The First Horseman
News that 8 persons in Lagos, a city of 20 million people, were infected by the dying Patrick Sawyer with Ebola and one -- a nurse -- had died sent a shudder of fear through Nigeria. Close on its heels reports that a businessman had died with Ebola-like symptoms in Saudi Arabia following a trip from a West African trip have prompted assurances from authorities that steps have been taken to keep the Haj from becoming a distributor of the disease to Muslim world.
Ebola is proving the proposition that when dealing with nature, if you lie you die. Nowhere is this clear than in Liberia where the poorly educated population is hiding victims, abstracting them from hospitals, attacking doctors who they believe bring the disease or dumping Ebola corpses in the street, satisfied that by casting the infectious corpses out of doors to be torn to pieces and spread abroad by dogs and carrion, have solved the problem.
And in a way it is rational a rational response to irrational Liberian governance.
With less than half of those infected surviving the disease, many Africans regard Ebola isolation wards as death traps, he said.
'They are therefore removing the bodies from their homes and are putting them out in the street,' Mr Brown told Reuters.
The virus has closed down Liberia's hospitals and killed its doctors. Liberia's institutions, never much good in the best of times, are being collapsed by the virus. A chart from the Wall Street Journal tells a tale of rout. While Guinea and Sierra Leone Ebola statistics show a constant rate of infection, but Liberia's slope is increasing as the days progress. It's getting worse faster.
Naturally the World Health Organization is meeting to decide whether the experimental drug Zmapp should be provided to the stricken African countries. Nothing like demanding a uncertified, unneeded product created by a morally defective capitalist pharmaceutical system to save the world. The LA Times reports:
the World Health Organization said it was convening a panel of medical ethicists early next week to consider whether experimental drugs should be more widely released.
A decision to allow two American health workers infected in Liberia to have access to an experimental treatment -- while dozens of African doctors and nurses have perished -- has ignited a controversy over the ethics of the decision, which reportedly sidestepped Liberian health regulations.
If the serum proves their last hope they'll first demand it as a 'right'-- then commandeer it if necessary. Necessity knows no bounds. But that cuts both ways. There may be no serum other than a few experimental vials. Reality doesn't give a damn about Liberian health regulations nor WHO edicts nor speeches by president Obama. It cares about facts.
About who invested in medical research, and who didn't; about who has good epidemic controls systems and which don't; about which country have functioning border controls and which care about 'immigration reform'. And there isn't any serum in production, then there's no serum. The problem is that since our leaders have messed up the facts, they can't fix things with speeches.
War, Famine and Pestilence all obey the laws of physics. The media, government and the academy have heretofore cared about the laws of political correctness and the tyranny of appearances. Now we get to see who wins. In recent years it has become fashionable to claim the Narrative trumps reality. Yet you can't bribe viruses, can't "hide" infectious victims, can't appease dictators and you can't print money. As I've written many times before, nobody beats arithmetic.
Not even Saudi Arabia. If the Saudis don't act rationally then the Haj can become one giant virus distribution system, their K street lobby notwithstanding. If Obama doesn't close the border, if something can come along, something will come along . Something like Ebola, which if unchecked will teach the Boko Haram and ISIS that chopping off people's heads and having sex with hundreds of kidnapped African schoolgirls isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The narrative of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is often given a mystical interpretation. But it can be viewed as a straightforward secular warning against folly. According to Billy Graham, the First Horseman is the great liar, the false prophet, the anti-Christ. But even if you're not a Billy Graham fan, and even if you hate him, it's easy to see how a venal government, a debased culture, a system of self-deception can lead to famine, pestilence and war.
Corrupting the information store will get you every time.
It may be happening already. As I noted elsewhere, for the first time since the Second World War, globalization is contracting. Air routes are being trimmed to detour around the threat of surface to air missiles posed by the Islamic world and on the Russian border. Diseases know the difference between real and paper countries. Liberia has announced the closure of its borders, and disease knows it has no borders.
ASKY and Arik, Emirates Airlines and British Airways have halted flights to West Africa. And unless the situation is physically reversed, more and more destinations will be declared off limits. The map of Africa may slowly become blank again. Unless the trend is reversed the global elites will eventually reach the point the Chinese called 'losing the Mandate of Heaven'.
That's the point when people impeach their leaders not on the basis of party affiliation but on the basis of whether they want to physically survive an epidemic or not; when competence finally matters. Perhaps we're already there. Charles Krauthammer observed that things have reached the point when 'no one cares what Obama says', adding he's "almost animatronic", like those plastic dinosaurs in a theme park, acting out his theme park presidency.
We often forget that the sacred texts of mankind began as practical documents. They were checklists. And we may well rediscover this fact before the end. One can imagine the last two postmoderns crawling towards each other in the ruins of a once great city to die, and while waiting to expire engage in conversation to pass the time.
"Waldo," the first said, "do you remember that tablet displayed in front of the Texas Statehouse. You know, back when there was a Texas?"
"Yeah, didn't it have a whole bunch of stuff scrawled on it? Tell me again what it said," replied the other.
"Waldo, it said, 'thou shalt not kill.' And 'thou shalt not lie'."
"Yes it also said, 'thou shalt not steal'. Plus somewhere in the middle said, 'thou shalt not have sex with people you weren't married to.'"
"Yeah, I remember it now," the second post-modern said. "What a bunch of hooey. It's a right wing, nutjob, racist document called the Ten Commandments. It's a religious document."
"No Waldo," the first replied. "That's where you're wrong. It ain't no religious document. I just figured out it was a survival manual."
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