Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Birds

The Birds!An irritating and irresponsible feature of the MSM is its “Henny-Penny-the-sky-is-falling” approach to bad news. It’s Bad News All The Time but the form seems to be of the bread and circuses genus of news reporting. There is no ordering of information; Valerie Plame’s machinations and Carl Rove’s infamy costs us thousands of trees and waste hours of irretrievable time while important stories are ignored. We are treated to breathless deathless prose on what Judge Roberts’ children wore. The purpose of such stories seems to be to keep the pot stirred without actually adding anything nutritious to the soup. It’s pretend news from pretend people.

Click for a larger map.This morning comes Joe Katzman with a link to The Alexandria Archive Institute. One of Mr. Katzman’s readers points out a looming problem, one of such proportions that once it hits, will completely occupy our thinking. It will revolutionize how we live and move and have our being. Here is Eric Kansa’s report:
    “I want to direct your attention toward avian flu, an issue that, given its scope and potential consequences, receives very little attention both in the traditional press and blogosphere. I’ve been following this for some time, basically the World Health Organization is doing everything NOT to raise the alert level from stage 3 to stage 5 or 6, and has tried to explain away clear cases of human-to-human transmission (these cases mean we’re at Stage 5 at least). There are also LOTS of rumors China is covering up an outbreak of Stage 6 human-to-human bird flu. China has been completely uncooperative with the WHO, refuses to let out most medical samples, and has even threatened epidemiologists…”
This is the point at which I admit editorial bias while urging that avian flu be put on the front burner. In the “Spanish” influenza epidemic of 1918, my grandmother and an uncle (he was six) died within weeks of one another, smashing our family for several generations. That was in Ireland.

In America, and across the world, the flu destroyed towns and wreaked havoc on common civilities. In Philadelphia, people stole coffins, dumping bodies so they could use the caskets for their own loved ones. In six weeks, it killed more than three quarters of a million people in the United States. (I don’t know what percentage of the population that was back then, but much of the mortality took place in urban areas and in military camps).

The destruction and horror was sucked down the memory hole because the butchery of the Great War took precedence. The world never mourned all those deaths. Anywhere from twenty-five to fifty million people died world-wide, most of them in the prime of life. However, due to the war, the full story was downplayed by the media. Yes! Even then the MSM was finagling the bagel.

Sociologists claim one of the consequences of the epidemic was that afterwards, the circle of our ‘personal space’ was drawn much larger as parents internalized the necessity to be more physically distant from their children in order to avoid infecting them.

Thus, even though the actual depth and breadth of the catastrophe was deliberately downplayed, for years it has seemed to me that the Roaring Twenties was a rebound cultural effect not only of the War but also of the terrible losses from the flu epidemic. It was at this juncture, when healthy young men and women died in droves, and orphanages began to be built to take care of the children left homeless, that rather than do our mourning, we simply went into frenetic escape.

Mr. Kansa has more to say about the spread of this new virus:
    …the few published samples available from China (obtained from dead birds in Qinghai) all have genetic traits of strains that infect mammals, including humans. The worry is that these samples come from a major nexus in bird migration routes, meaning that this dangerous virus will soon be dispersed throughout Eurasia (it’s already popping up in Russia).”
In turn, Winds of Change provides its usual encyclopedic links to more information, all of which need to be pursued and pondered. Better to consider ahead of time your likely options in this coming disaster. Refusing to look to the western horizon doesn’t mean you get to avoid the storm when it arrives.

One of the consequences to consider is how groups will be affected. Will colleges close? Schools did in 1918. Will businesses shut down temporarily? Will the stock market become a telecommute for everyone, including those on the floor? Maybe it will be the nail in Hollywood’s coffin as people stay away in droves and Health Departments close theatres? Concoct your own scenes and you’ll get an idea of the scope of this problem.

On a cheery note (the secret is out: I was Pollyanna in a former life) just consider what this may do to the Islamofascists. Due to population density, it’s likely they will be dying faster than we do, and in greater numbers. So what becomes of the passion to wage jihad? Will sectarian hatred decline in the face of massive random death? Will it be seen as a message from Allah? If so, how will they interpret the communication?

Perhaps it will be construed as an ugly infidel plague released upon Islam in order to spread Satan’s spoor upon the Ummah. Or some such poppycock. When you read these guys long enough, you can mouth the dialogue along with them, like a movie you’ve seen too many times.

Finally, consider this possible consequence: if the avian flu acts like the one in 1918, it will take many of the young and healthy. Already, our demographic picture is grim. What will it be like after the plague has finished with us? One effect may be some hard-wiring in the coming generation which will make abortion distasteful, anathema, uncivilized. The mind-body-community connection is a strange and wondrous mystery we barely comprehend.

Whatever you do, bookmark Joe Katzman’s page here so you can follow all the links he has thoughtfully provided. If nothing else, these sites will give you something to read while you wait for the first symptoms to appear...


Always On Watch said...

A year ago, our neighbors returned from Thailand. They abandoned lucrative State Department duty there precisely because of the bird flu. My neighbors believe that the authorities will suppress the outbreak until it hits a Western nation.

I have a personal interest in influenza. My aunt, whom I never met, died of complications of the 1918 flu. My grandmother survived, unstruck, but her sister and brother suffered the after-effects all their lives.

Have any of you seen "Awakenings," a movie starring Robin Williams? There is speculation that at least some cases presented in that film were the result of the after-effects of the 1918 flu, in a manifestation called "the sleepy sickness." Encephalitis lethargica is the medical term, I think. Those poor people suffered terrible illness for decades.

Dymphna said...

I think your neighbors were wise to come home while they could. "The authorities" suppressed the 1918 outbreak even after it hit Europe and America. They didn't want it to interfere with the war...well, we have another war on, don't we?

Who knows at what levels the decision to suppress information occurs. As Winds of Change noted, the UN does not want to know and does not want us to know. Picture the UN with its hands over its ears saying "I-can't-hear-you, I-cn't-hear-you, I-can't-hear-you.

This is one case in which it behooves each individual to seek out as much information as possible while it's still a calm environment.

The greenies aren't on it because evil Man didn't cause it, therefore it is simply Gaia working her will on us....

My grandmother's death in 1918 smashed my father's family to smithereens. He was 4, his brother, Donal, 6. Donal and my grandmother died a few weeks apart. For the rest of his life my father was told by my grandfather that the wrong son died. He did not have a nice life.

Jude the Obscure said...

Dymphna - sounds to me like the wrong grandparent died, not the wrong child.

Is SARS and bird 'flu different?

For what period of time did the 1918 pandemic last?

Pet cats will be carriers and will bring bird 'flu into the house much as fleas from rats carried the plague.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Splendid ! As if there wasn't enough going on.

Seriously, I have always meant to read more about the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918 -- such a curious event: it appeared, ran its course, and then vanished. It had real effect on the last year of the First World War.

Now I'm paranoid. I saw a dead bird last week (Houston, Texas). No visible trauma or anything, just dropped dead in the middle of the street.

Will follow the links in this post, this is definitely a subject I know nothing about.

Dymphna said...

el jefe-

But there are always things to think about that you hadn't thought of! That's why we read one another's blogs. Always, we need to enlarge the arena of those items we ponder and contemplate, and we need others' thoughts and ideas to do that...

For a long time now, the human killers have been taking up all the room. Or, there's global warming, where humans are the indirect killers...both favorite topics of the chatterers, no?

But plagues and other aspects of history outside our direct control (war is too, but we persist in thinking we can control *that*) are compelling. They change the course of history, they change the course of predictions...they change everything.

But this last one, in 1918, got swept under the rug. What do you think the chances are of that happening this time around?

A few years ago I read a most interesting book about plants that changed world history. The potato was one, tobacco another. And quinine and cocoa and cotton. Think about how different the history of our planet would have been without those plants.

We're so full of hubris, el jefe...sometimes it takes my breath away how abysmally arrogant we are with all our predictions and prognostications...and along comes this little, tiny, teeny virus and it's all swept away.

bioqubit said...

The pattern is dim and hard to trace. But, in drawing from disparate sources, it is tempting to draw an awful conclusion.

China building for war

A flu possibly capable of spreading around the globe and killing untold millions of people and animals.

Iran poised to have nuclear capability directed at Israel and Europe.

There is more, but that is enough to say...Gee, some rough parallels to events described in Revelations. One of the plagues leads to the destruction of one-third of life. The description of the flu's virulence makes this sound almost feasible.