Enjoy it While You Can

Ladies and gentlemen, our future looks grim. Just take a quick glance at the current events around the globe: North Korea has declared that they will weaponise their plutonium. In Iran, people are going nuts because of the election results. In Pakistan, a bombing of Peshawar Pearl Continental Hotel in Pakistan kills 18. In Venezuela they ban Coke Zero over unspecified health problems (I kid you not). And in the rest of the world, we’ll all die from the swine flu.

North Korea is in a unusually bad mood because of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874. The resolution imposes further economic and commercial sanctions on the country. As if we didn’t give them a hard enough time already, eh? I’ve never read through a UN resolution before, and didn’t do it this time either, but I did read through the Wikipedia article about the resolution and came across something I found extremely interesting (given that what is written on Wikipedia is actually correct):

Extending the arms embargo on North Korea by banning all weapons exports from the country and most imports, with an exception to small arms, light weapons and related material – though member states must notify the Security Council five days prior to selling the weapons.

Come again? So, you’ve got a country that has nuclear weapons, threatens to make more - and use them if necessary - and it’s OK to sell them conventional weapons? I’m guessing that the weapons industry lobby is very strong in Brussels. That said, I can see why it might be a good thing not to ban weapon imports to the DPRK. They probably would have had the means to get small arms weapons from more shady sources than the legitimate industry, anyway. By controlling the weapons import, whoever needs to know what kind of weapons the North Korean army has access to, knows just that.

In the words of Bill Hicks (from his “Revelations” tour):

You know we armed Iraq. I wondered about that too, you know. During the Persian Gulf war, those intelligence reports would come out: “Iraq: incredible weapons — incredible weapons.” “How do you know that?” “Uh, well… we looked at the receipts. But as soon as that check clears, we’re goin’ in.”

For most of us, though, North Korea is not an immediate problem. Neither is the banning of Coke Zero in Venezuela. What we should probably worry about is the swine flu.

I’m guessing you have heard of the swine flu. It was the number one headline everywhere for days after it was identified in Mexico in April. The first reports that came in said that people were dropping like flies and judgment day was imminent. But, after a while, things cooled down a little and for a while the flu dropped completely off the media radar. Even when the WHO on June 11 declared the outbreak to be a pandemic it didn’t create much media fuss. That in spite of the fact that it’s the first pandemic declared by the WHO since the 1968-1969 Hong Kong Flu, which killed an estimated one million people world wide.

But, hang on, there’s no need to panic yet. Even though the swine flu outbreak is now categorized as a phase 6 pandemic, the most severe phase, it’s a phase 6 because of the global spread of the virus, and not its severity: Of the roughly 30,000 confirmed cases of the swine flu so far, only 146 people have died, making the mortality rate quite low. The reason why the WHO categorized it as a phase 6 is that it reminds them of the Spanish Flu.

Now it’s OK to panic.

You see, the Spanish Flu (1918-1920) killed an estimated 50 million to 100 million people world wide. As with the current swine flu pandemic, it started out quite slow and wasn’t too deadly at first. The Spanish Flu also killed off people who were normally healthy, aged 14 to 45, an age segment that is normally not too affected by the flu. So it might be that we have another Spanish Flu on our hands. Of course, the world looks very different now in terms of health care, medical science and similar, but still - better safe than sorry. So if your local pig farmer doesn’t look too good, try to avoid French kissing him!

My point with all this is that we should probably try to live the good life no matter how bad the future looks. And does it really look that bad? For instance, right now you probably don’t have the swine flu, it’s quite possible that you don’t live somewhere that North Korean nuclear weapons can reach and you probably have relatively easy access to Coke Zero - all good things. Try to appreciate it.

“Carpe diem” is a washed out cliché, but it has some truth to it as well.


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