Saturday, October 18, 2014
1) As you resume your place in the pack of surfers, you notice the guy next to you has a large gash on his leg, oozing blood into the surrounding ocean. Simultaneously, you notice a number of large grey dorsal fins indicative of Great White Sharks, on a beeline for the group of wet-suited wave warriors among whom you're sitting. Do you
a) reach down for the razor sharp dive knife on your calf, worn there since your days at BUD/S, and think about the story you're going to tell that master chief who thought you'd never finish SEAL training
b) point your board to the sweet spot of the incoming wave, and paddle like a madman to catch it
c) turn your board down-current, and begin short, smooth arm strokes angling away from the group, keeping your feet out of the water, or
d) lie back, enjoy the sun on your face, and remember that the worst day surfing is still better than the best day working?
2) As you and your family are enjoying a day at the zoo, an adult Bengal tiger leaps out of his exhibit pen, and lands next to the child-filled petting zoo about 50 yards away. Do you
a) make a break for your truck, happy in the knowledge that your 12 gauge shotgun and bandoleer of slugs will be in your hands in moments, and hope the zookeeper and the fish and game folks will let you keep the trophy
b) grab your kids, and tell your wife to get in front of you and run like hell
c) push your clan into the handy nearby janitorial closet and bolt the sturdy door, happy in the knowledge that tigers don't have opposable thumbs, or
d) make sure you get all this on your phonecam, counting on the fact that by the time the tiger eats all the kids between itself and yours, he'll be too full to take another bite?
3) As the theatre goes dark, a guy in a trenchcoat in the front seats starts unloading multiple rounds into the nearby moviegoers. Do you
a) whisper a prayer to Odin, pull out your everyday carry .44 Magnum, take aim, and blow his head clean off
b) sprint for the exit, bobbing and weaving until you hit the parking lot
c) hit the floor, and hope he runs out of ammo before he gets to your row, or
d) yell at the guy to sit down and STFU, because you waited two months for this movie and you paid your $12, dammit?
4) Ebola hits your country. Do you
a) Sign up to work with Medicins Sans Frontieres, suit up, and start taking care of people to wipe out this disease ASAP
b) Move to your well-stocked cabin in the Yukon, two days by dogsled through the sub-arctic wilderness
c) Head home, stopping at Costco and Sam's Club to pick up a few things, then park your car, lock the front door, and watch the societal meltdown on TV, while calling your congressman daily to tell the useless SOB that you want the flights coming here from Africa cancelled right away, or
d) console yourself with the knowledge that this Ebola thing isn't that big a deal, and continue about your everyday life as if you'd never heard of it?
If you picked mostly A, you should go sign up for the SEALs, Special Forces, or Open Night at the MMA Challenge tournament.
If you picked mostly B, you'll probably never win any medals for bravery, but you'll also probably die at a ripe old age, at home in your own bed, of natural causes.
If you picked mostly C, maybe you'll live a long and happy life, or maybe not so much, but the odds are definitely on your side for more days on top of the ground rather than under it until you're at least 70.
If you picked mostly D, you should look for work at the White House, the CDC, or CNN. And update your will.
With nearly any problem, there are three decent ways to face it, and one jackassical one:
You can confront it head on;
you can take to your heels;
you can minimize your exposure and vulnerability;
or you can stick your head firmly up your own back end, and pretend you're now invisible.
The way to look at Ebola isn't "Hey, it's only killed XXXX people so far, so my odds are one-in-a-million (which right now, worldwide, is exactly what they are).
Because in six months, your new odds may be more like one-in-four-thousand.
In six more months after that, they could be one in sixteen.
And three months after that, 9 out of 10 you're dead.
Numbers and time aren't on your side.
We can't breed people fast enough to get numbers on your side. If the earth's population doubled, we'd only buy three more weeks at the back end. That's the power of an R-naught of 2 and logarithmic growth. It's why Albert Einstein once replied that the greatest power on earth was "compound interest". Ebola is compounding at a return of 100% for just about every 3 weeks so far.
Just like with fire, you can't choke it by giving it more fuel. But you can suffocate it, or take the heat away.
Cooling Ebola off requires taking people away from the heat of the virus. And what works for that, since forever, is keeping people away from the virus. Contain it where it is, and keep infected people away from uninfected people. That means absolute isolation, travel bans, and quarantines. It's the only thing we have right now that works, and it's also the only thing thing the idiots in charge refuse to consider, with the thoughtless stubbornness of the offspring of horses and donkeys.
We do it because that buys time, so that the current outbreak runs out of fuel (people), and multiplies slower. We desperately need that time, because at the present rate of spread, we're headed for a world-changing pandemic. If you jump out of a plane without a parachute, telling us "So far, so good" at 10,000 feet isn't the behavior of a rational person. Neither is pointing out how beautiful the view is, or marveling at the approaching scenery. The critical components are your velocity downward, the distance to the ground, along with a basic grasp of math and the physics of falling bodies.
And hopefully, we cool Ebola off enough for it to burn out, or if we're very, very lucky, someone comes up with a vaccine to prevent getting it, and more effective treatments for it, and we can then suffocate it.
But we aren't anywhere close to there yet, and therefore anyone suggesting you blithely go about your business is a moron. Anyone that's saying "Hey, it's tough to catch, look, Duncan only gave it to two people" has the brain of a stegosaurus. The thing to note is that Duncan infected two people who had on every possible piece of protection, knew all the techniques, and yet STILL caught it.
That more people, including those exposed to him early on and more casually, do not show symptoms and may not have been infected is nothing but fate among the random happenstance of a neutral universe, or the tender mercies of a benevolent deity.
What it's not is cause for relief nor celebration.
We've merely been fortunate, like the guy who hits the Powerball on the one time he buys a ticket.
And only a jackass expects that to happen every time, or jumps off a cliff a second time because the first didn't happen to kill him.
The media are, by and large, jackasses.
The CDC is run by a monumental jackass.
And the president is the Grand Panjandrum of the Jackass Party.
And not just by coincidence.
As my namesake noted some millennia earlier, ants thrive, and grasshoppers die.
Assess the risks, and choose wisely. And quit fiddling around.