Author: ob733

Fool’s Liquid Gold

“It’s the same with blood. Blood always replenishes itself. The more you take, the more it flows.”

“Dream of Ding Village”, Lianke
Blood Plasma

Yan Lianke’s Ding village is one driven by blood, the value of plasma and the promise of prosperity it provides. The HIV/AIDS crisis fueled by this fever for donation and compensation was a harsh learning lesson written into history, however the very demand created by the plasma economy that caused the outbreak is still pulsing.

A recent report analyzing the effects of the COVID-19 on the plasma fractionation economy estimated the current global value of the market to be 22.1 Billion (USD), and projected that by 2027 it would only grow to 31.9 Billion (USD). The plasma of blood, a mixture of water, proteins, antibodies, and other essential components is the liquid gold behind this industry and its continual expansion. For diseases like COVID, antibodies from recovering patients may even save the lives of others and people were actively encouraged to donate blood as the pandemic continues. Synthetic alternatives are still being developed but are unable to emulate the expansive array of functions and dynamic composition that make it life-saving. In such circumstances, what happens when a price tag is stuck on a blood bag?

Kathleen Mclaughlin’s journey as a blood smuggler caught between China and the US sheds a personal light into the consequences of this huge economy. She pinpoints an interesting parallel focusing on compensation for plasma ‘donation’:

“She gets about $300 a month for her plasma twice a week, a number determined by a formula that targets people just on the edge of getting by, where a few hundred dollars makes a major difference. The pay scale in China 23 years ago was calculated much the same way; enough to make life easier, not enough to earn your way out of selling blood.”

“My career as an international blood smuggler” McLaughlin, Gaurdian

This draws attention back to Lianke’s writing: “Rich or poor, it was their decision” (35). But this clearly wasn’t true and still isn’t. The systems designed to keep people reliant on donating are still persistent and when your livelihood depends on your ability to provide plasma, are you ever given the economic independence to ‘decide’?

Pharmaceutical Companies Are Luring Mexicans Across the U.S. Border to Donate Blood Plasma

The economies of health need to be understood better and regulated properly to ensure that the socioeconomic vulnerabilities and their security are driving factors in shaping policies, and not a means of exploitation. Whether it be the needles used for blood collection or the incentives of donation, each component in the process requires careful scrutiny and apprehension as the economy expands. The solution, then, lies in the mistakes and markets of the past.

Facing Death

A common theme that interconnects multiple readings, and perhaps becomes more apparent in Defoe’s work and matures in Pushkin’s “A Feast During the Plague” is the personification of death. We are introduced to different descriptions of mortality and the plague and more importantly, further understand characters, figures and viewpoints through how ‘it’ is described.

To bring you back to the feast table, as Louisa revives (line 112), she states:

I dreamed I saw

A hideous demon, black all over, with white eyes…

He called me to his wagon. Lying in it

Were the dead-and they were muttering

In some hideous, unknown language.

The details that Louisa highlights raise an interesting question about how we choose to visualize death and how that may vary between different cultures, religions and time periods. Particularly in art history, death plays a key thematic role and the Art History Project’s Curated portfolio takes you through different cultures and pieces of artwork guiding you through how the depictions and the perceptions have or haven’t changed.

Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” is perhaps one of my personal favorites, along with Hugo Simberg’s “Death Listens”. The contrast between life and death is more recognized in Klimt’s, but what surprises me about Simberg’s depiction is how patient and almost respectful death looks as he is listening to the boy playing the violin. Additionally, straying slightly away from art history and towards modern cinematography, one of my favorite scenes from the Harry Potter films captures death’s persona through an eerily interesting tale (spoiler alert).

It seems most curious then, that such a rich and vibrant track record of work has led us to the modern COVID era, where the killer is now the image of a spiked virus that has become ubiquitous all around the world.