The swine flu hysteria reminded me about this satirical text that my arabic tutor gave me about a year ago. It's a fake (of course) interview with the H5-N1 or "bird flu" virus. Unfortunately I don't know who wrote it or where it was originally published, so I'm translating part of it here without permission:
Q: Welcome Mr. Virus!
A: Thank you.
Q: Please, would you like to introduce yourself to the readers?
A: My name on the ID is H5, but my artistic name is Bird Flu Virus.
Q: Where do you live?
A: Here and there... I love travelling.
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in South-east Asia. Let's say China.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I'm just a virus like any other virus. It's just that I'm a new face, and you know how the media love everything new.
Q: What is new about you?
A: Maybe that I like birds, like chickens, ducks, or swans, and I have a broad appetite.
Q: So what brought you to Egypt, mr H5?
A: I realized that everything here comes from China, and you just love it. So I told myself I'll go there and they will welcome me as well!
Q: Welcome you? Why whould we welcome you when you come to destroy us?
A: Hey, doesn't the Chinese products destroy you, and still you love them? So why couldn't you love me?
Q: I don't understand.
A: Look, isn't the Chinese products destroying your industry and economy?
Q: It happens.
A: And I'm coming here to destroy your chickens and economy, so what's the difference?
Q: Seems like you are an educated virus.. But let's leave the politics so people don't get bored.
A: As you like.
Q: What do you intend to do here in Egypt?
A: I work with the ducks and swans and chickens and those funny birds.
Q: So you don't intend to enter humans?
A: Of course not.
A: Look, we viruses might be corrupt, but we don't like to take each others work. I tried to enter the body of the Egyptian citizen, but when I entered I found too many of my colleagues: Hepatatis mixed with tuberculosis and cancer. There was too many people, and we had some disputes.
Q: So what happened?
A: We agreed that I'm not from here, and let's all stick to our own. I'll stay in the chickens and birds...
The point is not the downplay the danger of bird flu and other new strains of flu, but to highlight how those new dangers and threats can be (and often are) used to distract people from other just as serious problems. So every new possible victim of the bird flu in Egypt is reported in media, but how about all the people that die every day in diseases that could be easily prevented or cured given the right resources?
Here's a video from Mike Booth on the same theme:
Also read what Sarah Carr writes on her blog:
"Every new crisis, every new tragedy in Egypt is a reprieve, a fresh start, another chance to put things right. It's never taken. Things are always and inevitably ballsed up, and back we are dragged to zero. Kids go on wiping windscreens at traffic lights, pensioners beg for your loose change and everywhere there is the sigh of failure and defeat. This is what is really obscene."