Monday, April 27, 2009

Pandemic (of Fear)

A few years ago, Michael Crichton wrote a thought-provoking book on global warming called State of Fear. Whether or not you agree with his assessment of global warming lobby groups, the book is a fascinating look at how suspicion, apprehension, and dread are so easily spread.

I thought of Crichton's book recently when thinking about the media-fuelled State of Fear surrounding Mexico. Tijuana has long been the favourite target of foreign media whenever they need a good head-shaking', finger-waggin' shock story. Stories of drug cartels, army intervention, thousands of drug-related deaths, torture, be-headings... I mean, it's just great shock fodder.

And now there's the swine flu pandemic. It's a serious situation, but I can't help but notice the grossly different ways it's being reported.

According to the World Health Organization's website, Mexico has 26 confirmed cases of with seven deaths (WHO source), and recommends neither travel restrictions nor border closures.

Contrast this with Canada's CTV network claiming 149 deaths in Mexico, the same number alleged by America's CNN, and both are rattling about travel restrictions.

I'm not living in denial about the violence in Tijuana, nor am I suggesting that the swine flu isn't a serious thing. These are trying times for Mexico.

But I wonder sometimes if the most truly devastating pandemic threatening our lives is the pandemic of FEAR. I mean, where does it stop?
  • all west coast dwellers should flee inland out of fear of "The Big One" -- the earthquake that will sink most of California and British Columbia, as we all surf to the prairies
  • except that we'd then be living in Tornado Alley (for the USA) or Flood Central (for Canada)
  • Americans are fanatics about owning guns; you never know who's behind you in the check-out line at Stuff-Mart with a bad attitude and a concealed handgun, and God have mercy on your soul if they're a Postal Worker...
  • Canadians have socialized medicine, and you know what that can lead to...
  • does anyone still have left-over stockpiles from Y2K?
  • and so on, and so on...
This pandemic of FEAR is destroying our sense of humanity and compassion. It reveals our own selfishness and idolatry of a comfortable, stress-free life. The FEAR pandemic robs us of the inclination to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

I'd love to see people's inner mental screen about Tijuana & Mexico -- the one that flashes visceral images automatically and subconsciously -- shift away from media-fueled images of drug cartels, machine guns, and surgical masks, and to begin to see the people of Tijuana as Jesus sees them.

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