Monday, March 19, 2012

Week of 03/19/2012

It’s Time To Kill The “Epidemic”
– by David Matthews 2

Every year, dictionaries add hundreds, if not thousands, of new words and phrases. If you come up with a word or a phrase and enough people use it in their regular dialogue, then dictionaries will add it. Then we turn on the news and we find that some really stupid phrase has become part of the average vernacular and we’re wondering just where in the evolutionary process we veered off that would allow us to call a heart-symbol a word.

Sadly, we don’t really hear about the words that get dropped off, probably because just when you think any given word has been forgotten, some columnist or media personality would dig it up from the dustbins of obscurity and put it back into use; encouraging others to look up its meaning and possibly even use it themselves.

There are words that we use rarely, words that we use often, and words that we use to the point that they no longer have any kind of importance.

For instance, women have learned to not yell “Police” or “Help” when in trouble. Instead, they yell “Fire”, because they know that people will come running for that.

Then there are words that are not only used to the point of no longer having kind of importance, but words that desperately need to be purged from human vernacular because of it.

Now I’m sure that some of you would think that I’m referring to certain explicit four-letter words; such as one that begins with “f” that involves reproductive parts, or the one beginning with “s” and references biological waste, or even the one that starts with “c” that refers to a part of the female anatomy used in the word that beings with “f”. Maybe you would think racial or ethnic slurs would be on this short list of words that desperately need to be purged.

But, no, I don’t mean any of those words.

The word in question is otherwise considered a sound medical description. It was once a word used rarely to describe something legitimately serious, such as a viral infection, or a biological attack. Today, the word in question is a pathetic joke.

The word in question is “epidemic”.

“Epidemic” comes from the Latin word “epedemia”, which means a sudden and unexpected outbreak of a disease or virus beyond current means of control. It was traditionally reserved for medical diseases, like the Bubonic Plague, or AIDS, or Swine Flu.

Unfortunately, around the 19th and 20th Centuries, we made the mistake of thinking that the ills of society could be treated in the same way as a biological organism. This was the period of Positivism, which gave us our juvenile justice system, family services, not to mention a few of the political “isms” that conservatives love to scream about. It also explained why those programs would ultimately fail. It was this idea that society itself was not unlike an organism that allowed both liberals and conservatives to use medical reference to impose government control over an issue.

Want to ban alcohol? Get alcoholism and public drunkenness declared an “epidemic”. That justified Prohibition. Same thing with marijuana. Remember “Reefer Madness”? In the 1950’s, comic books were being blamed for causing an “epidemic” of juvenile crimes, with so-called “experts” like Dr. Fredric Wertham leading the way. Find a subject, get a “doctor” to sign off on it, hype it up in the media, call it an “epidemic”, and then you can literally write your own legislation.

And the “beauty” of this tactic is that you can keep coming back to this equation over and over and over again, because ultimately the “solution” will fail. The “crisis” will continue, and the “experts” will once again proclaim that we are still in that “epidemic” and that we need to do everything we can to “cure” ourselves of this perceived “disease”.

If that sounds like a scam to you, then pat yourself on the back for finally getting the punchline to this sad charade of politics.

The most recent abuser of the “epidemic” tag is the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. SG Regina Benjamin recently proclaimed that teens are smoking more than ever, and that it is now an “epidemic”. And by “smoking” she means tobacco, not marijuana. And they’re also chewing tobacco. Oooh… horrors!

And why are they doing this? According to Ms. Benjamin, it’s because the tobacco companies are… and I kid you not… “marketing to children”.

Excuse me Ms. Benjamin, but do you know what year we are in? If you don’t know, it is the year Two-Thousand-and-Twelve. The only ads for tobacco that this commentator has seen have been in magazines clearly designed for adults. Maybe you can recall some time when Phillip Morris was sponsoring some boy-band concert? Maybe they were handing out samples at a recent “Twilight” movie release? No?

Oh, wait, Wolverine of the X-Men comics and movies smokes doesn’t he? Yeah, but those are cigars and he’s supposedly over a hundred years old. You’re claiming that teens are smoking cigarettes, not cigars.

Seriously, someone needs to call BS on this! There has been an ongoing agreement for over two decades between the tobacco companies and the federal government that says that what the Surgeon General is claiming cannot happen. So someone’s lying, and good money says that it’s the Surgeon General’s office.

But more importantly, this is the latest scam being played on the American people using a word that has long since lost its significance.

Let’s get brutally honest here… it is high time that we purge any use of the world “epidemic” that doesn’t involve an actual catastrophic condition. Much like shouting “police”, the word “epidemic” no longer has any meaning simply because it has been overused by every so-called “expert” looking for a microphone and their unwarranted fifteen minutes.

Let’s use the TV series “The Walking Dead” as an example of the kind of seriousness that would warrant an actual use of a word like “epidemic”. Is the perceived “crisis” on the same level of seriousness as an army of zombies roaming the area looking to kill living people on sight? No? Then you don’t get to use the word “epidemic” to describe your pet issue.

Just to show you how badly the word has become overused, freedom-haters like GOP Presidential contender Rick Santorum skipped past the word “epidemic” when promising that he would wage a “War on Porn”, referring to it instead as a “pandemic”. That has become the new “foreboding crisis word” for social grifters. They know that people have toned out “epidemic” and have ratcheted up the quack-speak to the next serious-sounding word.

The real problem is this: we have too many self-professed “social experts” looking to cash in their “snake-oil solution” by over-exaggerating the seriousness of their preferred “specialty”. Even worse is the fact that they are doing so at the expense of dealing with truly legitimate problems. I don’t know about you, but having millions of Americans systematically forsaken by the business community is a little more serious than whether or not they’re watching the Victoria’s Secret lingerie special.

Let’s save the emergencies for when they really are such, and let’s leave the “Positivist” doctor-think in the last century where it belongs.

No comments: