Ahhhh!! When I was about 8 years old I was riddled with irrational fears, most frightening of all were diseases. I was afraid of the most obscure illnesses, I’m really not sure where they came from. The two that frightened me the most, however, were Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Ebola Virus. I would literally cry under my bed praying to God that I would not get either of the two diseases, but convinced I somehow would. I don’t mean to be a hipster, but I totally was freaking out about those diseases long before anyone else did. I mean, now it’s so cool to be into ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and Ebola. Psht, I was terrified long before anyone else even knew about them. Join the club. (Slight detour, but why isn’t it called Lou Gehrig’s Disease anymore? I mean, it was always also known as ALS, but I think it’s a little insulting that the man can’t have the disease that killed him. Lou Gehrig was an amazing baseball player and great guy, he deserves to live on in a degenerative disorder. At least give him that.)
I find it odd that somehow this Ebola is worse than the Ebola I lovingly grew up with as a child. How come the Ebola I came to fear in the 1990s was so much less important the newfangled Ebola of the 2010s, and why didn’t it create such widespread panic as it does now? It seems that anyone that was alive during that time period, who I mention that Ebola outbreak to, has no recollection of what I’m speaking about. I am aware that this current outbreak has caused more casualties and spread more widely, but the fear and attention it has generated began long before it surpassed the outbreak I grew up with and was terrified of. What’s the deal? How come you had to be a paranoid irrational fear-loving coward to be aware of Ebola 20 years ago, but now it’s common knowledge?
I think the answer has a few reasons. First off, we live in a much more cohesive world. By that, I mean anything that happens anywhere is known everywhere else within a matter of minutes. Not only is it known, but there are also myriad photos and videos available. All throughout history horrible things have happened, but they never seem quite as bad until you can actually see and hear them happening. Reading about some outbreak of a disease in a country you never heard of is a lot less terrifying than seeing victims of a disease dying slowly right in front of you. And not only seeing those victims, but being inundated with photos and updates and warnings. We live in a world so different from even 15-20 years ago. Shit, so different than 5-10 years go. Everything is so much worse and so much more terrifying simply because we are surrounded by it constantly and reminded all the time. We carry devices in our pockets at all times that will happily remind us of everything awful going on in the world and provide us with pictures and videos and sounds to go along with it.
Now, it’s one thing to be inundated with reminders and visceral images of horrors, but it’s another thing to have those images being slanted in fear-inducing ways. Some would have you believe that there are far greater nefarious reasons for news outlets to try to stoke panic into the populace. Conspiracies abound about how a fear-addled population is much more malleable and will allow the government to come in and take away their freedoms in the guise of our protection. To me that seems far-flung and quite honestly like much too much work. I’d have to wonder what the Hell is the impetus for someone to want the populace to be malleable and to have their freedoms taken away. Who cares? Who benefits from that? Just some dudes somewhere who love fucking with people and get off on human misery? It makes for a nice storyline that it’s completely intentional, but I really don’t buy it. I think it’s for nefarious reasons, but for different means. The fact is, news is not important anymore. We get our news from each other now. We don’t need some guy sent out by CBS or NBC to another part of the world to tell the rest of us back at home what is going on. We don’t all clamor around the TV or radio or newspapers to get word from one or two guys about what the Hell is happening somewhere else on Earth. No, now we know from a Liberian guy in Liberia, a Nigerian guy in Nigeria, what exactly is happening in those countries, and they can tell ALL of us. Directly to our little pocket devices we receive information from EVERYONE on earth about what is going on in this planet of ours. News has become irrelevant, we can inform ourselves. So, what’s the solution? Well, the important thing to remember is that news is entertainment. Sorry to say, but it is. News is not a non-profit organization. News is a business. And it is in the entertainment business. Sure, if you’re a hardcore journalist and believe in journalistic ideals then news is supposed to be about informing the rest of the world about what is going on in as unbiased a way as possible. But, that is not the case nowadays (nor really ever was). The news is losing money, very quickly. The internet has completely turned stalwart heralded news agencies into artifacts. The first thing to go were the newspapers, which closed one after another within the past few years. Then, even TV news channels like CNN started getting rid of entire departments, most often the foreign correspondents were the first to go (travel is expensive). And what have these news agencies turned into, what have they become? How do you fill 24 hour news programs when everyone already knows what’s going on in the world? Well, for one thing, you try to always be the FIRST to report something. Speed is everything in this day and age. Breaking news is all the rage and you want to be the guy that reported something first. You see again and again either straight-out false reports being aired or seriously flawed reports, anything to get it out on the air, even before the story is checked out and all facts known. Another thing the news reports on is things that hardly anyone would consider news: celebrity stories, dieting advice, exposes on mundane things like Subway footlongs not actually being a foot, etc. Why people are interested in these things, I have no idea. I assume they just are bored out of their minds and probably hate themselves and would like to know why they should hate themselves even more. Lastly, fear, fear is the number one thing to get people to watch the news. Again, it’s not because of some grand scheme to turn the whole country into sniveling cowards begging the government to save them. No, the idea is to get money. The more people that watch the news, the more advertising money they get and the more money the people that own those news channels make. Sure, it is nefarious, but not as nefarious as some would have you believe. Let’s create threats to everyone’s lives. For some reason, people are not turned off by these things but drawn to them. People want to know and crave to know how they’re going to die next and how soon it’s going to happen. How much ever closer ISIS and Al Qaeda are getting to them and how soon Ebola will be in their town. People don’t seem to have a fear of death, but rather a sincere fascination. It grabs our attention and makes us hold on.
Alright, so, is Ebola deadly? Yes, it is. Is it a horrible way to die? For sure. Believe me, I was crying under my bed as a child for a reason. But, let’s look at this rationally. As of today, there have been close to 10,000 cases of Ebola. In the entire world. Comes out to roughly .00014% of the Earth’s population has gotten Ebola. Of those, about 5,000 have died of Ebola, which is a crazy fatality rate, to be about 50%. But, again, 10,000 people on EARTH have gotten Ebola in this outbreak. How is this terrifying to anybody? Why is this causing such hysteria? If you were to turn off your computer, your phone, not read the news, listen to radio or watch TV and just go about your daily life, you would have absolutely no indication that Ebola even existed. Ebola has had no impact on your life whatsoever (I say that in general, there is obviously people it has affected and of course their communities, friends and family). In the United States there have been 3 confirmed cases of Ebola to date. THREE. Out of 300 million people. In other words 1/100millionth of the US population has Ebola. And yet you’re probably freaking out about it. What is it we are afraid of? What is causing the fear? Because it’s not the facts. It’s not what we see around us. Look around, no one is keeling over spewing blood out. You probably do not know anyone who has Ebola. The fear is from speculation. We are afraid of what COULD happen. We are afraid of something that does not even yet exist and most possibly will never happen. It’s time to stop living in fear. Eleanor Roosevelt once said “courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier.” That is so true. Fear is a terrible place to be, you feel disempowered and hopeless. Courage, in other words, facing fears, is a great thrill. Sure, maybe you will die, but who cares, at least you are doing something about it. At least you are living as you want.
Yes, Ebola is a terrible disease, but right now, the most horrible affect of it isn’t deaths, isn’t sickness, it’s the fear it is gripping in perfectly healthy people. Until you see death tolls rising to the hundreds of thousands, until you see your friends and family succumbing, you have nothing to fear. Right now you are afraid of nothing except the speculation of what could be. I say, let’s stop skipping a step and actually wait until it gets to the point of speculation that we fear, and then we can begin to fear it. Why are in such a rush to be terrified? The Bubonic Plague wiped out about a third of Europe’s population. THAT is scary. THAT is horrifying. If a THIRD of the population of any country or continent were to die, then I say you have every right to be horrified out of your mind. A third is 30%, right now, we are at .00014%. We have a long way to go until Ebola becomes truly terrifying. Right now, it is only fictionally terrifying and that is not something I choose to be terrified of. I’m not afraid of horror movies and I’m not afraid of speculation. Live your life the way you want, if it happens to be that you enjoy unprotected sex in West Africa, then maybe alter your life a little bit, but otherwise, do not live in fear. You have nothing to fear but fear itself as of yet (another Roosevelt quote, I know. Those guys were good about not getting freaked out by shit). Ebola is a story, crafted by a dying industry, to try to keep themselves alive. Your fear of death is keeping them alive. Stop fearing death, keep living life and decide for yourself how to look at things. If need be, we could spin anything into being a terrifying possibility. But, until the thing we are scared of actually happens, what’s the point of living scared? It’s all bullshit. Ebola is a bowl of shit, being forced down your throat. Spit it out. Don’t open your mouthes at all. Goodnight.