Friday, May 01, 2009

Rockets, moon shots / Spend it on the have nots

Oh look, a pandemic is breaking out..well maybe not a pandemic but the beginnings of a flood of common sense.

The British are leading the way. There was of course Simon Jenkin’s piece in the Guardian two days ago, much derided by some, but now reading as somewhat considered and rather more sensible than much of the doom laden drivel the mass media has foisted upon us in recent days.

And yesterday, in the same paper Dr. John Crippen (a pseudonym we are told) opined:

We met at lunchtime, not to talk of heart attacks and Lego, but of flu. There have been deaths in Mexico. There has been one in the US. Our Indian partner said: "There were 2,000 deaths, mainly children in Africa and Asia, yesterday."

Our medical student looked shocked: "I didn't know swine flu had reached that part of the world." "It hasn't," said our partner. "I'm talking of deaths from malaria. But that isn't news, is it?"

We were silent for a while. Time to get things in proportion.

Ah, yes, exactly.

And in the same paper, and even more precisely, Simon Tisdall has written:

Confirmation that Switzerland had suffered its first case of swine flu is big news today. According to the Swiss federal health department, a young man recently returned from Mexico exhibited symptoms of the virus. He is now tucked up in bed in Baden, north of Zurich, where it is hoped he will make a full recovery.

Not considered quite so newsworthy by perspiring international media infected by a global sneezing fit was the latest extreme violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Human Rights Watch, 35 civilians were killed, 91 women and girls raped, and hundreds of homes burned down in fresh reprisal attacks by Rwandan Hutu militias in North Kivu.

But, we are told by the concerned, the WHO have tagged this as a stage five pandemic. Is that the same WHO whose Dr David Nabarro, in 2005, when discussing the impending bird flu pandemic, said:

The range of deaths could be anything between 5m and 150m

Which the WHO later downgraded to

between two million and 7.4 million

Let’s be real, the WHO reacts to governments, governments react to mass pressure, which reacts to the media. And around it goes.

There seems to be a quiet step back from the governmental extremism of the past week with the EU Health Commissioner quietly suggesting a more considered response might be in order, and the frenzy of the past week slipping back a page or two in the papers.

But there is a much uglier side to all this as both Tisdall and Crippen say. And that’s the largely western media’s screams of panic when any hint of a threat to our happy civilized world raises its head. Forget the deaths of up to 200,000 children a year from waterborne disease in South Asia, with at least 100,000 babies a year dying in Indonesia alone. Or the Malaria, or the Cholera, or the AIDS or the Dengue (50-100 million cases a years and 22,000 didn’t know that?) or 100 other diseases that devastate third world nations daily, with nary a mention in the Western media.

In India, in 2007 some 2,402,00 children died of largely preventable causes…those are bloody epidemics, pandemics, them whatever you will.

Nope, we are more concerned with the threat from three mildly ill school kids returning to NZ from their break in Mexico, or the odd unwell person in some European country.

And let’s be even more honest..if this had just occurred in Mexico, and 500 kids had died from some obscure virus, we really wouldn’t give a damn.

Sometimes I feel rather ashamed. There is something rather obscene in all this.

I wonder how many toilets 32 million UK facemasks would buy in Java?

1 comment:

Nick said...

Well said, and wholly true. The media beat-up on this (relatively) non-story is obscene.