martes, 28 de abril de 2009

The positive side of swine flu

(En español, aquí)

The swine flu problem had already been for several days a concern to those responsible for health in Mexico; but in my case -and I think that’s the case with most of us- the item appeared abruptly Thursday night when we were informed that on the next day all schools should close doors in the metropolitan area.

In the 72 hours that have elapsed since that first "what are they talking about?", the subject has grown explosively, to dominate not only all the country's informative spaces, but also public and private activities, and the mood of the majority. And according to my inquiries on the Internet, the whole world is showing alarm.

There is no case to talk about what everyone already know (the flu itself, quarantine type strategies, the masks, the suspension of activities ...). I will better share my thoughts on a positive balance in my opinion could emerge from this situation: its effect on making people being more conscious.

My impression is that Mexicans in general, and we chilangos –Mexico City people– are not the exception, are often apathetic about the affairs of common interest, which by definition results in a lack of interest to: a) Assume ourselves as co-responsible for them, and b) Participate in its prevention and correction.

Such attitude issue covers all fields: the frivolous use of the car (excessive vehicle weight, unnecessary rides...), the waste of water, the sponsorship of organized crime by buying illegal products, throwing garbage in the street, illegal parking, eating non-hygienic food and so on.

Now, as we face the swine flu, everyone will have to rethink this kind of attitude.

My opinion is that the government has done its part: it has strongly limited the concentrations of people, and has launched an intense media campaign to create awareness among people about the seriousness of the problem. And I would highlight too, the serious attitude that the Federal and Mexico City governments have shown to put aside their problems and show a unified stance towards the problem. Private companies and organizations whose decisions have a public impact, have also shown great responsibility towards this situation: media has been quite careful not to sow panic, but at the same time emphasizing the information about how to prevent infections, and entertainment companies have agreed willingly to the call to cancel massive events, even though in many cases this has resulted in significant economic damage (I think of the Guadalajara-Pumas soccer match, that already had sold-out its 70,000 capacity, and by playing in an empty stadium had a loss that I would put in USD $600,000 only in ticket sales).

Thus, the 'ball' is now in the hands of the people: Each person has to act responsibly in caring for their selves and their families, to prevent passage of the virus spreading further.

I find it incredible that on the subway, for example, we still see people who are not protected (and protect each other) with a dust mask. At this point, this is a sign of irresponsibility and unconsciousness.

But in general there is an attitude of full sensitivity to the issue. Obviously people are concerned about the health alert, and I see in people around me a lot of willingness to maintain the discipline imposed upon.

Although in a lower proportion, I somehow compare this situation with what we Mexicans experienced in the earthquakes of 1985 (by the way, this is the first time since then, that the government ordered the suspension of school activities). In a similar way to what happened at that time, the media are very dedicated to disseminating among the population information on the emergency, and the public has a role to play for this may be soon back with minimal damage.

85 had an impressive social effect: people realized the power of mobilization, and many of the movements that in these two decades have changed the face of the country, were born under that context. The social 'rebellion' which originated a significant leap of the Mexican Left; the never clarified 1988 presidential election and the subsequent birth of the PRD; and finally the arrival of the opposition to the presidency... There is no doubt that all this had its seed in the mobilization that emerged to face earthquakes.

Thus, if in fact the flu is going to force us to move and think, the question is forced: What will born from this seed ?

(This post is a translation from a yesterday's post, originally written in Spanish.)

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