Attitudes toward Health

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Southwest Virginia Project
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From: Source:Campbell, 1921:204

The rural Highlander is by no means indifferent to the many ills which are resultant upon his manner of living. Forced from early times, however, to face almost without help the grim certainty of suffering and death, he has come to assume toward them the only attitude which makes life endurable under such circumstances — a belief that they are ordained and therefore to be borne with what display of stoicism one may command. "Tears like hit's bound to go plumb through a family," said a mountain girl wistfully when approached as to treatment for tuberculosis, from which five of her brothers and sisters had died. In her mind there was no help for her.

There is, too, in the attitude of many, the natural conservatism and the suspicion of strangers and new methods which are characteristic of all isolated peoples. And when it happens, as it so often does, that modern theories of disease interfere with the absolute freedom of action so dear to the mountain heart, it is to be expected that they will be viewed with scepticism, if not with actual hostility.

Not long ago, during a health rally held within a few miles of one of the larger mountain cities, a young boy appeared well broken out with smallpox. When protests were addressed to the father, with the request that the child be taken where he could not spread the contagion, he became highly indignant and declared that the boy had been looking forward to this occasion for several weeks, and he did not aim now to have him disappointed. The incident recalled to the writer a campaign he led in his earlier years to have the stock law enforced in a mountain community where typhoid was epidemic. "Professor," returned a prominent citizen when appealed to on the materialistic score that hogs running loose in the streets were a menace to the growth of the town and to the success of the "college." "The hogs were here before the college. If you don't like them, move the college." The indifference to the rights and welfare of others manifested in the cases cited, while selfish like many other aspects of individualism, was not intentionally so. The mountaineer does not really believe that disease will be spread through such causes, and he does most thoroughly believe that no one has a right to interfere with his personal liberty. He has, moreover, certain time-honored remedies of his personal liberty. He has, moreover, certain time-honored remedies of his own.