Five billion are killed by a virus. Sound familiar? Think the reaction to swine flu. The 1995 science fiction film starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt called 12 MONKEYS identifies a terror group implicated in this plot. This was a red herring (diverted attention).
Willis failed in his return from the future and doomsday was not prevented. It occurred to me that our current imagined pandemic might well be the modern day equivalent. Again, we are focused on the wrong target. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned.
As a starter, let us review where we are on this subject. RJ Eskow provided in HuffPo an excellent summary, entitled, The Meaning of Swine Flu, the Universe, and Everything. If you read through the comments and trace some of the references, you can take a comedic pathway leading to Jeff Horwich's Don't Cough on Me Alejandro (sung to Don't Cry for me Argentina), a satire found in Face Book. Also, too, you just can't skip another HuffPo posting, this one in the Comedy section, by Juliet Jeske, on Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's Guide to the Swine Flu. You will then be trapped into yet another Comedy HuffPo, this one by Will Menaker, on CongressBorat Bachmann, from Minnesota, always in the top ten among states in educational achievement and well being (health). Yet, funny, but they produce a Governor Jesse Ventura and can't extricate themselves from the continuing farce with Al Franken, known as their senatorial race. But I digress.
You might think that I am making a joke of the swine flu, for my April 24 posting was entitled, Benefits of the Swine Flu Scare, followed on May 5 with Cinco de Mayo and the Swine Flu. But no, my message is deeper, for these seeds of hysteria provide clues about our future. You can wonder about how we got ourselves into this dilemmic mode: on the one hand, we have something that will almost never happen (a serious swine flu epidemic), while on the other, there is death, worried mothers and panic.
Let's first look at the reality. You can go to my Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity (see box on the right) or Planet Earth and Humanity, where hard numbers are provided. To summarize:
1. The regular flu kills one in a thousand, while the swine flu seems closer to one in a hundred. That previous avian flu of a decade ago has a 60% mortality rate, but it is not all that contagious. The fear is that the swine flu will morph into a more dangerous form. The potential of this happening is very low, and, in any case, it is appearing that all 50 or so variations might turn out to be treatable with one vaccine. So, certainly, continue the vigilance and spend my tax dollars to develop a common vaccine, but don't close down countries and schools, and, by the way, tourists can safely return to Mexico and Hawaii.
2. The numbers are embarrassingly obvious. Since the so-called epidemic was announced only a little more than a month ago, we have had about 500 cases and 3 deaths a day. I wouldn't want to be one of those statistics, but consider that a million people daily contract some form of flu and at least a thousand die, every day, usually from complications (heart, pneumonia, etc.). This terrifying swine flu is thus hardly detectable noise. I might further add that traffic fatalities number 3000/day, but we drive on.
Why, then, has the world, epitomized by the World Health Organization (which can best be appreciated if you know the internal workings of the United Nations), gone bonkers over the swine flu? I would like to speculate on the reason. I think it has to do with our political way of life influenced by the world wide web (WWW), as sensitized by the terroristic act of September 11, 2001. Add the palpable need to cover your rear.
First came airport security. From all reports, the vast funds allocated and the time we waste have not made us any safer. Yet, the great majority of the public likes it. Of course this is symptomatic of our world today where most believe in the afterlife but have doubts about evolution and global warming.
In particular, the masses are supersensitized to any threat. So when you mix in the World Wide Media (WWM) and WWW, the reaction can be instantaneous and overwhelming. I early recognized the power of this medium, so thought that the Huffington Post would be an ideal vehicle to share my thoughts, for the instant feedback feature of these virtual portals, in my mind, would provide power to the people, replacing protest marches. Clearly, I have not learned how to galvanize action because my 52 HuffPostings have influenced few, if any. Part of this failure I ascribe to the fact that I tend to focus on Peak Oil, Global Warming and related topics. There is no threat of early death in my articles.
Swine flu, though, conjures dark images of your mortality. The communications industry, like CNN, saturates air time on such issues because they know people will watch. The WWW picks it up and decision-makers are hopelessly influenced. The cascading circle of information gains a life of its own. The truth is that the truly dangerous virus is not the swine flu, but the medium itself. The pandemic is this resultant overreaction.
My simple solution is to jump on the bandwagon and complete THE VENUS SYNDROME: The Novel. (In the box on the right, click on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, and go to the Free Preview.) Taking a cue from this posting, if compelling logic does not work for global warming, perhaps fear might.