…when it was demanded of us that we should believe incompatible things simultaneously, for example that it was simply a disease like any other and that it was a disease of unprecedented importance and unique significance; that it could strike anybody but that certain group were martyrs to it; that it must be normalized and yet treated differently. For example, tests for it alone of all the thousands of ills that flesh was heir to had, by legal prescription, to be preceded by pre-test counseling. It was a bit like living under a small version of a communist dictatorship, in which the law of noncontradiction had been abrogated in favor of dialectics, under which all contradictions were compatible, but which contradictions had to be accepted was a matter of the official policy of the moment.
Human beings are funny. I remember a patient who insisted that her AIDS be treated as a disease like any other, but who also made sure we never forgot that she had contracted it voluntarily by deliberately injecting herself with the blood of a friend with AIDS. She was not suicidal, at least not in the sense that she wanted to die there and then, or anytime soon.
Rather, she had a Byronic notion of the disease, a romantic conception of it as a badge of superior sensibility, which is to say that those who suffered from it were in some way morally superior to those who did not, and thus were imbued with a moral authority that others did not share. And yet at the same time she demanded to be treated matter-of-factly. By demanding this difficult psychological feat of us, recognition and nonrecognition at the same time (a feat to which, by the way, we proved equal by the exercise of self-control), she was in effect exerting her power over us. It was all very pathetic, a consequence of her thirst for significance in a mass society.
I think he meant to write “Keatsian”?