Friday, September 18, 2009

Swine Flu, Politicians, and a Pig in a Poke

The old saw about “buying a pig in a poke” goes back to England in the middle ages, and what it means to most people is that you’ve made a risky purchase without inspecting the merchandise. Swindlers would put a cat in a bag (“poke”) and sell it as a pig - not letting you open the poke (bag) to see what’s actually inside.

And, when you got home and opened the bag, and the frightened cat made its escape, you were said to be “left holding the bag” - and that’s where that saying originated. The Germans say “die Katze im Sack Kaufen”, which means “you bought a cat in a sack”. They don’t even reference the pig you thought you were buying. And, the “pig in a poke” concept crosses almost every culture.

One of our politicians - Phil Garthwaite of Dickeyville, who was a farm broadcaster before he became a politician, cooked up a non-binding resolution which asks all state agencies, the media, and everybody else to stop calling it the Swine Flu. He’s mad because it’s hurt pork sales. It passed the legislature 83-13 yesterday afternoon.

The Swine Flu thing is like the pig in the poke. There’s a pig involved, but it’s not really about the pig. It’s about the gullibility of the person who got conned into buying a cat in a sack.

I hate to break it to you, Phil, but people really are stupid sometimes. It’s a wonder we still eat chicken, with all that talk about Chicken Pox. All the non-binding resolutions, laws, or decrees won’t change basic stupidity. You can legislate morality, and we do it all the time. But legislating against stupidity is - well, stupid.

Phil was on Channel 3 Wednesday evening, talking about how much this Swine Flu thing has hurt the pig farmers in his district. My friends at Channel 3 (except that rebel Marc Lovicott, who has publicly declared his intention to call it Swine Flu regardless) have tried to straddle the fence by adopting a policy of calling it “H1N1, also known as Swine Flu”. I’d make a snarky comment about THAT, but - as the lawyers say, res ipsa loquitor. It speaks for itself.

You can shout from the rooftops until your voice is gone that you can’t get Swine Flu from pork products, but that will be about as productive as trying to teach the proverbial pig to sing. People believe what they want to believe. Try and change a birther’s mind about our President.

Early on in the Swine Flu panic, I stopped for gas at a strip mall not to far from my home. Inside the station was the largest container of hand cleanser I’d ever seen in my life. It had to hold at least two gallons. The lady taking my money for the gas explained the mexican restaurant just a few doors down in the strip mall uses pork, and she and her fellow employees demanded the hand sanitizer dispenser so they didn’t get the Swine Flu from the employees or patrons of the restaurant.

Phil, it’s too late to tell us to call it something else. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. A hundred years from now they’ll still call it Swine Flu, H1N1 notwithstanding; and kids will still get immunized against Chicken Pox, even though clinicians will still call it varicella.

I’m going to pay less for that rack of pork ribs I’m going to buy at the butcher shop tomorrow, and I know some pig farmer in Phil’s district is probably getting the short of the stick on the deal. But no law, decree, ordinance, or non-binding resolution is going to change that. Perhaps having Mrs. Palin put some lipstick on it will help.

1 comment:

  1. Diseases people can catch from animals are called zoonoses. Obviously, with a name like that, zoos must be hazardous to your health.

    Stay away from organ grinders, lest you catch monkeypox. And you'll want to fumigate the car after a drive in the country to eliminate any mad cow residue. With rabbit fever out there, it's certainly prudent to avoid the Easter Bunny.

    18th century German philosopher Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller observed that "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."

    Another philosopher, Bertrand Russell, expanded on that when he noted "Most people would die sooner than think; in fact, they do."

    If was left to that uniquely American philosopher, Will Rogers, to search for a thread of hope. He wondered: "If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?"

    Meanwhile, for their own peace of mind, I recommend the legions of non-thinkers out there take the "Stupid" test as a precaution.

    First question... Do you feel stupid?
    Don't Know