Serendipity Sometimes Sucks

Two examples:

1. Just yesterday, I described going through a "Thomas Covenant cycle" of self-examination. It's about 25 years since I read the books, but I recall Covenant (hero of a series of epic fantasy novels by Stephen Donaldson) had no feeling in his nerve endings and needed to constantly check his extremities for accidental cuts and burns. This was a side-effect of the fact he was a leper.

Then I wake up this morning to the front page of the Globe, describing how some U.S. newspapers have nicknamed Toronto "Pariah City" as a result of this SARS crap.

"SARS creates a city of pariahs
Shunned in Canada and the U.S. alike, residents increasingly feel like lepers

Hersh Goldin found out yesterday that just living in Toronto is enough to make the outside world treat him like a leper.

A cruise company barred the investment adviser and his family from taking a dream vacation to Alaska merely because Toronto is on an international list of places with SARS. Even if the company lifts the ban, Mr. Goldin is not sure he'll go.

"I feel as though we might be tarred and feathered and thrown off the ship," he said."

No wonder I'm acting like a leper. According to some U.S. media I am one. I'd laugh, but I'm scared my jaw might fall off or something.

2. Adding further insult to injury, the WHO has warned people not to travel to Toronto unless their visit is essential.

I lack the words to describe how insanely inappropriate such alarmist pronouncements are, coming from an enormously influential body such as the World Health Organization.

To add weight to the numbers I quoted yesterday, here's Toronto's most senior practicing microbiologist, Dr. Donald Low of Mount Sinai Hospital, speaking on 680 News radio this morning (as quoted in the Globe):

"“The fact we have not seen any further secondary cases over the last two weeks tells us it has been contained ...no further dissemination — therefore the community is not at risk.” (my emphasis)

The sucky serendipity comes from the fact that embedded into this article at the Globe's website, is this little animated advert:


On a related note, I find it interesting that on April 10th, there were 154 reported cases of SARS in the U.S. and only 97 cases in the whole of Canada. Yesterday, however, the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control announced that they'd re-cooked their case definition, resulting in a tally of only 38 cases in the States, compared to the 140 now confirmed in Canada.

If you don't like the numbers, move the parameters. Clearly the CDC is being advised by Arthur Andersen and Jeb Bush.

Given Canada's snub to the White House in deciding not to support the invasion of Iraq, it's only a little bit over the top to suggest this might be Dubya's way of spanking our economy, like the naughty children we are, by including Canada in a new Axis of Wheezle that also includes China and Hong Kong.

Brings an observation by H.L. Mencken to mind:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

War over, need another bugbear...