Pathological Fear: Georgia’s Sickening Germophobia
Georgia is a country with a serious drug problem. I’m not talking about heroin or subutex or anything illegal, I’m talking about medicine. Every Georgian home contains enough pills to run a small pharmaceutical lab, and every major street in the country boasts at least three chemist shops.
But Georgians are not hypochondriacs, who constantly believe themselves to be ill. Rather, Georgians live in perpetual fear of disease, and the pills at home are like talismans warding off evil spirits. Georgia is a place where going out with wet hair is considered as dangerous as mainlining smallpox, and where a slight cold warrants a trip to hospital. In an ambulance.
Years after the rest of the world reaised that the only epidemic of Swine Flu was the epidemic of fear-mongering news stories, you can still see otherwise sensible people walking the streets of Tbilisi with disposable surgical masks (which are probably crawling with bacteria). There’s nothing wrong with taking precautions of course, but it’s these same masked men and women, whose fear of disease forces them to dress like Mexican bandits, who drive at breakneck speeds without seatbelts, smoke cigarettes like it was a competitive sport, and stroll out into oncoming traffic because they can’t be bothered to walk twenty metres to the next underpass.
In fact, for a nation perpetually stalked by the specter of illness, Georgians pay almost no attention to personal safety. Look at Rustaveli: city hall has erected massive iron railings, built concrete boxes for the trees and planted huge flowerbeds but still people clamber over this to walk out into the four lanes of fast moving and completely chaotic traffic. Even if they put up barbed wire, machine gun nests and placed anti-personnel mines, it’s a safe bet that the people of Tbilisi would still prefer to take their lives in their hands than use one of the four (count them) underpasses.
Speaking of city hall, they are repairing my roof. Right now there are ten men balancing on hundred-year-old beams four stories above the street. None of them is wearing a harness, and there is nothing to break their fall. Every day, rain or shine, they put their lives in danger—but I bet not one of them would ever dream of going outside with wet hair…
This article originally appeared in Tabula magazine
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