Post Politics: Swine flu not modern world's real disease

Friday, May 1, 2009 at 4:36pm

Swine flu. Two words that by now you've seen and heard a thousand times. And you'll probably hear them a couple hundred more, at least until the next big fear that comes along. You know, that next big disease, animal, insect or chemical that just may kill us all.

It's tiresome. The disease threatening to take down or disrupt the modern world isn't swine flu or any of these other "threats." The disease that threatens us is sensationalism. It's fear. It's over-protection. Frankly, the biggest disease threatening the modern world is the modern world itself.

So far we've seen press conferences, school closings, outreach to the Hispanic community and masks given out to prisoners. For what? A strain of flu that very few people have contracted and even fewer have died from.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying H1N1 is not a health concern. It is. But it's just that — a health concern. And a relatively minor one at that. Doctors, nurses, those who care for the elderly — these are the types of folks who should worry about swine flu. Steps should be taken to prevent the spread in populations that where it could actually cause multiple deaths but we blew past overkill on the side of the road doing 90 mph a long time ago.

As far as we know, this swine flu is not discernibly different than the regular seasonal flu that comes and goes with each passing year, the flu that kills some 36,000 in America (700 in Tennessee) each year. Now, the numbers for swine flu will no doubt increase. Hell, they might even surpass the regular flu. But the point is, they haven't yet. Not even close. But despite this, we have wall-to-wall coverage.

Really, it's par for the course. Whether it's killer bees, shark attacks, SARS or peanut butter recalls, we seem to thrive on being scared. Alarm bells go off constantly. Everything's a crisis. As a result, we overprotect and we overcompensate.

Children are essentially shrink-wrapped and sanitized before they are sent out to go play. They are bundled up and padded up to protect them from injury and the elements.

To prevent disease, we hand out antibiotics risking the creation of super-germs. To prevent wars, we preemptively invade nations, causing blowback and resentment.

We have become a soft and fearful nation. Our technology and medical advances have made us one of the safer civilizations to ever exist. Diseases and injury that would have resulted in a slow death back in the day now are quickly fixed by one trip to the emergency room or even a pill. Certainly we have not eliminated danger from our lives but we have minimized it quite a bit. And yet, we fear this swine flu.

We used to be a nation of hardy people (or so I've heard), a people who were not consumed with fear and death even though their fears were far more real and their deaths far more imminent. Now we're a nation treating a flu like it's the plague and a recession like it's a depression.

Again, don't get it twisted. The economy is just as bad just as the swine flu is real. But we have to a large great extent become a nation of whiners. Most of us have the necessities of life. We may want for much but we need for little.

If we wig out when a few folks get the flu or when the stock market corrects, what are we going to do if a real prolonged disaster strikes. Are we strong enough to take a real punch as a people? September 11 was devastating and we came together nicely but how many more real hits can we take like that? How many sustained legitimate crises can we withstand?

We take a lot of things for granted in this country. Our health and wealth are, in comparison to the rest of the world, very high. But it ain't forever. Nothing is. A movement towards a new stoicism would not be out of order in a country running scared from a few folks with scratchy throats from an exotic flu bug.

If you cry wolf enough, you not only alienate those looking to come to your aid, you fool yourself into thinking you have been confronted with a real danger. Then, when a true threat presents itself, not only do you have no one at your back, you yourself are not prepared.

Is America prepared for real danger? After a week or so of swine flu hysteria, the prospects do not look promising.

Kleinheider is's political blogger. Visit Post Politics at

10 Comments on this post:

By: arkay61 on 5/4/09 at 5:14

Amen AC, amen. The traits of stoicism, hardiness and individualism that made us the greatest nation in the world are becoming extinct. We are becoming Europe Lite and are increasingly interested only in what the gov't has done for us lately and how much they are going to give us. Striving to be the best you can be and doing better than the previous generation has been replaced with a modern society that is happy just maintaining their mediocrity. I keep hoping for a glimpse of a turn around in this decline, but I think it is too late. Participation in bettering one's situation in life is very much like exercise: this less you do, the less you want to do. Thusly, people have found out they don't have to put very much effort into it, just sit around and whine long enough and some bureaucrat will come along with promises that will fix all of your problems.

"One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain."
- Columnist Thomas Sowell

By: anp2j on 5/4/09 at 6:38

great article. i work at a school and the paranoia is high. i fear that they will start making us wear masks or in a worst case scenario, mandatory vaccination.

By: pandabear on 5/4/09 at 7:04

Well, it's real easy to pat ones self on the back and all, but I think the point
of view changes rapidly if someone gets this flu or loses half of what they've
got because of banker greed.

The "there aren't many of us left" crowd is boringly self righteous.

By: JohnGalt on 5/4/09 at 7:15

I find myself inclined to resurrect the coveted Knotted Knickers Award© over the media's response to this somewhat minor flu outbreak. They have probably succeed in sending people to the emergency rooms to be told they are not sick, their temperature is normal and, by the way, they don't have SARS, bird flu or mad cow disease.

I'll decide soon.

By: jtan343 on 5/4/09 at 12:09

There's a phenomenon on TV these days that I'm starting to call "Armageddon Porn." If you ever watch the History Channel, you know what I'm talking about. History and Discovery and others are rife with shows about how the world is coming to an end: earthquakes, tsunamis, comets, killer viruses, supervolcanoes and of course, global warming. Movies, too... from Al Gore's fantastical tale to "Deep Impact" to "The Day After Tomorrow" to your latest alien invasion sci-fi epic.

My personal favorite is the show which breathlessly foretells the doom of planet Earth as it is swallowed by the dying Sun... in 5 billion years!!! Horrors!!!

We seem to abjectly wallow in our End Times. I can almost see the old man on the street corner, dressed in sackcloth and carrying the forlorn sign, "Repent, the End is Nigh." Most societies and most religions have some sort of End-of-the-World mythology, and even though we consider ourselves to be so advanced, we appear to have it in spades!

By: Captain Nemo on 5/4/09 at 1:12

The world will come to an end some day, but not today.

By: JohnGalt on 5/4/09 at 3:40

These frequent panic attacks give the various government agencies the opportunity to demonstrate (at least to hear them tell it) how prepared they are for the impending armageddon. This will, of course, be brought up in their next budget request.

By: idgaf on 5/5/09 at 4:11

The upside is barry got to spend another 2 Billion of our dollars and enhance his "he cares" reputation to his followers.

By: jaken44 on 3/22/10 at 6:15

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