Pandemic of Panic

As I munched the first burger I’ve eaten in years (homemade with relish and a fab side salad) in a small cafe in Glastonbury, I read with interest an article in the Daily Mail by Christopher Booker entitled ‘Pandemic of Panic‘ (p14, Thurs 30/04/09 if you’re interested) and contemplated BSE and CJD.

I was struck by so much of what he was saying and suggesting about the scares that we seem to endure on a regular basis.  His basic premise (and I concur) was that they all seem to follow the same basic pattern:

  1. Dubious ‘scientific’ research reported in the academic sector
  2. Picked up and reported as ‘fact’ to those in authority who have neither the wisdom nor the wit to question what is being told them
  3. ‘Leaked’ to the world’s media who jump up and down in glea at the thought of finding yet another ‘news’ item that they can promote to a largely indifferent public as the next ‘big worry’ that we must all subscribe to.
  4. Only to be slip into some sort of non-event oblivion (sometimes within just a few days) which we all remember with amusement at a dinner party ten years down the road – shades of my reaction to the millennium bug spring to mind here, but that’s a story for another occasion.

However, what I found noteworthy was not so much what he was saying as what he was NOT saying.

My own view (completely unsubstantiated and purely subjective – soon to be addressed though) is that these moments of national and international panic usually occur at a moment of crisis for those powers that be who feel themselves threatened in some way by something or other..

I believe a time like that exists now, the so called global ‘credit crunch’ (which was probably started as a diversionary tactic for something else) has spiralled out of control and now risks becoming a reality as nations talk themselves into it.

So, what are the options? Firstly, it is worth bearing in mind that, although there have been 158 deaths in Mexico so far and one in the US, several thousand people die in the UK every year from ‘normal’ flu anyway.  Perhaps one of the problems is a lack of consistent data from any nation to which we can compare things.  You can check out this forum posting to see how confusing it can get: (posted 01/08/2006).

One thing I plan to do is to have a look at just what was going on in the world at the time of the last major ‘panics’ we had – once again this will be purely circumstantial with no evidence put forward; however given the fact that our own NHS can’t come up with accurate or even complete statistics, then I guess that won’t be a problem !!!

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  1. The real issue is that everyone has a different experience of reality. By focusing on swine flu, or the credit crunch, or the impossibly attractive people walking past my house, I can selectively eliminate pretty much everything else from my experience of reality. Nothing else exists.

    The problem is that most of us, most of the time, are not very careful about what we focus on – we simply drift from one point of attention to another at the prompting of the media or in response to the randomness going on around us.

    One of my favourite exercises, which I do far too infrequently, is to really stare at something for a long time, opening my eyes as wide as possible and really opening up every other sense to just allow the subject to reveal itself. This is espeically powerful when engaged in something creative like playing the piano or cooking fish stew.

    I have no doubt about most politicians’ ability to create a diverison. The antidote is to pay little or no attention to anything that does not serve our own purpose (which can of course be a socially useful one). Right now I am enjoying the sensation of being really still and noticing the tingling in my hands having been down the gym a couple of hours ago. In the background Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) is tackling Moriaty. I had hake for dinner. I launched the Optimum Moustache project today at and it seems impossible to even imagine anything bad could be happening anywhere. We get what we focus on.

  2. What can I say Jonolan …… when will we learn that not everything reported is a ‘disaster’ that needs us all to buy into?