Monday, April 27, 2009

Mexico’s Swine Flu Crisis: A Time for Literary Reflection amidst Fear and Paranoia


Old Drawing of a Rhinoceros




It is a strange image to see people roaming the streets with their faces covered by masks to protect themselves from this mysterious and ominous influenza outbreak. It seems like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. In 28 Days Later one had to beware of contact with infectious blood; in our case, we are paranoid of each other, no matter if it's a friend or a stranger especially when they start sneezing or coughing. A common cold today equals ostracism in these troublesome days.

Whether the whole level of fuss and panic is really necessary remains to be seen in the near future. Yet that it poses a tangible threat for most of us, especially if you are living in Mexico, is evident in daily life. Schools all across the nation have been suspended for a week; public events, including soccer games, are either canceled or take place behind closed doors to avoid spread of the virus among multitudes of people. The whole country is on its way of turning into a ghost town soon enough.

Various works of cinema and literature come to mind. Although Camus' The Plague is an impressive work that deals with rapidly growing infections and a sense of fear and paranoia, but I think that the situation is rather different from the current outbreak. With the Black Death, people were infected from rats and started sneezing, which many say brought about our regular saying “God bless you,” meaning that only God can help you now that you are fading away.

However, in this particular case, I am more reminded of the absurd theater of Ionesco and his famous play called Rhinoceros. In that work, people start changing, without reason or explanation, into rhinoceroses. Pretty soon most of the town has lost their humanity and is simply rushing from place to place in their rhino shape.

This seems to me more apt to describe the current situation. We are afraid. As simple as that. We know that despite all the technology and medicine, we are still vulnerable, that mankind will never completely shed its Achilles heel. They say that it is time for the next pandemic that will wipe out most of us. It is not a question of if or whether but rather when.

Of course, one option would be to live in constant fear. Terrorism had caught most of our attention, and now all of a sudden it is the swine flu that is making headlines. Swine? Yes, it sounds as absurd as the rhinoceros play. And one can complicate matters and say that Twelve Monkeys exemplifies a testament for the next global bio-terrorist attack. It can happen, and it is not as far-fetched or science fiction as we would like to think.

But I believe we should take a deep breath and decide to adapt to the changing circumstances. We have to recall that we are indeed vulnerable and that nothing is really safe. We are dangling on a tightrope without a safety net, or maybe the tightrope is spread on the ground and we are meant to stumble, as Kafka once put it.

Or we are thrown into the world that contains wonderful and horrible things in equal measure. We can panic or we can embrace our strengths and weaknesses and brace for what is coming ahead and hope, in its true medieval sense, that “God will bless us.”

5 comments:

Trooper Thorn said...

The The ecomonic meltdown was loosing steam so the news agencies needed something new to promote.

Remember SARS? That was going to kill us all.

It is too convenient to forget that most people will die this year from heart disease and stroke, mostly from lifestyle causes such as smoking, diet and a sedentary lifestyle.meltdown was loosing steam so the news agencies needed something new to promote.

Remember SARS? That was going to kill us all.

It is too convenient to forget that most people will die this year from heart disease and stroke, mostly from lifestyle causes such as smoking, diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

Chandira said...

It must be a bit scary being in Mexico right now, my step daughter is in Puerto Escondido at the moment for 2 months, she left about a week ago, before this really hit the news.

I think the whole thing is being hyped too much, while it's great to take necessary precautions, I don't subscribe to the fear.

36,000 people died of other kinds of flu last year. Any kind of flu could mutate into a pandemic, or we could be hit in the street by a bus.

The positive side is in realizing that life is indeed short, we are vulnerable, not just fro flu, but from the mechanics of a physical universe, and the simple fact that all beings die.

I say we start to live our lives as if they made a difference... :-)

Chandira said...

Oh, and I heard somewhere, that Dick Cheney has huge investments in the chemical companies that make flu remedies.

The Prince of Centraxis said...

A reaction easily noted in many who have commented on so-called swine flu is one that's hardly edifying. Many people seem to crave a 'twelve monkeys' scenario. Many have fallen for the inaccurate hype of 'overpopulation' and hope that a plague will wipe out a large percentage of the human species - so long as they themselves survive.
This genocidal dream is evinced by many, who consider the advent of each new disease to be a blessing in disguise.
No such luck, folks. No-one's going to get out of here until the mess is cleaned up.
See http://hermetic.blog.com
http://enlightenment.today.com

PS - it was particularly humorous watching people at the Nimbin Mardi Grass being asked to 'not share joints' on May Day!

n a n d a said...

hoosh hoosh swine flu vamoooooosh!!!