures, UNWELL is a diagnosis on disease past and present, complete with a prognosis for the health of humanity for the future.

Far from being a corollary for hypochondriacs, Mike McRae’s mine of information is a fascinating foray into the infections and infirmities that have plagued us, the forensics and pharmacologies that have aided us, and the success and failures of political will to end our ills.

Fevered and inflammatory, UNWELL charts charlatans and champions, quackery and cures, medical mavericks, snake oil charmers, grave robbers, the factual Frankensteins and genuine Jekylls, to show how society, religion and culture designate disease as much as science.

Whether it’s retooling via circumcision or nip and tucking for reshaping what nots, the future is a frontier where normal has no universal currency.

Eugenics is discredited euthanasia is eschewed, yet its ideals are hard to run from as advances in biology and medicine result in technologies and treatments promising an end to suffering.

For most of us, to think of hysteria and homosexuality as diseases is antiquated and ignorant, but gender bias and sex discrimination still exist in society.

Despite Sigmund Freud’s denial that homosexuality constituted a disease, the first edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, published in 1952 officially defined being gay a disease, a proclamation that rightly triggered opposition and outrage.

Only in 1986 were all references to homosexuality removed fro the DSM. Homosexuality’s shift from sin to disease to normality has been gradual, staggered and patchwork and remains incomplete.

In 2017, The Daily Telegraph included same sex attraction alongside obesity, drug use and mental health problems demonstrating that being gay is still thought of as an illness in many circles, and will be for some time to come.

In UNWELL, Mike McRae argues that the challenge for overall wellness is to know what we mean by disease and distinguish it from its moral underpinnings, free from ignorant assumption.

We need to question our reliance on fundamental assumptions about what it means for human biology to be broken and our fixation on fixes that are figments, inventing as much as discovering.

Neither panacea nor placebo, UNWELL is a healthy dose of enlightenment and entertainment, a cure for ignorance, and a plea for our future wellbeing.

UNWELL by Mike McRae is published by University of Queensland Press.