Koos Kombuis

The return of the plague

2011-06-10 14:23
In a few days’ time, I am flying to Amsterdam for a mini-tour of three concerts. While I’m there, you can be pretty sure that I’ll stay away as far as possible from cucumbers, bean sprouts, lettuce, or anything vaguely resembling any kind of raw vegetables!

According to a rumour I once heard, Sinead O’Connor used to have a clause in her singing contract that stipulated that she would refuse to go on stage if there was any broccoli within a hundred meters of the venue where she is about to perform. Such a demand probably sounded ridiculous back then. But it sure makes sense now! I have a good mind including a similar piece of small print in my own contract while I’m in Europe!

After all, what rhymes with broccoli? The dreaded E. coli, of course!

Uncannily intelligent

Don’t you find it simply terrifying that modern diseases and bacteria and germs and all these minute little organisms that cause havoc in human bodies these days, have become so uncannily intelligent? Hit them with medicine, and they simply evolve a more virulent strain! How do they do it? I find it utterly unacceptable that these little buggers seem to know how antibiotics work, and can actually redesign themselves in response to whatever we throw at them! How do they know what we’re up to? It’s simply not fair! Of all the ghastly challenges facing mankind in this most bizarre of all centuries, the dreadful spectre of new diseases is probably the most off-putting of all.
Ever since reading Albert Camus’s novel The Plague, sometime during my formative high school years, I have been in awe of tales of historic pandemics. Of course, I used to think that diseases like the Black Plague or the Groot Griep only happened in ancient times. How wrong could I be! That was, of course, before Aids. It was also before mad cow disease, bird flu, E. coli, before whatever comes next… What if the next teeny-weeny little organism is the one that will finish us off more effectively than any war, meteor, or natural catastrophe? As if the really large dangers are not bad enough, we must also fight the quirks of Mother Nature on a molecular level!

I mean, really! We all know what awful things hurricanes are, and floods, and earthquakes, and mudslides, and volcanoes. Those are the obvious pitfalls of our time! But that's the thing. Those big monstrosities come and go. They rear up their ugly heads, you can see them coming from miles away, they make a helluva lot of noise and cause helluva lot of havoc, but the next day they’re gone, and Obama flies over in his helicopter, and rescue teams move in to clean up the debris, and life goes on!

Germs and viruses are different. They are invisible, cunning, nasty little things. They creep up behind you and whack you over the head when you least expect them. They don’t make for good footage on TV. And they spread everywhere! You hear someone coughing in a crowded aeroplane, and the icy hand of fear tightens around your heart. You walk past a sneezing man in the street, and hope that those little pieces of infected snot did not land on you. You see a piece of broccoli…

… I’m starting to scare myself! Let’s talk about something else, shall we?     

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