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Unfiled March 20, 2003
 
Prince of Parasites: the Guinea Worm
 
Page 2 of 2
 
The God of Pain must have chuckled himself sick when he finished designing this creature. There was no way for pre-20th-c. cultures to begin to guess where the infection started, let alone how to stop it. For a thousand human generations, the worms prospered while their hosts screamed in pain and horror.

Best of all, the Worm could reinfect a host every year -- because, though agonizingly painful, the parasite isn't usually fatal. It's exactly the sort of thing Schopenhauer's evil Creator-God would have relished: a perpetual pain-machine, completely self-sufficient, reseeding itself more and more widely every time another wretched African wife, slave or concubine limped to the stagnant village pond to draw water for her master. A beating awaits her when she arrives, because the pain of the swollen worm-hole makes it hard to walk and she takes longer than her master/husband considers acceptable. Besides, the worm protruding from her leg has made her repulsive to him, and the entire village attributes her misfortune to some unspecified misconduct.

But the Pain God is fair, in his Hellish manner: her pain will soon be shared by her Master and the rest of the clan, because the water she carries contains millions of water-fleas, each of which swarms with the larvae of the Worm. In a few minutes, the little parasites will be wriggling into her family's bellies, preparing to burst the skin and spew more horror on the world.

"God's plan"? Why, God's plan is obvious in this simple scene of African village life. God's plan is exactly as Schopenhauer described it: carefully-engineered pain machines, self-sustaining, spreading ever wider and deeper through the world. In this sense, the Guinea Worm doesn't "call God's plan into question"; the Worm is the very incarnation of God's plan.

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