“____ of the Year”: Panic of the Year
According to Time Magazine (www.time.com), the “Person of the Year” will be announced on December 10, 2014.
As a lead up to the inevitable selection of Vladimir Putin as “Person of the Year,” I’ve decided to throw together some profiles of other “____ of the Year” recipients of my own.
Note: I could be wrong about Putin being “Person of the Year,” but if you take an objective look at the person in the world who has made the most impact, for good or for ill, this year and you don’t arrive at the conclusion that it’s Putin, I’m thinking you were either not reading the news or trying to advance a political agenda (I’m looking at you “Ferguson Protestor”).
2014 Panic of the Year
2014 has been a year beset by instability. While it seems that instability is becoming more and more a constant on the global stage, this year has seen several episodes of chaos that have just refused to die down.
The first is the ongoing Syrian Civil War. At this point, there really is no “Syria.” The international community, in an attempt to crush the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has repeatedly decided to violate “Syrian” territorial integrity. While this effort is defensible and noble to some, it does indicate to the world that there is no “Syria” that can be recognized.
A second is the entrenched rebellion in Donetsk, Ukraine. What started as a chaotic whirlwind of changing politics and invasions has now slowed to a crawl with heavy armor of the Ukrainian military entrenched against separatists and Russian military regulars.
A third is the painfully little-covered theo-cide (that is massacring based on religion) taking place in sub-Saharan East Africa.
A fourth is the destabilization in Hong Kong caused by pro-Democracy protestors.
A fifth can even be the protests in Ferguson, Missouri or a myriad of other conflicts and ethnic wars around the planet.
However, the “award” of the Panic of the Year, 2014 goes to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. Now, before you comment that the other events I’ve listed above have displaced or killed more persons on an order of magnitude greater than Ebola and have caused greater economic losses than Ebola, I direct you to the term “panic.”
The Ebola Panic of 2014 is a demonstration of how Americo-centrism works. There is a humanitarian catastrophe in West Africa. There is no denying that reality. Though the overall percentage of the population of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia that are actually being infected by the disease are still low, the very real fear of plague hangs over those already poor nations. While it seems callous to say, the overall global economic impact of Ebola confined to West Africa will be minimal. While not discounting the almost assured recession in each of the affected nations, containment of the spread of the disease in already poor nations will stymie the impact.
So then why is Ebola GovMatt’s Panic of the Year? Because the level of concern over the disease so far outstripped the facts that reactions bordered on the absurd. Now, I am well-aware that the virus outbreak in West Africa is not contained. I am also well-aware that the world is one plane load of people away from a disease outbreak in Mumbai or Paris, but we have to imagine that the visibility of the virus and certain procedures are in place in the world to effectively contain Ebola. Some of you may think that this is overly optimistic. However, the manner in which Ebola spreads is now commonly known: though contact with body fluids of an infected person. We are also aware that persons who are not symptomatic are also not infectious. On top of that, we know, despite the scare tactics of people trying to sell snake oil, that Ebola is not transmitted as an aerosol or by simple physical contact.
Thus, as the epidemiologists had said from the beginning, Ebola is a very scary disease because of its presentation, and has a significant risk of secondary infections for healthcare workers, but, beyond those secondary infections, modern hospitals as well as proper disposal of remains can all but stop the virus within a few transmissions.
This prediction proved true in both the United States and Spain. The only domestic infections have been healthcare workers tending to Ebola patients.
However, when Ebola showed up in the United States, irrational fear took over. To some extent, though I think it was foolish, I can understand people in Dallas, where patient Thomas Duncan was living and being treated, overreacted. However, what was patently absurd was the constant influx of false alarms and, even more ridiculous, the closing of schools in areas where a passenger on a flight with a non-symptomatic person happened to fly on the next leg of the uninfected passenger’s flight. Not only was this a total disregard for the science of Ebola, it was just poor crisis management.
Poor crisis management also came from national leaders. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention did little to bolster national confidence when it repeatedly threw anyone it could find under the bus rather than just buckling down like medical professionals and treating the sick. While, in retrospect, it was not essential to have a national mobilization with respect to domestic cases of Ebola, the frenetic and disorganized behavior of American leaders engendered no sense of calm in the American people.
As I have mentioned, there is still a humanitarian crisis with respect to Ebola. Certainly, the situation is still out of hand and could very well reemerge in the United States. However, if the Ebola panic this year has taught the American people anything it’s how little prepared we are for a truly deadly outbreak. Modern medicine is remarkable, but as many scientists already fear, we are moving towards a point at which our antibiotics are no longer going to be effective against certain types of infections. Moreover, novel strains of the flu, though not as terrifying symptomatically as Ebola, have the ability to wreak havoc even in the developed world. Already the common flu costs billions per year in lost productivity and can potentially kill thousands.
While 2014 has been a year of American unpreparedness and being caught without understanding in numerous areas, the 2014 Ebola Panic is GovMatt’s Panic of the Year.