Who and What is the Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior is the title of a poem... and yes, I love this poem. I do not wish to be mischaracterized, for the most part poetry is not my bag. I am not an afficionado of literature nor am I a metro-sexual (I despise that term) but a dear friend introduced me to this masterpiece of prose several years ago... it has provided no end of inspiration. The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth outlines the qualities of a magnificent soul. I aspire to possess even one or two characteristics that "every man in arms should wish to be."


This blog is a representation, in conversational form, of my voyage to wrap my arms around the world in which Mr. Worsdworth's warrior finds happiness.

(Standing disclaimer: Luckily tests of spelling accuracy ended in 4th grade otherwise I would still be in Elementary School. Be forewarned, spelling errors ahead. I subscribe to the wisdom of a great man who said, "I have utmost disdain for a man who can only spell a word one way." -Benjamin Franklin)


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nisan 12 (Wednesday)

Note: please refer to the last three posts (ideally starting with Sunday first) for a better understanding of this entry.

On Wednesday of the last week we know very little. The gospel writers are silent. We can infer then, that Jesus did not journey back into public -and if so, he definitely did not venture back into Jerusalem. He would have created quite a stir and that would have made "news". For all intents and purposes his public teaching was complete. The next several days are spent with his apostles and with those closely related to the events leading to the cross (certain Jewish leaders, Pilate, Roman soldiers, etc.).

As far as Passover activities are concerned, the activities start in earnest "tomorrow". Like our modern Thanksgiving celebrations, this would have been a day or traveling in a mad effort to ge to Jerusalem and to find a place to stay. Scholars believe that the normal population of about 60,000 would swell to 180,000 as Jews made their way to Jerusalem and the temple where they could participate in the celebration which necessarily included sacrificial lambs (and these could only be obtained from the temple).

Due to the large amount of things to be covered tomorrow I will mention one of the most significant Passover preparations even though it was customarily not done until the first day of Passover. This is the searching out and abolition of leaven from the home. On the Eve of Passover, all leaven were to be searched out and burned (Exodus 12:19). It was also a symbolic way of leaving the sinful life of Egypt. This search was to be exhaustive. In fact a feather would be used to sweep up the smallest remnants of leaven. Clearly this is indicative of our need to inspect the darkest corners of our lives for even the smallest remnants of sin. Our introspection should be honest and thorough enough to identify and then expel those behaviors, attitudes and actions that have creeped in and begin to enlarge their influence in our lives. Sin has several characteristics one of which is spontaneous enlargement. More commonly we say: sin is addictive. Think about it, all sin is. It does not satisfy. If we lie, we are compelled by the nature of the lie itself to tell more lies in order to hide our original sin. In the case of so many things like alcohol, pornography, gossip, an appetite for wealth or fame, the addictive nature is obvious. We are compelled to get more and more. We become enslaved... like the Jews were to the Egyptians.

Search out that leaven and burn it (purify your lives). Shalom.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nisan 11 (Tuesday)

NOTE: this blog entry will make more sense and be more meaningful if you read the previous two posts (from Sunday and Monday).

First, let me wish you a happy Passover 2010. Unfortunately the current year's Passover does not exactly correspond with the Passover during the last year --the final days-- of Christ's life. For this year, then, the first "day" of Passover began last night at sunset (Jewish days begin not at 12 midnight but at sunset). For all my cousins from Judah who read my blog (not sure if I have any actually), let me wish you a very joyous and meaningful Passover.

During the first century and in the thirty-third year of Jesus, this day began by walking from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus stayed in Bethany rather than in Jerusalem as a measure of safety. The leaders in Jerusalem were extremely agitated by two recent actions: the raising of Lazarus from the dead and his defiant clearing out of merchants at the temple. This latter action took place "yesterday" and was a direct challenge to thier authority (not to mention that it also completely disrupted the established financial system and surely drove the participating merchats to complain to their "landlords"). In any case, it was not safe for Jesus to reside in Jerusalem. The "city" or "abode of peace" -which is what the word "Jerusalem" means- was not safe for the Prince of Peace. Ponder on the irony of that for a moment.

Many significant events and powerful teachings transpired on this day of the Savior's life. It began with a curious encounter with a fig tree that had all the appearances of being fruitful but, when inspected more closely, was barren of fruit... a situation that is all too apparent in the lives of many men and women especially in our day where "image is everything". In a rare exercise of power in the direction of condemnation, Jesus cursed the fig tree. This display of power to destroy provides an interesting contrast to the recent display of power to give life in the raising of Lazarus. The Messiah, obviously, has power over both life and death... a foreshadowing of events to take place within the next several days.

Once in Jerusalem the scorned Jewish leadership makes multiple attempts to question and find a theological and legal case against Jesus. His replies to every challenge and the subsequent teaching are some of the most profound elaborations of doctrine. He largely speaks to them in parables and effectively counters all their malevolent objectives. They cannot find fault with anything he says, in fact Jesus comes off looking more regal while they appear more foolish. If these conversations played out in public -which we can assume they most certainly did- their contempt must been pushed to the limits. In fact we know that their conspiracies took on the darkest of tones as they considered how they could be rid of him. I can't help seeing the contrast between the festive celebration of life, of deliverance (which they should have been officiating and personifying by example) and their ruminations of murder (which consumed their thoughts and their heart). They could not have been farther from the emotional or ecclesiastical place they should have been in.

Tuesday was a glorious day when measured by the teachings we were given but it is an ominous and foreboding day when considering the things to come. The truth of the Passover is that we know the story very well. We know that deliverance comes but we also know that it comes with the price of the blood of the Pascal lamb. Surely at some time that lamb would cease being a representative lamb, the proxy animal and it would be the Lamb of God. That time is just a few days away.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nisan 10, (Monday)

NOTE: for this entry to make sense please read my blog from Sunday, March 28th first.

Passover does not just sneak up on observant families. And yes, Passover is a family centered celebration where the children are the object of nearly all of the events and teachings.... back in Exodus where God institutes an annual observance, the purpose is to "shew thy son... saying this is done because of that which the Lord did unto me..." In other words, the purpose is to help each new generation REMEMBER the merciful dealings of the Lord and to look to Him for deliverance. Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the child-centered message of another pre-Messiah prophet:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. -2Nephi 25:26

Back to the idea of preparing for Passover. There are specific things to be done to prepare for Passover, one of which would take place today. On the 10th of Nisan a lamb was brought into the home (Exodus 12:3,6). This was the Passover Lamb that was kept until the 14th. During this time the family would inspect the lamb to make sure that it had no blemish. So what is the correspondent symbolism in the life of Christ? When I first heard of this practice I thought that this must have correlated with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem... but no, that happened on Sunday the 9th. My disappointment turned into awe when I realized what did take place on Monday, the day after his triumphal entry. What did Jesus do, where did he go?

Jesus entered the temple. Although it was descecrated and needed to be cleaned (which he commenced to do), the Lamb went into his house. This reality is made clear by the short statement found on modern temples.
The temple at Jerusalem should have been a sanctuary and the center of the Messiah's earthly ministry. It should have been the place where he taught, ministered and communed with his Father but it was not any of those things. It was not prepared for Him. The caretakers had not ensured its purity and consequently it could not fulfill its purpose. Still, in an effort to teach us of the potential and the sacred nature of a temple, Christ entered it as the Passover model demanded. He cleansed it, he taught in it and he suffered in the shadow of it (more on this later this week). The point of this day is that the Pascal lamb did, in fact, come into his home as was mandated. The question for us, in the year 2010, is concerning the condition of our homes... Do we invite the Pascal Lamb into our home? Is our home a place where the spirit of his presence would be comfortable or would he find us full of blemishes and unclean actions? Passover presents us with some hard questions but also with some glorious possibilities. Shalom!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day by Day Notes Regarding the Celebrations of Passover and Easter. Day 1: Palm Sunday

NOTE: many of my readers follow my blog for the political and social themes I explore. Due to the time of season, the next several postings are religious in nature. I hope you will find these engaging but I wanted to preface my departure from the normal content of this blog.

I am a Christian and a descendent of the house of Jacob (Israel). Let me elaborate: Specifically, with regard to my faith as a believer in Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah and Savior of mankind, I adhere to the doctrines and ordinances within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. With regard to my lineage in the family of Israel, I am a descendent of Ephraim, son of Joseph who was the youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons. All this is simply by way of introduction and context so that you may know where I am coming from.

Due to these two spiritual and genealogical legacies, I celebrate the events of Easter while also revering the traditions of my cousins from the house of Judah. The Jews have kept the commands of Jehovah for MANY generations, in fact from the time He first spoke them in Exodus 13:

And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.

Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD.

Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.

And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.


Obviously I am referencing the Jewish traditional celebration of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The connection between this Jewish celebration and the culminating week in the life of Jesus Christ is indistinguishable. It cannot be separated. The Passover led directly to the sufferings in Gethsemane and on the Cross which together represent the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. Moreover, both point directly to the deliverance and liberation of the children of men from sin and from death: Easter Sunday and the "firstfruits" of resurrection. Everything came together in that one week -the anticipation of a Messiah that is established in the Passover rituals and the redemption of mankind to the last future person to be born on earth. The past and the future came together in one great moment -in the atonement- where Jesus the Messiah became the one and final Pascal sacrifice.

In my personal celebration of the ancient Jewish Passover and the Christian events leading up to and culminating in Easter, I will daily post a short summary of the historical events with the object of helping your celebrations to be more meaningful. My objective is to present the events in a way that shows the fusion of Passover (Judaism) with Christianity.

Palm Sunday
In the last year of our Savior’s life Palm Sunday occurred on Nisan 9. (The Jewish lunar month of Nisan corresponds with our current Gregorian months of March and April. Nisan was the first month of the Jewish year, a fact that underscores how historically important the deliverance out of Egypt and slavery was). I’ve created a summary calendar showing the dates for the year of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is to help you in referencing what events happened when and how Passover/Feast of unleavened bread transforms into the offering of the on Pascal Lamb who had been identified years earlier by John the Baptist, “behold the lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36).


On what has come to be known as Palm Sunday (which by way of quick note was not the day on which Jews celebrated the Sabbath, neither was it for those who would later be called Christians -well not for another week at least. The Jewish Sabbath was and is honored on Saturday since this is the 7th day of the week -the day when God rested from his labors after creating the world during the previous six days), Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt (Matt. 21:1-9) to the recognition and praise of multitudes who shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David”. Hosanna, generally translated means “save us” or “save us now”. This was the one time in Jesus’ life when he was openly, public ally and widely recognized for who he claimed to be, the Messiah. It was in direct fulfillment of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus entered Jerusalem, his city, in the ceremonial manner of a king. Jesus was the king of Jerusalem in two senses. First, he was a legal heir to the throne as a descendant of David. More significantly, however, he was a king beyond political or temporal connotations. The word Jerusalem means “abode, place or city of peace”. Jesus, the Messiah, was and is the Prince of Peace. Jerusalem is identified as the seat of government from where he will reign over men and direct the affairs of his kingdom. In the first century, however, the proper lineage had been confounded and the leadership of His kingdom had been co-opted. Those who occupied positions of leadership were extremely unhappy over this public display and attempted to stop the “blasphemy”.

The account I’ve briefly given is well known by Christians. Unknown to many, however is a Passover ritual carried out by the Jews. This, like the coming festival, the sacrificial offerings, the seder and so many of the details involved in this celebration, all point to Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah. The details of Christ’s life perfectly match the details of the Passover celebration. In anticipation of the Passover, a lamb was chosen by the High Priest outside Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan. The Priest would lead the lamb into the city while crowds of worshippers lined the streets waving palm branches and singing the Hallal (Psalm 118). This was the same day when Jesus entered Jerusalem, perhaps right behind the High Priest's processional.

The symbolism of the Jew’s own celebration and the parallel to the events transpiring in the life of Jesus Christ as documented by the gospel writers leaves little margin for error regarding the fulfillment of prophecy and the actualization of what had been anticipatory.

Happy Palm Sunday! I hope you are watching for the ways in which God enters your homes and lives. I hope we can do better at recognizing his entry, his comings and goings. Most of all, I hope to be ready for his arrival whenever he comes. Shalom.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I am against the "healthcare" bill

I have many friends who have more liberal leanings than I and who believe the Democratic policies are the better way to go and who are celebrating passage of the recent healthcare bill with great exhuberance. This blog is for them (those of you who would like to lump me in some stereotypical class of intolerant, backward and evil conservatives).

I am against the healthcare bill just signed by President Obama. I cannot be more opposed to it. Why?

Am I completely unfeeling to my fellow citizens who cannot afford or otherwise do not have healthcare? Absolutely not (I am, in fact, one of those very citizens). Truth be told, I wish everyone could secure health coverage, BUT I realize that there are greater principles at stake than ensuring health insurance for everyone. In real life there are trade-offs. Everything comes at a price and for me the price of universal, government sponsored health insurance, is way too high (and I'm not talking about money at all).

First and foremost is my aversion to large, centralized government (a stance that I share with all of the founding fathers and nearly every notable political philosopher since the Enlightenment). America was founded on the idea of individual liberty, of limited government and of personal responsibility. Every time we give more power or money to the government EVEN IN THE NAME OF SOME WELL MEANING SOCIAL PROGRAM, we as citizens have fewer rights, liberties and freedoms. This is not opinion, it is fact that has been born out again and again over the history of mankind. My first opposition, therefore, is based in principle.

My second objection to this bill is based on practical reasons. This bill was not about improving our healthcare system. If so it would have included some of the most obvious problems: tort reform (the cost of medical litigation), of transferrence of coverage over artificial state lines and it would have placed the burden, the responsibility to keep oneself as healthy as possible on the individual. It does none of these things. In fact, it provides behavioral incentive for people to abuse the health system since "the government" is paying for it. No, it is not about improving our healthcare system, it is simply about expanding the power and financial reach of government... and who are the patrons of government? We are. So, back to my first point of objection: this bill is about expanding the power and financial reach of government into our lives.

There is no greater champion of reform than I but HOW and WHAT TYPE of reform makes all the difference. I have tried to explain my opposition but Paul Ryan of Wisconsin does a far better job than my poor efforts:

Monday, March 22, 2010

America is fundamentally changed... not so fast

Barak Obama did it. He fundamentally changed the United States of America. We are no longer exceptional. By definition we have become average, like everyone else. We have thrown off the mantel of leadership and are now a follower of other's mediocre policies and values. When did the American experiement die? Surely it is not entirely dead nor will one change take us from a post-industrial to post-mortem state but yesterday our condition was downgraded from stable to critical.

So who is at fault? In the end this change rests on the heads of the American citizenry -every one who voted for President Obama. From the beginning he pledged "fundamental change" and unfortunately a large enough group bought his vague platitude. Let me propose a course of action that is not so vague: repeal the helathcare bill!

To be sure, the fault does not lie entirely with the American people. They have since come to their senses and made it known to their representatives that the current path is not one we wish to traverse. At this point our government committed the most grevious sin, it stopped representing the people and ignored their mandate. Government chosen of the people was no longer a governement for the people but rather a government for the government. As is always the case in such conditions, they claimed to know more than we, they claimed that we would some day appreciate what they, in their far greater wisdom, could see and we could not.

If this is, in fact, a government by the people then we still have control of our destiny. This helathcare policy (which forces me under threat of penalty to purchase something against my will) was enacted against the will of a vast majority of the American people. Never before has such profound legislation been passed without the consent of one party (so much for being a bi-partisan president) and by employing proceedural fiat outside the normal operations as mandated by the Constitution. This is not the time to concede defeat but to redouble our committment. This is not a change Americans believe in. Nothing is un-amendable. Slavery and prohibition are the two most notable precedents for this fact. If you are of like mind, we must make the 2010 elections about one thing: repeal! Elect only representatives who will work to immediatey and absolutely repeal the travesty of expanded government under the guise of health care reform. We lost a battle but the war is still undecided.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Biggest Business is Big Government


With an advanced degree in the social sciences it is nothing short of a miracle that I am not a democrat, a liberal or a progressive. I've spent my share of time in circles where my view, my values and my political perspective were the minority view -most of this in the academy. I've always found it somewhat ironic that most of the liberals (for the purpose of this dicussion I will lump democrats and pogressives in this same general category) I've observed are unabashedly anti-big business. It is something of a status symbol to verbally assault big business (often with a Starbucks frappachino in one hand) and decry the greed which motivates their behavior. I am not an apologist for big business but I am also not a naive cynic.


I am a realist. Big businesses do much good (where would we be without the amazing advances in medicine over the past century -consider the vaccinations, medications, devices and proceedures, most of which were funded if not entirely developed by pharmaceutical companies) and periodically lose touch of their ethical and legal responsibilities. But the market has a wonderful way of weeding out the nefarious ones and rewarding the ethically upright ones.


So now lets consider big government... Most big business bashers are the same ones who support the expanded roles and reach of government. I do not know of a more backward, illogical and sophomoric stance to take. Big government is the worst possible type of big business. Last I knew, Microsoft did not own a police force that could legally imprison me if I failed to install Microsoft Office correctly. Last I checked, Ford Motor Company was not trying to mandate, under threat of the same police force, that I drive with my air conditioner topped out at 68 degrees. Make no mistake, the bigger our government becomes -the more power it wields in our lives, the more regulations it enacts, the more taxes it usurps from its citizens (oh, another thing General Electric does not have power to do under force of imprisonment), the more services it provides in the name of rights and equality- yes, the bigger our government becomes, the more our liberties and freedoms become. All the nefarious qualities, supposed and real, of big business apply in ten-fold measure to big government. There is no such thing as benign government. The best we can do is make it answerable to the will of the common people. How? By making it a government of the people, by the people and for the people... a foundational principle which the current administration and the Democratic party in general is hostile to.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TV worth watching (really)!


TV worth watching.... I know it sounds like an oxymoron but take it from a limited television watcher, this episode is worth it. I watch maybe three hours of television per week so I certainly do not qualify by my expertise in the medium, but luckily Mrs. Wicke brough this episode to my attention. If you are tired of America bashing, big business bashing, capitalism bashing, class warfare or if you are just down because of the current economic situation, this clip will restore your faith in American opportunity, American workers and humanity in general. Enjoy:

(click on image to go to video)

Friday, March 12, 2010

One of those BIG small events in life.

Recently in the life of Griffin. The following took place on Thursday, March 11, 2010. The events took place in real time:




Sometime between 11AM and 2PM: Griffin’s tooth is completely separated from his gums and comes out at school. The school has tiny plastic treasure chests for just such occasions and the tooth is placed safely in the treasure chest for transport home.

4:03 PM: Griffin bursts through front door after getting off the school bus to announce that his tooth has fallen out.

4:38 PM: Griffin interrupts his baseball practice and tells his coach that he lost his tooth at school.

7:40 PM: Griffin actually does lose his tooth when it is washed down the bathroom sink drain. Evidently he was brushing it to make it nice and sparkley for the Tooth Fairy.

7:43 PM: Dad takes apart the sink drain and recovers the lost tooth.

8:15 PM: Griffin places the tooth beside his bed for the Tooth Fairy to exchange for money.

It is nothing short of a miracle that Griffin has not lost his tooth (permanently and in an unrecoverable manner that is) between school and setting it beside his bed.

Approx. 12:19 AM: the Tooth Fairy makes his/her exchange.

3:10 AM: Griffin wakes dad to announce that the Tooth Fairy has come and left him the contracted funds.

3:11 AM: Dad wonders how this news could not have waited til morning and what Griffin is doing awake at 3 AM.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Song of Freedom

I freely admit that I have a tendency to the dramatic. It is the romantic in me (if only I could write poetry then Mrs. Wicke would derive some kind of benefit from this quality). The following is a short piece I wrote several years ago when the people of Iraq, after the removal of Sadam Hussein's regeim, were given their first opportunity at real democracy. In the past few days they exercised that freedom again as they casts votes in their still fledgeling democracy. In honor of this event and their great accomplishment, I share the following piece:

The Song of Freedom

The eminent elections in Iraq remind us that the song of freedom is an unfinished symphony. Not that it is lacking in fundamental structure, to the contrary; its sound theoretical foundations allow it to be ever expansive, inclusive of times, cultures and situations beyond its original octaves. With each additional verse, the opus becomes more of a masterpiece, reminding, even surprising, those who have long enjoyed its melody.

Great struggles mark the expansion of freedom’s song. Men and women carefully composed words which now very familiar refrains. For America, this song of freedom was once literally the battle hymn of the republic, for all other nations the refrains became familiar in the last century. Knowingly or not, contemporary framers of freedom march to a song of freedom our fore fathers once trod.

The popular refrain, “land of the free and the home of the brave” is finding application in a country half the world distant from where it was authored. Ironically, Iraq now takes up the pen to contribute a verse to freedom’s ring. There are many unknowns and perilous places for Iraq to pass through if they are to claim their liberty. The end is no more certain than our ability to retain our own. But the song of liberty is clear. Its verses both teach and inspire. As Iraq takes up the pen and resists the sword of tyranny, we do well to recall times in our own history when verses took form. Our soldiers, perhaps most expert at the meaning of the words, have carried this song in their hearts. Consider some of the most poignant lyrics:

“These are the times that will try men’s souls. Tyranny like hell is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, the harder the conflict the more glorious the victory.” There is, at this moment, no more brave or courageous people than those in Iraq. For this reason, if no other, we should pray for the success of their fledgling democracy. Consider the life expectancy of the man who prevails as president of Iraq. Unlike George Washington, this man will wear the mark of an assassin’s rifle scope. Unlike the lines outside the schools and churches where we voted in November, the lines of men and women waiting to vote in Iraq are consciously aware of the possibility that a roadside bomb will not only terminate their right to suffrage but also their lives.
-Thomas Wicke, 2005

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Media Catastrophe

I have got to write a book about the relationship between the media and disaster. Even if this was not an aspect of my own research, the interrelationship between the media and our social response (which is often fear and irrationality) is fascinating. Watch this short "news" piece and ask youself: what is the story the news agency is pushing? In the end, what are the facts presented in the story?
It is absolutely amazing. The story desperately wants to make a connecton, to imbue a relationship but ultimately must conclude that there is none. What it does, however is generate a lot of emotions, questions and uncertainty and then try to dismiss the hub-bub they stirred up.
(sorry for the link instead of an embedded video... MSN did not have the right "code". You will have to click on the link or paste it into your browser)
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/6814269#6814269

Bonus video: Because Americans (myself included) are notoriously narrow minded in their perspective, here is another "crazy weather" related video that features some recent conditions in other areas of the world.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/35740511#35740511

What does it mean? Who knows. Even the ardent "global warming alarmists" will find away to twist record cold winters into evidence for global warming. Any abnormal, wacky or extreme weather conditions, they will say, are evidence of man's decimation of the environment. Really... doesn't the logic sound eerily similar to a witch hunt to anyone besides me?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wacky Wednesday: A birthday tribute to Baby Lincoln

One year ago our baby Lincoln made the transition from crampt, dark and wattery to great big, bright world. Wow, talk about culture shock. He has done just fine and is now completely bi-pedal. What a year! It is hard to believe that it has gone by so quickly.

Here is a little snippet from his life. A bit wacky, yes. But it is also one of those memories we will cherish for a long time. Turns out Lincoln does not like harmonicas (although he is over this particular aversion now).

What kind of parents are we?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Swine Flu! Panic! Sorry, cancel the panic.

I have no difficulty recognizing and admitting my cynicism about socio-political panics-de-jure. In large part it is my job. As a social scientist I study, in the most general terms, the interaction of social systems (the media, government agencies, citizens, interest groups, etc.) in light of various phenomenon. My area of emphasis is the social response to disaster. Since disaster can include hurricanes, terrorist attacks, social disturbances like school shootings or hate crimes, there are many factors at play and significant sophistiation in how these responses play out.

It is profitable to view swine flu as a disaster of sorts. Many of the usual players were involved: government agencies, the media, businesses and the general public. I have been skeptical of the swine flu "hub-bub" from the beginning. As with so many other forms of disaster or potential disasters, it has become much more of a social event than a medical event. I want to be clear: do I believe there are or can be serious health challenges posed by contemporary pathogenic agents? Absolutely. Do I think we should employ the most recent and the most common sensical measures (practice good hygene, etc.)? By all means.

But do I think there is a socio-political price to be paid by continually creating the type of hysteria that we saw last year with regard to the swine flu (and in years preceding with regard to SARS, the avian flu, heterosexual AIDS, etc.)? ABSOLUTELY! The most immediate social reaction is the gradual eroding trust in authority (government being just one agent of authority) by the general citizenry. Put it simple terms, we are growing tired of the boy who cried wolf.

This discussion demands a sophisticated and measured analysis, but since I would lose every one of my readers to the lure of sleep or more interesting blogs (like my wife's) within two paragraphs, let me simply present this visual and a quote from the associated article. Hopefully these snippets will cause you to ponder a few of the many lessons of the swine flu and committ yourself to reasoned evaluation in the face of the next health panic-de-jure.

"It is not clear why there is so little flu, particularly swine flu, going around, experts say."
I will blog more on this topic, and further deconstruct this article, in the next few days.