Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sped Forth - Contagious

I had a funny feeling about pork yesterday. About the bacon I was cooking, about the bacon tossed out because its seal was broken while it resided with our deli meat and cheese in the refrigerator drawer. Damn! Keep raw meat and prepared food separate, people! I can testify about the clammy hands, the clammy mind as you stare and wonder if there are malignant micro-organisms colonizing your ready-to-eat food.

But, well, I had also seen Contagion in the afternoon, and a pig plays an important part in that film, to such a degree that you speculate about the feasibility of never consuming a fellow animal again.

Contagion made me think quite alot. At the end of it, I made the smug, self-righteous comment to my friends that it was a " feel bad about humanity movie". It points out a pretty blatant truth - it only takes a little panic, a little mayhem, a little fear to de-civilize us, to degrade our humanizing rituals, to make us prowl like savage animals.

We talked a little about the London riots, how it was difficult to remember what kind of protest it sprang from, because it is so easy to feel contempt for people who use a cause as an excuse to steal or destroy others' property or lives. One of my friends said calmly and with grace, "I've seen some of those things (rioting, looting portrayed in the film) during our civil war in our country. You never know what you would do until you're in that situation." For the sake of my Christianity, if not my humanity, I hope I would not do much to preserve myself at the cost of others in an extreme crisis, but for my children? I would do a great deal to keep them fed and safe.

The film does show altruism, too, though not nearly as much. Kate Winslet's character is outstanding. You know little about her background, her state of life, but you feel her lonliness drawing you into her world thoroughly. Her outcome haunted me a little, and she certainly made sacrifices. On the other hand, the selfish blogger in the film with his such and such "millions of unique visitors" irritated the hell out of me and drew only a drip of sympathy that quickly evaporated.

But the movie was good grisle for discussion. For two hours after the movie my friends and I talked, and our conversation wandered down a long and winding road. One friend related how a rat had jumped out of her compost bin that morning and how she kept a boa constricter in her garage. I never knew; I don't think you can forget something like that if someone's told you. I told her that keeping a boa consticter in your garage is something you tell a friend, and then you take them to see it. I brought up an article I'd read about the plague. Scientists have mapped its DNA, using black powder (dried, ancient blood they believe) drilled out of the teeth of those who succumbed to it centuries ago. They discovered it has changed little, extraordinarily little over time. Thankfully, human beings have changed much - not just in our immunity but in our quality of living, our innovations. Quite simple anitbiotics can destroy the grim grip of the plague in our day. Good news for mankind, we agreed.

But is the scenario of Contagion plausible? Viruses are fascinating and terrifying, like a tornado. I read the analysis of the movie Contagion from various healthcare professionals. Most agreed it realistically portrayed the breakdown of society that would occur in a major epidemic, as well as the unique way in which a previously unknown "super bug" could set about decimating humanity. It's happened before, most recently in 1918, but I sincerely hope it will never happen again. I nearly believe it. I have a lot of faith even yet.

But I still feel funny about that pork.

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