Toxoplasmosis and free will in Jakarta

“Free will is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.”

If you live in Indonesia, you might wanna take a close look at the picture below:


Well that nice little parasite is called toxoplasmosis (*).

And guess what? He’s probably inside you right now. Cos Indonesia has one of the highest toxoplasmosis infection rates in the world. A frightening 70 percent of the population in Jakarta according to this Japanese study!!! (right click, save as)

Now you may think that this is no big deal. But how wrong you would be. Cos these little blighters are having a really big impact as a result of their “mind altering” properties!

Yep, as they bury their way deep into your psyche, they start to affect the way you think and behave:

"Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women.

"On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.

"In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens".


But this makes complete sense of course, answering a lot of those puzzling questions about expat behavior in the tropics. Including, of course, the remarkable transformation of even the most borish expats into insatiable feline chasing beasts.

Always on the prowl and more at home in some dimly lit bar with the prey close at hand rather than in front of the TV with the wife and kids.

So now we know why.

I always thought it was the “just Jakarta” argument, but, as it turns out, it really does seem to be a case of what they put in the water – or what they put in the food to be more accurate – as this is one of the most common ways to be infected with this parasite.

But from a philosophical point of view, this should come as some relief to most expats I think.

Cos at least we can claim that it wasn’t our fault that we behaved this way. “Free will” subjugated by a parasite.

No dear, of course I didn’t want to! The toxoplasmosis made me do it!
Yeah right!

(*) Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. The definitive hosts for the organism are domestic and feral cats, but birds, humans, and a variety of other animals can become infected by accidental ingestion of infectious oocysts. Members of the family Felidae release the oocysts with their excrement and after a period of days or weeks, depending on environmental factors, the oocysts become infectious agents and may remain so for up to a year. If within this time an individual comes in contact with the oocysts when changing cat litter or from gardening, or other contact with infected soil, then they can become infected if contact with the mouth occurs before hands are washed. Infection can also occur from eating unwashed fruits or vegetables that have been contaminated with the oocysts or by consuming undercooked meat or untreated water that has been infected.


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