Friday, October 10, 2014

Is Ebola the Coming Plague?

I am not a trained physician, I do not work in the health profession, and I am not a student of biology.  So, what I am about to write may be a small pile of shit.  Nonetheless.

The “Black Death” (the second outbreak of the bubonic plague, ca. 1340 – 1400) took 1/5 to 1/3 of the population of the entire world at the time (some 75 to 200 million souls).  The 1918 flu pandemic took 20 to 100 million souls worldwide.  These figures compare frighteningly well against the casualties of our most horrific wars.

I first heard the word “ebola” in a movie called Outbreak that played in 1995, nearly twenty years ago.  It starred Dustin Hoffman, Renee Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Patrick Dempsey, Donald Sutherland and Kevin Spacey (with stars like these, Hollywood meant for it to succeed), and it scared the shit out of me.  But movie fear is not long lasting and I forgot about ebola until, like the rest of us, recently.

What do I know about ebola?  Not much.  That it is a virus.  That it spreads through physical contact, not through the air.  That it has no (certified) cure.  That it kills most everyone it touches (unless they respond to experimental medical treatment).  That it has great potential as a biological weapon that could scare the pants off anyone, any society.

And this is what I want to talk about: the fear factor of ebola.  It has been said: “never let a {good | serious} crisis go to waste.”  This was attributed to Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s first Chief of Staff.  Actually, the remark belonged to Milton Friedman and Winston Churchill before him.  It is not necessarily an evil idea (Emanuel’s quote continues: “And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”).  But it is filled with the opportunity for unlimited mischief.

So, I am not saying that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  No, it is quite reasonable to fear a possible ebola epidemic, but in proportion to its actual threat.  Most of us will not be in a position to do anything to help bring a halt to such an epidemic before it begins.  But we should not let the fear of ebola take over our lives.  We should learn what we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and then go back to living our normal lives.  If we go crazy, it is OUR fault for succumbing to an irrational fear, not the REAL threat of ebola, which so far has not made significant inroads into the United States.

But rather than fearful, we must be vigilant.  This being America – the land of opportunity especially for opportunistic types – there WILL be those who will take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the fear factor.  They will surely be candidates for elective office.  They may be pharmaceutical companies.  Those who want you to follow them, or honor them, by making you afraid of your own shadow -- should be condemned, not followed or praised.

A final aside: it is a natural American instinct to look to the President for leadership on this and any other “crisis.”  If He does not produce a cure – and most likely a cure will not be found so fast – “well, then damn him and his party.”  So, children, buckle up.  Because, if this is how you think and behave, you are still a child and you just don't know any better.  Even Presidents are not God; they are men (or women) like you and me, with very little X-Men mutant powers, and real limits to their Constitutional powers.

Addendum: Sunday 10/12/2014
C-SPAN, THE radio station I trust to deliver me facts, not interpretations or feelings.  Very disappointing!

C-SPAN just broadcast an interview where the lead interviewer was clearly out of control (breathless and whiny) from fear of catching ebola at any moment, while conducting an interview about the first case of it that originated in the USA, a nurse who cared for an ebola patient who died in Texas just last week.  Listening to someone who is scared is catching itself.  Just what this country needs: a population frightened to death by this "epidemic."  ONE person has died who was infected in West Africa, another is infected and presumably being treated.  Get a grip!  And if an interviewer cannot maintain her objectivity, C-SPAN should have known better than to have broadcast her frightened interview.

Is this an "only in America" thing?  Are we such a fearful people?  It reminds me of the thousands who took to the hills during Orson Welles' broadcast of H. G. Wells War of the Worlds on Halloween eve in 1938.  Scary.  WE are scary!

Addenda
Tuesday, 10/14/2014
Here is what I mean!

Saturday, 10/18/2014
And here!

Sunday, 10/19/2014
Here is what I mean!

Monday, 10/20/2014
Not like the epidemic is over, but there is this!