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Swine flu frenzy - a different kind of conspiracy

Rob's column Wednesday brought up the issue of conspiracy theories when it comes to virus/vaccine scenarios, and whether it's irresponsible to ignore those theories ...or irresponsible to indulge them.

So I've got my own conspiracy theory about H1N1 to share with you.


First, I stand by The Source's decisions, to use the term 'conspiracy theorist' and then to acknowledge that not all conspiracy theories are predicated on lunacy; that some are, in fact, correct... just think of Woodward and Bernstein, if you doubt.


Accepting all conspiracy theories is an open invitation to delusional psychosis ... but rejecting them all out-of-hand means accepting absolute ignorance, making ourselves easy pawns for anyone to use or manipulate, as individuals or as a larger community.


No one in North America, for years, believed Hitler conspired on such a grand scale as he did – and they paid an horrific price for their doubt.


Examining each, instead, for a potential foundation of truth, then exploring that truth to see what a renewed spotlight reveals ...that's not only our right ...it's our responsibility, in a society predicated on the notion of self-governance.


Which brings me to H1N1. There IS, to my mind, a foundation of truth to be more closely examined here ...there is, in my opinion, clearly a conspiracy at work – but not one of the malevolent, sinister kind so many fear.


Yes, people are right to feel a twinge of doubt, to wonder what's going on behind the scenes, when they see the government (and after it, the media) institute an unprecedented campaign to raise public awareness of a virus that, to the best of my understanding, kills significantly fewer people than does regular seasonal flu.


We're seeing an all-stops-pulled, no-holds-barred blitz campaign ... I'm getting government press releases weekly, sometimes daily (sometimes even hourly), when I'm normally privileged to receive a single release in an entire year for seasonal flu preparedness.


So what gives?


Why is the government all of a sudden so scared of H1N1 ... and so anxious for us to be, as well?


No, I don't think they're trying to kill us all off, institute arbitrary population control or implant us with miniaturized GPS tracking chips to further their authoritarian fantasies – therein lies the realm of nuttiness, I'd say.


But what about this possibility – what if a more benign conspiracy is at work? What if the government is afraid, not of H1N1, but of it's successor? Like H5N1 (avain flu) having evolved to allow for efficient human-to-human transmission (with a mortality rate around 60 per cent, this would be catastrophic), or H1N1 itself, having mutated to a more virulent form, or even some new, unanticipated flu virus altogether ...it's not exactly outside the realm of possibility.


The flu pandemic of 1918/19 killed between 40 and 50 million people. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been saying it's a matter of when, not if, another flu pandemic strikes ... and they've been saying so for years.


If they weren't convinced before, H5N1 did the trick - in a 2005 Report by the Secretariat to the WHO executive, WHO experts minced no words, “Since January 2004, events affecting both human and animal health have brought the world closer to an influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968 ... The present situation may resemble that leading to the 1918 pandemic.”


Yikes.


They openly admit they don't know why the 1918 pandemic was so lethal, and they can't predict what virus may spark the next pandemic that hits ... so what do they do?


I would suggest the very first thing they do is start capacity-building.


Educate the public on preventative measures so thoroughly that they're conditioned to stay home when sick, exercise proper hygeine, learn the coughing/sneezing etiquette that will best prevent transmission, etc. Make it so rote for the general population that doing otherwise would be unthinkable ...like eating raw chicken. There was a time when we didn't know about Salmonella and E-Coli, and rare chicken wasn't preferred, but it wasn't absolutely taboo, either. Foresight and wisdom woould dictate governments work to make flu prevention just as much of a societal baseline.


Next would be vaccination capacity – they'd have to create production facilities to make vaccines, then transportation systems to get them on the ground, and delivery systems to administer them ... all while trained staff are, presumably, getting ill themselves. They'll have to perfect systems that allow for diminished manpower and failing social, transportation and government infrastructure as a large percentage of the population falls prey to the virus.


Most of us know that municipalities undertake disaster planning exercises on a regular basis, the logistics of which are enormous – this is comparable, but on a global scale.


Would it not make sense then, when a flu pandemic does hit, but happens to be far less virulent than the flu of 1918, that governments, in conjuction with the UN, WHO, and other international organizations, would use that outbreak as an opportunity to further test and hone systems that may one day save our entire society (if you think I'm exaggerating, think again of a 60- to 70-per-cent mortality rate, and what it would mean for our communities: losing the majority of our ambulance drivers, police, fire crews, doctors, nurses, electrical workers, water-company technicians – and those minority still left alive occuped with nursing their own families, in bereavement, and likely panic-stricken, not to mention both sick and contagious ...just not dying themselves).


Yup – looks like the H1N1 reaction is an intentional over-reaction, so call it a conspiracy, if you will. By strict definition of the word, it is a conspiracy.


But I believe it's a conspiracy contrived to serve our best interests; to keep not just us, but our entire communities and governance systems, healthy and operational.


I think we have a responsibility to question it, sure ... but having done so and found no malice of intent, to get on board and participate in any way we can... to help the powers that be build capacity, plan for contingencies and, ultimately, protect us all.


Teach our kids hygeine so vigorously that it's second-nature to them. Go get the vaccinations so governments can accurately predict how much will be needed, how fast, and thus begin to figure out how they're going to get it to us.


If we work now, prepare and plan to the best of our abilities, we just might weather a storm that most experts believe is coming – not might be, but is.


That's the merit of conspiracy theories, to my mind.

Honest analysis of of the wackiest perspective, if it's one predicated on even a kernel of truth, can promote critical thinking and lead us to the understanding and decision-making that will serve us, our families and our communities well, now and into the future.

Not as sexy as Watergate, maybe, but one works with what one has.