Frequently Asked Questions:
What is kuru?1
Don't you have to be a cannibal to get kuru?2
How common is kuru?3
How is kuru diagnosed?4
How can kuru be treated?5
How can kuru be prevented?6
What are public health agencies doing to prevent or control kuru?7
1. Oh, yes, another public health alert, tonight at five.... Personally, I'd rather engage in home trepanation (see "Mutilation, Home") than sit through another local evening news broadcast warning. But then again, maybe I don't have the average tolerance for vapid political statements and smarmy weather "forecasters."
2. Well, yes. But that's hardly the point, is it? (See "Rhetorical Questions, Gratuitous Use of.") Kuru is often contracted by eating one's young, just like global warming or trickle-down economics.
3. So common that, word has it, you can contract it just by drinking martinis in clever glasses. Seattle public health authorities assure me that this affliction is quickly becoming a citywide epidemic: Interesting light fixture purchases are at an all-time high, a sure indication of surging kuru infection.
4. Although kuru, like bari-bari and other threatened diseases of your childhood ("You'd better eat that orange or you'll get scurvy"), is often elusive, a few concrete symptoms are generally accepted. Victims are often wracked with guilt at the apparent tension between their expensive Nordstrom shoes and their staunch belief in wealth redistribution. They find themselves meeting for drinks after work for no real reason and then go home to ease under their down comforter and read about social injustice, perhaps in the works of Naomi Klein. Kuru victims particularly resent being called sellouts because they perceive themselves as genuinely working toward a sustainable global community despite the occasional purchase from Banana Republic. Hell, they marched against the WTO just like everyone else, right?
5. "Haven't you read any Foucault, man? I mean, treatment is just another word for oppression. Don't try to normalize me, because I'm just doing my own thing, forging my own path, trying to find my own way...." Metaphors of distance or wandering are very common among those infected with kuru, as their naturalized conformity cries out against its own constraints and they are forced to rationalize their own shameless complicity with such eminent institutions as the Gap and Chiquita.
6. [Insert the usual litany of self-help projects: exercise, hair removal, sushi, yoga, vegetarianism, etc.—Ed.]
7. Just about nothing; in fact, most public policy projects have promoted its spread: interest rate cuts, Christmas, the Mall of America. Get yourself some Tofutti and prop your feet up so you can relax in style while Rome burns.
Kate Shuster, Contrib.