Armageddon sick of all this doom and gloom

BY MICHAEL LAWS
Last updated 05:00 03/05/2009
Reuters
ALARM!: A thermographic imaging device at Narita Airport, Tokyo, checks the temperatures of arriving passengers.

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First it was herpes: God's rejoinder to the sexual revolution. A disease to sweep the world and preserve virgins everywhere.

OPINION: Then Aids: God's revenge upon the modern Sodom. And anyone who even vaguely associated with any Mardi Gras anywhere. Although somewhere between the San Franciscan bath-houses and deepest, darkest Africa, that imperative changed.

No, it was not Aids but the ebola virus was going to wipe humankind from the planet. If the killer asteroid didn't get here first.

No? OK, then surely Sars, or avian flu the latest pandemic panics to sweat the globe. The latter so all-encompassing that DHBs were planning to convert school gymnasiums into morgues, and imported enough Tamiflu to safeguard every duck as well.

And now swine flu this concoction of public health officials and hysterical news media, both looking to justify their drawing of a salary from someone else's pocket. Indeed, it is not simply hysterical rubbish. It is a fraud.

More people will have already died this past week of bog-standard influenza and its complications than any swine derivative. Ditto, in the United States, United Kingdom and even dear old New Zealand.

Indeed, you could make the claim for just about every other malady although none will garner the current hyperbolic claims that the end of the world is nigh.

Which is why New Zealanders are actually supremely indifferent to swine flu this morning and so we should be. We've seen this Chicken Little act before from health bureaucrats and lazy journos and it's never amounted to anything. Ever. Which is why we are indifferent and we are bored, and we have good reason to be.

Of course, new Health Minister Tony Ryall has enjoyed this opportunity to impress his conscientiousness upon the body politic. Crises like this are political manna from heaven: you're not to blame and you still get the headlines. It's the perfect political issue.

And the only negative thus far is that it took three extra days to get the key samples to Melbourne, but hey, no one died. And plenty of people are now quarantined and enjoying the opportunity to hone their Scrabble skills or surf internet porn. Hell of an excuse not to make work.

Even West Coast mayor Tony Kokshoorn was quarantined because he talked to a girl who danced with a man who had a brother who ate a pork rind. Once.

Although the Tamiflu invitation seems quixotically odd. If you think you might have symptoms and you need relief, then apparently you head for the chemist with a spare seventy bucks. Best if you travel on a bus, take a detour to McDonald's and glad-hand all your friends on the way. Not.

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And yet isn't that the flu? You infect half of humankind on your way to work, share your saliva, spittle and other bodily fluids and still don't go to jail. The only thing that makes this current strain slightly odd is that pigs can give it to you. Which has upset pork farmers everywhere because the last publicity they need is that bacon can kill you.

To make things worse, both Israel and its Islamic neighbours are so offended that swine flu is affecting their populations, that they've renamed it "Mexican flu". I kid you not: the shame of catching this virus from an unclean animal might actually mitigate against anyone seeking medical treatment. Egypt has slaughtered its entire pig population. Like they needed an excuse. And proving that all that sand does send you mad after all.

Although not as mad as the morally unctuous. The London Times decided that some moral instruction was necessary in the light of this latest minor health blip, and published articles condemning the process of battery farming pigs. And hens. And any other animal that should be breathing free and gamboling through arcadian meadows. Just before we eat it.

But the real problem here is the media crying not so much "Wolf!" as "Wolf, on P, and carrying a Glock!" Any sense of proportion was lost in the first nano-second of realisation that there might be something new and nasty on its way. I'm not aware of any new strain of an influenza virus that does not fit such a criteria: but this press push to panic is something else again.

It's like medical authorities trying to scare parents not to share beds with their children. Yes, some drunk, drugged insensate mums do roll over and asphyxiate their kids, but most of us don't. This natural bonding process between breast-feeding mum and infant is portrayed as akin to child abuse.

Which is why medical authorities and the media need to get a grip. Their insane and unnatural desire to always adopt the worst-case scenario is eroding our confidence in both them and their judgement. Mexico is a dirty, dirty country, like most of the Third World. The surprise is that more people don't die from such diseases (oh yes, that's right they do, and in their droves), not that their new flu strain has stepped up globally.

So far 84 people in Mexico have lost their lives to the identified H1N1 swine virus. Any Third World disease in any week would have the same effect in that over-populated and perishingly poor place.

That said, this pathetic panic might have one effect. To promote the old-fashioned but hygienic practice of hand-washing. Which would, if properly observed, reduce health woes everywhere. Grandma was right. And the pigs amongst us would be a lot less of a contagion.

m.laws@radiolive.co.nz

- Sunday Star Times

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