Friday, May 29, 2009

It's cool by the Pool - right [COLUMN]

I mentioned to my girlfriend that swine flu was expected by the WHO to infect 2 billion people. She responded saying, “Look, I’m going to say something very nasty, and I hope I’m not one of the people that disease kills, but the world will be better off with far fewer people.”

You can’t argue with this logic. But it is a terrifying place to be. Swine flu may not turn out to be a killer pandemic, but every successive wave is closer to the one that will be. The microbial specialists like Oxford and Bragg that I’ve spoken to believe we’re almost at the ‘city limits’ of a place called Pandemic. The signs beside the highway have shown a consistent pattern saying we are getting closer and closer. Look at AIDS, H5N1, SARS and other exotic illnesses like West Nile and Dengue [Black Water Fever] that are resurging.

Right now, as I right this, I have the flu. It’s seasonal. It’s normal. It feels pretty rotten to have a swollen head and irritated nose and airways. But it makes perfect sense that an annual sickness that hits us in a different form every year should be the vehicle for a killer flu. It is also fascinating to observe the media and other educated people being dismissive about swine flu. If swine flu does mutate into a virulent killer, or if some other hybrid (H5N1 + H1N1 for example) emerges, one day our children might ask how come so many people did so little when the writing was already on the wall. The answer is simply that we became too arrogant and to clever for own good.

Some might take that (arrogance and ‘thinking oneself to be clever’) as a compliment. A certain level of confidence is good, for example in sport, (think Lance Armstrong) and business (Richard Branson). But when that confidence disconnects from reality, expect that sports hero of yours to fail. Expects the business to slide into the gutter when the businessman thinks he deserves his success not based on hard work, or strategy, or providing a good service, but because the marketing (bullshitting) is good, because the emperor’s new clothes are all impressive.

We are most certainly a species primed for disaster. Overfed, overconfident, overeasy.

I’ll close the column today with a quote from writing about free to air South African Tv channel ETV and the writer is Brandon Edmonds. Brandon, tip of the cowboy hat to you for this. You’ve nailed the moral malaise in this country:
It’s as if the minds and the money behind ETV have picked up a newspaper and taken a look at the reality of the country, and they’ve seen the raw truth of this place, as it is (and was). The slayings, the rape, the carjackings, the forced entries, the Aids orphans, the single-parent families, the plummeting value of a life, the lack of service delivery, the graft and corruption, the indifference and the lies, the ever-widening chasm between those who have and those who don’t, those who can and those who can’t, and they’ve said:

“We’ll give them what they want. What they deserve! We’ll set up a channel that feeds them images and talks to them at a level they can understand! We’ll give them… shit!”
It’s inspired, really. Its almost revolutionary. Its bold as punk rock. It just might be, besides ‘Disgrace’ by JM Coetzee and a few paintings and a couple of protest songs here and there, the most significant cultural intervention of the post-apartheid era. A TV channel that (un)consciously mirrors the worst of a people.

And of course, recently, we see Zuma telling a fellow politician he can keep a bribe. After all that Zuma has been through, he endorses his colleagues’ receiving handouts that of course will influence what they do. I read a columnist though who was surprised and disappointed that Zuma did not object to the irregularities around the prevention of the Vodacom listing. It occurred to me that she is one of the majority of schmucks in this country, who, when someone says, “I swear I didn’t take any money” believes them, and thinks they ought to have a chance to prove themselves not in court, but as president. The costs of being wrong are paid by all of us, and we are about to pay a hefty sum as we slip further and deeper into a recession. {Yes, we are now ‘technically’ in a recession, although that reality has been with us for some time, hence the ‘shock’ drop of 6.4% in GDP.

With each passing day I can see people starting to care more about that back alley, that drain, that ladle filled with gravy – where our tax payers money disappears. I see that ‘caring’ manifesting in strikes the likes of which this country has never seen. The government has earned the right to see a populace they have lied to and stolen from (stolen funds allocated to housing, roads, education, service delivery etc) turn on them. This government will be known as After-Apartheid, and will probably be despised.

In the meantime, we can look forward, happily, and with stars twinkling in our eyes, to the 2010 soccer world cup. Yep, we can dream about the color and festivities [providing we’re able to blank out large proportions of our own brains]. Yep 2010 is going to be awesome, and we deserve it. Question is, can government muzzle the media and doctors to keep quiet that – ssssshh – swine flu is already in South Africa. Ssssh. Pass me that cheque from the stadium contractor so we can cash it. Sssh. If we just keep quiet until it’s here we can get rich and hopefully this swine business will just go away. It’s all over the world but it’s not here. Because it doesn’t have to be! We get what we deserve, right? Drinks anyone?

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