I’m not terrified of Ebola, women’s health even though I work in a place which hypothetically be a gateway for it to spread among a wider population. The vectors of the virus are so narrow and the local cultural-medical factors are so different that the likelihood of that happening is next to nil.
I may not be scared, information pills but I can’t say I’m not worried. A horrific disease with a high rate of mortality has jumped its traditional regional boundaries, case killing one person and infecting at least one other. One doesn’t have to fall prey to “the sky is falling” levels of panic for that to give someone pause.
As reprehensible and irresponsible as the fearmongering has been in the media — whether done to generate venue traffic or to further a political agenda — I’m also wary of the folks who keep insisting that the recent turn of events is no big deal.
These arguments tend to put a large amount of faith in “SCIENCE” and the ability of our public health institutions to cope with the threat based on past performance and theoretical possibilities.
I agree with them for the most part, but I’m still unable to share their level of dismissive confidence. Even if the healthcare system hasn’t shown itself to be broken (especially along racial and class lines), even if federal research and agency budgets hadn’t been slashed, even if things hadn’t been so co-opted by for-profit healthcare combines and drug companies, placing excessive faith in theoretically “sound” systems is a dangerous game.
Because systems are only as flawless as the people who administer them, and people are prone to fucking up.
The Titanic, DDT, Three Mile Island, Fukushima — these are only the more prominent examples of how circumstances and/or human error can wreak havoc upon the best-laid plans. Science may be self-correcting, but such corrections arise from errors in existing theories. It’s one thing when such an error has to do with the estimated mass of the universe, it’s another when it involves the health and safety of millions of people.
“But it was a failure of protocols and procedures, not the overall methodology!”
That may be true, but that still omits the crucial human element from the equation — that people get tired, get lazy, can be subject to hubris or bias, or simply make an honest mistake.
Losing one’s shit is the least productive response to such awareness, but one should also keep in mind that things reached this point because of a series of preventable errors.
Recommended listening: Choir Invisible – Fatal Dream (from Choir Invisible, 1981)
Adding some cobwebs and black lace to the Paisley Underground.