Swine Flu, the New Great Depression, Bird Flu, Terrorism and the Y2K Meltdown

Swine FluSwine flu, the latest threat to humankind, is all over the news these days. It has taken the place of the last great threat, the fear of another great economic depression. Fortunately, according to U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett, an economic depression is no longer the threat it was a month or two ago. News stories telling us to be afraid, very afraid, have filled our collective consciousness for at least a decade. Approximately 10 years ago, the news was filled with disaster senarios related to the fact that when the new millenium arrived computers would not be able to recognize the change and would revert to either 1900 or 00. This was supposed to wreak havoc as computers controlled our banking, health and energy systems. Nothing happened. A year and a half later, a handful of terrorists attacked New York and Washington in dramatic fashion. Approximately 3000 people were killed in an admitted fearsome way. In 2005, the bird flu dominated the news. If you were watching the news regularly, fears of a pandemic appeared imminent. To date less than 300 people have died. The fear generated by the news networks came and went swiftly. Perspective is important here.

Deaths attributable to:

  • Swine Flu: 168 deaths in Mexico, only one other worldwide
  • Influenza Outbreak of 1918: 30 million people dead
  • "New" Great Depression of 2008-09: Unemployment in US May 2009 is at 8.6%.
  • Great Depression of 1930's: Unemployment rate rose to as high as 25%
  • Bird Flu: 252 deaths, mostly in China
  • Common Influenza virus deaths yearly in U.S.: 38,000
  • Deaths from Terrorist Attack on September 11, 2001: 3000 approx.
  • Deaths since September 11th in US: none. (There is no definitive proof that anti-terrorism measures have prevented attacks since that time).

The fear response is a physiologically ancient way for the body to protect us from threat. A certain level of fear or anxiety is necessary for prudent action. However, when our fears rise above optimal levels for action, immobilization can result which, ironically, can bring us further along the continuum towards psychological death. Given television's slow decline in the face of alternative media, it is inevitable that a new threat will preoccupy the networks and swine flu will be replaced by a new potential catastrophe.

You can read more about how to deal with fears around the swine flu here.

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