Monday, April 27, 2009

Cycling and Swine... it's Fine!

Klaus... don't f it up, please.

While there are no confirmed cases, the flu is probably already here in D.C. Even the mighty rhetoric of Lou Dobbs and his border-patroling militia could not have kept the millions of leprous and swinely-infected Mexicans out of God's country -- or its divinely-anointed capital -- for the past couple of weeks. No, no. They've moved across our border like salt through a cell wall, bearing all the evils of the South along with them.

What? The virus can travel on legal immigrants too, you say? On U.S. citizens vacationing in Mexico? And it's already in other countries, including Canada? Well, at least we know who to blame. We know where it started.

Sadly, there is a part of America where that will not be parodic.

It's hard not to react to any calamity by:

(1) identifying the cause (preferably, something already hated); and
(2) heaping moral scorn and outrage upon it.

Watch. In the coming days, people will blame industrial agriculture, overpopulation, and our consumption of pork for the swine flu. Someone will scapegoat homosexuality. (Don't you see the connection? It's obvious!) Bankers are probably behind it in the end. They always are.

At least Jews and Muslims shouldn't blame each other, since both groups abstain from all things porcine. But they probably will anyway.

Blaming is hard-wired in us. It's hard-wired in me. If I had to blame anything, it would be creationism. Creationism didn't cause or spread the virus, but if our knowledge of microbes is going to evolve faster than the microbes themselves, we'd better introduce generations of schoolchildren in Kansas and Texas to the concept of natural selection.

Oh well.

Even more than the blame response, watch for a kind of giddy voyeurism in the media. They grow wild-eyed with stories like this, because fear is what they really peddle: fear, and the heady, genuflect-inducing feeling of the *narrow escape*. The there-but-for-the-grace-of-God sensation.

The news media's affected empathy -- betrayed by micro-expressions of delight and a certain thrill to their tone of voice -- is hard for me to watch. But it's human too.

No one hopes for an accident in a bike race. But when it does happen, and you escape it, you:

(1) identify the cause (preferably, someone already hated); and
(2) heap moral scorn and outrage upon him.

Most of the time, this is perfectly appropriate, because the scorn enforces discipline in the peleton and keeps everyone safer in the long run. But after (1) and (2), you:

(3) get a huge rush.

In telling people about the crash, you find yourself with the same disgusting affectation and thinly-veiled excitement as a Fox News anchor. There's a head shake, a pity squint. Then, a momentary flash of gleeful satisfaction. "I survived!"

Maybe this lessens with age, and with lots of crashes. You start to see crashes just as the scary, awful things they are. But it's still there. Adrenaline and schadenfreude.

Anyway, I confess to a certain irrepressible excitement about the swine flu. It's high drama, a relief from boredom. It's something beyond the control of THE SYSTEM. Like the plague, the flu pays no heed to education, socio-economic status, or moral standing. It's biological, medical roulette. Vegas, baby!

I wonder whether I and my loved ones will escape it. I wonder if there is anything we can do to beat it.

Here's the thing. The flu typically kills young and healthy people with strong immune systems, while leaving the old and infirm. While I usually bemoan my weak immune system, it is now, paradoxically, my salvation, my edge over competing organisms (viz., all of you reading this, as well as the local birds and swine).

What can I do to weaken my already pathetic immune system even further? I can ride far and fast. Moderate exercise would only empower my white blood cells to conquer my own body after exposure to the virus. But extreme levels of exertion should do the trick.

Off bonking...


qualia said...

Ok, so I am reduced to commenting on my own post, a post which the more literary-minded Calvini would have entitled, Cycling in the Time of Swine Flu.

Just an update: illegal immigrants have, indeed, borne the blame for swine flu, in the eyes of conservative commentators.

Calvini said...

See that Lance, Horner and Levi are down in the general Mexico area doing the Tour of the Gila? They probably get hosed down like Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys after every stage.