Opening scene. A two-year-old suffers and dies horribly in an African rain forest. A grief-stricken mother weeps over the body of her dead child, then, a few days later dies herself. Next scene, French doctors are testifying to government panels all around the western world about what a disaster this outbreak really is. They plead for help on CNN and FOX and BBC... The doctor who knows the most about the disease in the whole world goes directly to a bureaucrat from [insert name of international organization or western government here] and tries to paint a picture of the terror that awaits. The bureaucrat leans back in his desk chair and fiddles with
In the film version of this book, we all know the final scene. It is Brad Pitt (or equivalent) leaning on a hoe behind a ruined McMansion. Brad is wearing a dirty make-shift garment tied at his shrunken waist with a piece of clothes line. Behind him, wraith-like children with wild, dirty hair, cringe and cower. The more violent survivors - the ones who always travel in packs and have teeth as bad as their morals - have come to take the potato crop that Brad's family has only just managed to store in what was once their home theater. Brad tells the kids to get inside and brandishes the hoe...
We know this story, or feel like we do. We've seen this plot over and over for years and this IS HOW THE END BEGINS. No wonder people are panicking.
Well, a few people.
Most of us here in the west are probably just a little bit worried. I'll put myself in that category. True, I would not have been happy to have been on that plane with the nurse who got sick right after she got off of it.
In my better moments, however, I remember the actual, currently suffering victims of this terrible disease, and the bravery and goodness of those who have pitched in to help them. That is the current reality - it is also, for the time being, the only reality. So, note to self and anyone else who has been pulled through this same thought pattern: save your concern for those who really need and deserve it now. Brad and the rest of us are almost certain to be fine. In the meantime there are thousands of sick people who need help and helpers who need support. Helping them would be actually useful, and also do a little something to foreclose the hackneyed ending we've been conditioned to expect.