Saturday, May 02, 2009
'People in the town of Chipping Sodbury were shocked to learn today that a member of their community had swine flu.' Guardian.
Nothing much happens in Chipping Sodbury, you see, they're easily shocked. When a Chipping Sod gets a mild form of flu, they're convulsed.
Meanwhile, the search for The Smoking Pig continues. He called me yesterday. His name is Ralph and he's on the lam in South Dakota. 'I'm with Willie Nelson,' he said, 'they can take me back to Texas but they won't take me back alive.' I invited him over to Palm Springs, it's pretty quiet here except for a closed school in Indio. But he likes seafood and, as my wife put it, 'You can't get a decent prawn in the desert.'
There is, on the face of it, no reason whatsoever to be concerned about this flu. It's killing people at a considerably slower rate than your average winter mutant. I know that the big fear is that once a virus jumps from animals to people it can mutate into something truly nasty and wipe out millions. Scientists and politicians, therefore, cannot afford to look anything but grave. Also, here in the US, the health system works by generating the maximum amount of anxiety which, in turn, has created the most over-medicated population on earth. If I believed any of the pill and potion ads on TV, I would be eating and sleeping at the pharmacy. I offered a cup of coffee to a guy fixing the toilet in this house yesterday. 'Can't,' he said, 'too much medication.' He looked damned healthy to me. Meanwhile, I heard Rush Limbaugh, the leader of the Republican Party, quoting 'the London Times' which said, apparently, the virus was not airborne but carried by droplets. This, he crowed, disproves that all this nonsense about catching it on buses and trains and wearing masks. Poor Rush hasn't grasped the concept of the aerosol and, anyway, since he believes that the present health system is a free market, why isn't he saying it's all terrible and flogging Tamiflu from the back of his Chevy Malibu? (He was flogging that car the last time I was here.) Oh, hang on, Tamiflu was developed in the US but is now sold by Roche, a Swiss firm, so it's probably unAmerican.
Anyway, the real pandemic here is hysterical hypochondria. Or, as Ralph puts it, 'Get a friggin' life.'
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 1:18 pm