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 civilised world rais­es its head. For­get the deaths of up to 200,000 chil­dren a year from water­borne dis­eases 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 year and 22,000 dead – you 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, dis­as­ters –  call 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?

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