Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Woke up congested this morning and started thinking about germs. I don't suffer from atychiphobia (sometimes called mysophobia), but maybe I should. Maybe we all should. Consider the evidence: Listeria, Salmonella, Botulism, Cholera, E. Coli, Malaria, Meningitis, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, Giardia, Hepatitis, HIV, Rotavirus, Mad Cow disease, West Nile Virus, Bird Flu, the list goes on and on. Sometimes it seems like there are more viral or bacterial boogeymen than ever before. All our advances have only made them stronger, more resistant. Why haven't WE become more resistant? Who is winning this battle anyway? And don't get me started about allergies...

Maybe we don't want to win. I'm no fan of Rick Perry, but the way the whole nation jumped all over him for daring to mandate a HPV vaccine that could save thousands of lives suggests we are more comfortable taking our chances than any preemptive protection. Same with the wildfire spread of the Vaccines cause Autism scare. Maybe it's just easier to assign our fear to an arrogant doctor with a big needle than handle the notion that ravenous beasties are all around us all the time, jostling to invade our orifices and set up camp.

Are there more germs now than ever? Or are we just paying more attention? Whatever the case, there can be no doubt that our collective fear of contagion is metastasizing. For an easy gauge, look at the explosion in movies, shows, and books about zombies. Forty years ago, George Romero had the entire market cornered and only a few demented souls paid any attention. Now we have worldwide bestsellers like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, hit shows like The Walking Dead, and enough films to demand a campy send-up like Shaun of the Dead. Just last night I watched the latest entry in the genre, and perhaps the most blatantly metaphoric yet. Simply titled, The Dead, it sets the action in the hot zone of all our infectious fears: West Africa and instead of supernatural sprinters like the undead in 28 Days Later, these zombies shuffle like crippled patients, easily outrun and easily ignored, just like all those starving children. Besides, there are prettier things to look at, like that gorgeous sunrise over the savannah. Until you are surrounded. You'll want a vaccine then. But it will be too late.

No comments: