I don’t like the whole panic thing. I avoid it after it turned me into a scrambling lunatic during Orlando’s unexpected hurricane marathon in 2004. Central Floridians are not coastal types. Our waterways are mostly lakes and rivers. We don’t remember the “big one” so essentially we never prepared for even a small one. I panicked, and big.
Hurricane Charlie left us shell-shocked and with some damage. Hurricane France soaked our streets and our guest room wall. Ivan made me numb to the relentless worry.
Decisions, preparation and panic blend to create uncertainty, waiting.
Panic is like that sudden arm wave at sports stadiums. You see it streaming across the arena and you either sit it out and break the chain or stand and join in the frenzy.
I’m not panicked about the swine flu. I have panicked and self-diagnosed myself with plenty of mysterious diseases that kept me up at night. At times I thought I had breast cancer, Lupus, arthritis, attention deficit, bowel obstructions, hypoglycemia, (I didn’t), and other horrible ills.
It’s not that I’m a hypochondriac, these worries span thirty years. I just want answers when I feel like crap. Questions marks and “wait and see” aren’t soothing. To some feeling ill or finding a weird lump is just part of the daily grind and something to be ignored. To me it’s a red flag to listen up, panic or not.
I tune in and try to get whatever it is, fixed. I tune into my daughter if she seems off, my husband if he seems to be popping more Tums than usual.
Tuning in does, I admit, make you worry more, but only for the short run. You either fix what ails you and stop worrying, or you become exponentially more neurotic because you find out too much. Either way, you’re a step closer to resolve.
I was, I admit, only half listening to all these swine flu stories, though the information is everywhere, buzzing about in my daughter’s 5th grade class, in my husband’s news stream on his tv blaring between financial news.
I won’t subscribe to the bubonic plague mentality, mostly because I don’t want to, and the words “plague,” or “epidemic,” are Sci-fi scare terms I’d like to think are mostly impractical.
Of course I thought we were long past ever using the phrase “Great Depression” again but I heard that catastrophic term thrown around like it was “just a matter of time” because our financial foundations now have a big gash in them.
A matter of time, means soon, it means it will, it mean’s it’s coming but we don’t know “when.”
These broad Apocolyptic fire alarm phrasings from the Glenn Becks et al, deserve an eyebrow raise or two, but they need to be carefully and mindfully digested or you’ll start sounding like you have voices in your head.
These warnings from Republicans of the inevitable spiraling down of all we once had in our once great nation, the signs we must run for the hills, emigrate to capitalism-friendly Europe (says Boortz), start our own organic co-op gardens, stock pile food and water and buy gold, are dramatic attempts to scare folks enough to listen up, to admit things are irreversibly changing. Indeed they are, and indeed they need to.
But is this, all of it, the markets, the economy, the flu, really the end of our great nation or a sign to make dramatic shifts?
The Great Depression prediction has been thrown around by even the rational types. My husband is a reasonable, level-headed, low drama guy. He’s a daily stock trader, attached to a financial feeding tube that delivers news about surging and dumping markets, the causes, predictions, dooms, glooms, hopes and lost dreams.
The financial circus we watched since September led to real and deserved panic, real jobs were lost, not pretend or feared ones. Real money dissolved, not just paper losses.
But what did the panic do? It dumped the markets even further. Panic breeds panic like germ bugs proliferate, feeding off the others to grow and propagate. There is no vile intent behind this, panic and germs just do what they do, multiply, divide and conquer.
My husband ingests daily financial news with about 20,000 daily amps of Jim Cramer and other pundits who nullify each others’ market predictions. Eventually when even he looked shell-shocked, sleepless nights and a hurting gut followed. Soon I started to feel sick too.
I don’t blame him. He watched the brightest and best financial analysts scratch their heads and say “uh, um, well, I think, I thought, maybe sell, or hold? but then again….” as the numbers and our investments continued to dive, our faith in “experts” and established prediction formulas dissolved.
When there are no more experts who are mostly right, panic sets in.
Anyone deluged with enough double speak terms like, “don’t panic, but prepare, don’t be alarmed, but you might want to…” will involuntarily create “what if” scenarios in their head and predict more dark nights.
The Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Director of the CDC, the President and all other perception shapers know this all too well.
The power to soothe or shake up the masses, is by far the most absolute power of all. Think Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life, think Hitler, purpose to annihilate.
We are humans by God, and humans process information like “crash, depression, crisis, spreading, slump, new strain, unemployment, getting worse, pandemic” at a subconcious level that trumps obvious facts staring us in the face, like most flus are harmless and easily treatable, like the world and economy today isn’t the same as during the Great Depression, despite the sub-prime mortgage fiasco.
This swine flu is a case of (rightly so) public officials doing a big old CYA.
I’m fine with the news being overtaken by the flu bug, as long as the talk stays at an informative soft simmer and murmur.
Perhaps this would be a good time to put the health worry to use; to remind people what they can do to not only avoid the bad bugs, but to amp up their immune systems to battle the germs should they invade their body.
In other words, remind us of the importance of being healthy.
That’s a public health service worth holding on to and one Dr. Oz seems to promote in his tempered tone and easy to understand advice.
I don’t think we should use crisis and panic to simply react. We should learn and change, get some real leverage out of our global adrenaline.
The paradigm shift from the financial crisis, for instance, is making us more frugal with spending and lending practices and perhaps forcing a re-focus on family time.
But when we tune in to the media without balancing the news bytes with our own ability to reason, we lose our minds, then panic spreads like a disease.
Tune in too much to anything and you become overly sensitive, tune out too much and you lose your sensitivity. Yes, there is that much nuance to being self and news informed I believe.
If I was filing a folder in my New York City office and caught an eyeful of a huge low lying plane trailed by a military escort, I would run out and panic. Next I’d scream at the top of my lungs at the moron who decided it was okay to present a terrorist-like image to NYC citizens and hope they either wouldn’t notice or care.
Panic is only irrational if it’s not likely, although the definition of “likely” changes everyday, probabilities shift the first time the “never” turns to “it did.”
It’s not likely our nation will be over run by the flu and wipe out large populations. It is possible that terrorists will try to ram their planes or something else into large populated places.
How long ago would you have reversed those probabilities?
Uncertainty is excruciating for our pysche, particularly when the horribly impossible becomes possible. We crave knowing, even if it’s bad, at least we can fight the enemy we know.
The Avian bird flu made me think, but not too much. Perhaps because I spend so much time protecting my immune system with holistic practices, supplements, and preventative measures. My body isn’t impenetrable to nasty bugs, but it’s pretty strong.
I tucked away my swine flu worry after I warned my daughter to wash up more, and I rubbed my hands with anti-bacterial gel after using the sweat-dried mat at Pilates class today. The flu news motivated me to do two things I don’t normally do; I figure that’s enough preemptive action.
But then I read a blog about the behaviors and unpredictable patterns of the swine flu and other strains of influenza. These are beastly erratic things who morph and move and blend and come to rest and infect in seemingly random ways.
Don’t scientists have enough historical evidence to nail these germs down to a set personality and trajectory?
Well, according to a post on the The Effect Measure about the nature of these beasts, “If you’ve seen one flu pandemic, you’ve seen one flu pandemic.”
In other words, one bug is not like the other.
This leaves the world of epidemiology, germ cause, effect and impact, largely up to a measured but unpredictable crap shoot.
The Effect Measure website is made up of senior public health scientists and practitioners whose “names would be immediately recognizable to many in the public health community. They prefer to keep their online and public lives separate to allow maximum freedom of expression.”
These folks estimate the influence of a “particular factor” on a population’s health, enter the latest, the swine flu.
This is a pretty intriguing site to fall on. Anonymous senior health officials give readers the inside track, opining on world health issues of their choosing, but they keep their identity on the down low.
Great idea. Anonymity makes me trust a media outlet more, knowing the source isn’t (likely) in the pocket of the newspaper, politician or some other agency pulling their mouth and purse strings.
I find when I tune into these expert sites, they are a double-edged swords; they create a slippery slope towards falling into a ditch of “reasonable panic.”
The more you know the more you worry, the more you know the less you worry. I remember now why ignorance is paradoxically, sort of bliss.
“If this outbreak becomes a sustained worldwide one — the definition of a pandemic — you should not expect it to be the same as any other pandemic. It might be like 1918, 1957, 1968 or just a bad flu season. Or not.” writes The Effect poster named “Revere” (all bloggers are named Revere after the famed alertist/messenger).
It’s unsettling to know that the one sure thing in life is that nothing is static or certain. New flu strains manifest, terrorists find killer tactics our imaginations conceived, financial markets crumble right in front of our very noses.
But one thing is comforting, we get signs, little red flags at us every day.
Perhaps big signs, poking their way across the world into our terrorist monitoring think tanks, into our credit and lending reports, into our immune system challenged bodies as we down another burger and fry.
We know, we know what we need to do, long before we know why we need to do it. The question is, do we care to listen?