Report from the Centers of Cultural Dysfunction (CCD)

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Investigator's Notes: CFS Sub-Culture

Hidden away deep in the heart of every town they survive. They have their own language though it is used almost exclusively only with their own kind. They have their own humor, but it is dark and difficult to comprehend or appreciate. They claim to be dull or dim-witted, but refuse to be ignored. They claim to be "seriously ill" but have a silly little name for their illness (like who among us hasn't been tired!). Their social behavior is limited; exercise seems to be a dirty word. Who are these people?

Let's look at where they come from. Most of these individuals were quite healthy at one time. They led "normal" lives. Then, for most of them, they quite suddenly became ill. Then, mysteriously, they just didn't get well again (that's the story that most of them stick to). The logical explanation is that they snapped emotionally and just decided not to continue with life as they knew it. Certainly some of them were happy, content and well-adjusted before the sudden illness, so it's difficult to see the logic of their decision. But what other reason could they have had? To suddenly opt for a life of leisure, no more work, no more responsibility. One could conclude that they just got lazy. Maybe the life they were living was too hard for them Regardless of reason, they snapped.

The label they have selected for themselves, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is seen as a half-hearted attempt to excuse this non-productive lifestyle. They seem to ban together and sit around (what else would they do) and talk to each other. They use foreign words, but a few have been defined. "Brain fog" is a condition of unclearness in the thought process (or more likely an excuse for not paying attention). "CFS time" is less clear but seems to refer to a timetable where no one meets any deadlines. "CFS gut" is an excuse for not actively doing something so it must be about being afraid or "gutless". The CFS group talks a type of medico-language. They get very excited about "treatment", but caution that it is not a cure, only treatment of symptoms. This medico gibberish goes on and on and is quite upsetting in that they seem to be practicing on one another. They also talk of plans to "take on the medical establishment", but, it seems to be a lip service. Gumption, follow-thru and ambition are definitely not part of their vocabulary.

Subversive Activities:
To their families and friends these people look ill. They don't participate in everyday activities. They rest. The interesting thing is that they don't just fade away. They are not content to sit home. They insist on using the medicos of our society to try to excuse their behavior. They want an "illness" that suits them. They roam from office to clinic taking time and attention from the rest of society. So, beyond their laziness, we do observe some selfish, attention-getting behavior.
Besides their desire to draw medical attention to themselves, some of the more brazen dare to call themselves disabled and actually trick the government into paying them to live in this manner. They have come up with an entire laundry list of "symptoms" to go along with this lazy behavior, none of which can be measured. Amazingly, these people actually spend time in bed and at home "being sick". They don't leave the house, they don't cook a meal, some actually ask for assistance to get to the bathroom. They take the art of malingering to a new level.

As with other sub-cultures, this CFS group is intent on getting others to join them. They talk often about reaching other CFS patients and helping them. More and more CFSers seem to be coming forward and openly admitting their allegiance with this group. The ramifications for society as a whole are unclear. True, these CFS people are costing us millions, but until they come up with a better incentive, membership should level off. Some do rejoin society after a time, but most are CFSers for years and years.

It is very difficult to see why anyone would choose this lifestyle. The payback is not obvious. This group has pulled away from our society and our values and now expects to be recognized and even helped. This insidious group would be dangerous if they weren't so powerless and self-destructive. Some of the CFS group seem to be actually suffering and in pain. Some have lost homes and families and rewarding careers. It is remarkable that they continue to affiliate with CFS. Research may be necessary to fully understand the CFS phenomenon.