Et Tu, Swine Flu?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“I’m gonna get you this time, chump,” the Grim Reaper said to me in early April 2009. He was dressed in his obligatory long, black, hooded robe. The Grim Reaper’s face was completely hidden in the dark depths of his hood, but his deadly scythe glistened in his right hand. “I’m gonna kill all of you. All six billion of you! This time I will destroy humanity like the Lakers are going to obliterate the Jazz in the NBA Playoffs!”

“Yeah, right, Reaper,” I said, smirking. “You say the same thing every couple of years. Natural disasters…blah blah blah…global pandemics…yawn…nuclear winters…zzzzzz….” I could tell the Reaper was getting riled as I pretended to fall asleep mid-conversation.

“Hah! You overconfident fool!” The Grim Reaper boldly proclaimed. “This time I am serious! I will destroy humanity as you know it! You will read about my vengeance every time you turn on the TV, listen to the radio or log on to the internet. Millions will die! Hah hah hah! Hah (snort) ha ha (oink) ha ha (snort, oink)!”

“What the….” I said, befuddled. Before the Grim Reaper could react I quickly grabbed his hood and pulled it back, revealing his face.

And the face staring back at me looked a lot like Porky Pig.

“Noooo-ink!” The Grim Reaper yelled, retreating as fast as his cute little hooves could carry him. His funny, curly tail bobbed up and down as he scampered away, making me smile.

And as the Grim Reaper ran off to kill millions of people, I had just one thought:


I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m already bored of The Swine Flu. Or, as the more PC crowd likes to call it – the H1N1 virus. Within a few weeks the ultra-PC crowd will be calling it the MAVTLCOBTDWNIFITDSDJIYXJ, or the Mexican-American Virus That Legally Crossed Our Borders To Do What Nature Intended For It To Do So Don’t Judge It, You Xenophobic Jerk! Just wait. This will happen.

Over the past several weeks I have built up a mental resistance to any mention of H1N1 on television or the radio. As soon as I hear the words “Swine Flu” my brain immediately tunes it out and starts playing mental re-runs of my favorite Napoleon Dynamite scenes.

Maybe I am being a little too flippant about the whole Swine Flu thing, like when Kip refuses to bring Napoleon some Chapstick to school despite the fact that Napoleon’s lips, “hurt real bad!” Should I be taking H1N1 a little more seriously, like Rex-Kwan-Do takes martial arts? (Sorry, just typing this post has caused me to have about four hundred Napoleon Dynamite flashbacks already.) Please vote in the poll on the right to tell me how you feel.

Look, I know the Swine Flu exists. Real people are getting sick, and unfortunately a small number have even died. My heart goes out to people whose lives have been impacted by this disease and I pray that nobody I know will suffer from it. But I refuse to believe the gloom-and-doom reports from the people who are pumping H1N1 24/7. But, hey, nothing is better for ratings and/or funding like a good crisis, so let’s not waste this one, people.

So why do I find a potential global disaster to be more boring than a Happy Hands recital?

Because every couple of years we are told – pretty convincingly – that the world as we know it is going to end. Here are a few of the bed-wetting predictions that most of us have already lived through:

1968: Overpopulation. Paul Ehrlich writes the book “Population Bomb” and predicts that famines will cause millions of deaths in the 1970’s, that life expectancy in the United States in the 1980’s would drop to 42 years due to the use of pesticides, and the nation’s population would shrink to 22.6 million by 1999. While Ehrlich's population predictions were way off, he did correctly predict Al Franken’s election to the Senate before mankind was destroyed, so he gets credit for that.

1974: Global Cooling. Time Magazine reported that “a growing number of scientists” were concerned about an imminent Ice Age as average global temperatures plummeted by 2.7-degrees Farenheit since the 1940’s. And to scare your chilly little rear ends even more, there were, “no indications of reversing.” As ice, snow and polar winds advanced around the world we were warned by a prominent scientist that, "I don't believe that the world's present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row." Just like Vanilla Ice, Global Cooling scared a bunch of people for a short period of time and was subsequently replaced by something much more trendy (i.e. Eminem and Global Warming.)

1980’s: Nuclear Winter. I grew up in the 1980’s and learned to both fear and hate the USSR, or the “Commies” as we liked to call them. In fact, calling somebody a “Commie” on the playground were fightin’ words back in my day. We were told repeatedly that at any moment nuclear bombs could start raining down from Moscow. Two of my favorite childhood movies were War Games and Red Dawn, which only made me more terrified of the USSR. (My other favorite movie was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which taught me to always lock my bike and to never, ever, ever accept a ride from a female truck driver.)

Back in the 1980’s we all needed aspirin just to combat the stress headaches that were caused by the world’s impending destruction.

Just make sure you didn’t take a Tylenol back in 1983. Those would have killed you too, remember?

1999: Y2K. Do you remember how terrified we were that computers would rise up against us in rebellion on 01/01/00? I was about to type a lengthy reminder about the Y2K scare but my computer said it would, “gut me like a fish,” if I attempted any such treason.

2001: Mad Cow Disease. Leading experts warned us that, “more than 100,000 people may die from the disease in the next several decades.” As of 2006, only about 160 people had died from Mad Cow. Conversely, an estimated 597 people died after eating at Jack in the Box last year alone.

2003: SARS. Ian Sample of The Guardian predicted that there could be, “millions dead,” as a result of SARS. He then declared that, “Although the disease is spreading more slowly than the Spanish flu pandemic that killed up to 50 million people in 1918, it is more lethal and may simply take longer to spread.” The only thing more lethal than the Spanish flu is Chuck Norris, not SARS. SARS claimed an estimated 800 victims, mostly in Asia, and not the potential tens of millions we were warned about.

2005: Bird Flu. On Sept 30, 2005 the UN’s World Health Organization estimated between 2 million and 7.4 million people could die from a global influenze pandemic. David Nabarro, senior UN system coordinator for avian and human influenza, then said, “the range of deaths could be anything from 5 to 150 million.” By the end of 2007 only 206 people had died from bird flu, making the UN’s prediction incorrect by nearly one-million to one. But on a more positive note, this is the closest the UN has come to getting anything right this decade, so great job, guys!

And now it’s the Swine Flu that is going to allegedly kill us all. Or not. In the mean time, I’m just going to tune out any H1N1 news until it finally just quietly, unexpectedly goes away.

You know, like the time when Napoleon Dynamite’s grandma got put in the hospital after her four wheeler accident at the sand dunes...

(Sorry, sorry….)

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Graham Chops said...

Amen, brother. This year it was swine flu, before that it was bird flu, and then West Nile Virus...and don't forget that the humanity-ending plague called SARS had a survival rate that exceeded the 98th percentile. The way they reported it, you'd think it was bubonic.

8:02 PM
Jared said...

Paul Ehrlich just repeated the same things Thomas Malthus said 200 years ago. It wasn't true then, it wasn't true in the 70s or 80s, and it's not true today. Ehrlich probably just figured that enough people had forgotten Malthus that he could repackage the message and make a killing off a book prophesying apocalyptic death and doom.

Just to play the devil's advocate: Maybe all these outbreaks were prevented because of all the hubbub made about them?

Very funny post.

8:46 PM
Ang said...

My own little catch phrase is "Shark Week!" Whenever I get the feeling something is getting hyped to death and the media is fanning the flames of hystericalism (not a word, I realize) I just say to myself, "Shark week! Shark week!" (You know, it's on the Discovery channel, and after watching it you're certain you can't ever dip a toe in the Atlantic without having it nibbled on like an hors d'oeuvre?)

I felt a little shark week-y about the financial meltdown too, but now I'm worried that we're in the opposite of shark week. Are we in a "Tropical Storm Jose" situation--or as I like to call it, "No Way Jose" syndrome-- the "we're bored of this now, so let's ignore it" part of the media cycle? Poor Tropical Storm Jose was the storm BEFORE Hurricane Katrina, and if you remember before Katrine we'd had so many hurricanes that were hyped and hyped and then they just petered out, so by the time Katrina came around all the New Orleanians thought, "C'mon. This whole thing is so Shark Weeky" and just stayed home. And then ended up on their roofs. And then ended up at the Superdome. Or on Oprah. Or worse.

Anyway, I am:
1-Not afraid of the swine flu
2-Also hoping that the financial system is at least done melting down and can cool like a puddle of wax for a couple of months before reconstituting itself.

But I am not ruling out:

Your loving sister,
p.s. Some good posts lately, bro

9:55 PM

Ang- Loved the "Shark Week!" example, very solid. You hit one of my main points right on the head - the pace of the news cycle is ridiculously fast. News agencies need to turn every hurricane, sickness, controversy, etc. into a full-scale crisis in order to attract viewers. For example, today ESPN did an hour-long special on Mike Vick being released from prison today. Really, ESPN?

But if zombies are ever found, I would tune into that breaking news report in a minute.

10:21 PM
Jake said...

The problem is the media. We just get news too fast. When the Swine flu was first reported everyone thought it would be as virulent as the bird flu (very virulent, but not too adaptable to humans). As it turns out the swine flu is no more dangerous than the many other strains of flu we get every year and just as adaptable to humans. The media's just riding this one until it dies because it has to justify the beginning hype. What else are they going to report? It's not like they can talk about the president. It's blasphemy to knock the man.

4:57 AM
Shauna said...

Thanks for the chuckles this morning...Ang's comment and the Shark Week analysis just doubled my pleasure! Thanks, again.

6:03 AM
Amie said...

How many people have died from swine flu? 2? maybe? How many died from the regular flu last year? around 10,000. The media love a good epidemic story. It annoys the snot out of me. I love the Shark Week analogy! =)

10:04 AM
Homer and Queen said...

I'm with you...what animal will give a flu bug next?

11:50 AM

Homer and Queen - I was pondering the question of which animal flu will be next myself. All of the "tasty" animals - birds, pigs, cows - are already off the board. So which animal is next?

It stands to reason that it needs to be a "tasty" animal since that has been the pattern thus far.

My Top Five Most Tasty Animals list is as follows:

1. Crabs
2. Cows
3. Pigs
4. Chicken (Birds)
5. Tuna

Since crabs are already associated with a terrible disease, the next on the list would be tuna. I don't know if tuna can even catch or spread a flu virus, but don't be surprised to see a headline like this in the near future:


12:10 PM
Cpt Naykid said...

I love your list of pandemics. The news loves to run "armageddon" headlines. My favorite part of the swine flu is thousands get it, but they only experience cold like symptoms.

Real difficult to handle a runny nose and cough...yea right. They could use some of your qualify band-aids, "cowboy up," "rub some dirt on it," "take it like a man."

12:52 PM
kristib said...

Thanks for the perspective. You know, you really should have given death a wedgie like Bill and Ted did. I hear he hates that.

1:25 PM
Karen said...

Well, if you think about it, as written, the UN was right. The number 206 does fall in between 5 and 150 millon.

2:07 PM
Rebecca said...

I love it when you put in to words what I think. When I hear "Swine Flu" on the news I want to scream, "ITS JUST THE FLU!" But then that would be weird.

10:36 AM
ffine said...

You've got quite the memory for marketing disasters as well! I guess we didn't all die from Salmonella poisoning from Chilean grapes either.
Thanks again for the great blog!

1:13 PM

I gave a report to my fifth-grade class about the coming global ice age. By the time I got to high school, we were supposed to worry about global warming. I refuse to worry about global warming until the ice age is over.

9:02 PM
Cheryl said...

THANK YOU! I know I was taught about global cooling in elementary school, but no one else seems to remember.
Now I have NMH to back me up, I need no more proof.

1:17 PM
Wendilynn said...

My pediatrician called it the nondemic and and in a conversation making fun of the swine flu one of my witty conversationalists asked if we had to now watch out for the Aporkalypse.

8:16 PM

oh man ! why you thing its end of the world..keep the spirits up..think of people suffering from this :(

11:45 AM