Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Birds

The Asian or Avian Flu is coming. Something like an undersea rumbling, a wave forming far away that may or may not rush ashore to drown us all, the Flu is coming. It helps to name it and offer blame to the birds, as if they in some unspeakably dishonest way are responsible. It helps if we can identify this disease, to give it a name (and to know that our scientists have given it another, a set of letters and numerals like a far-off star system).
It’s the birds that did for us, like the Daphne du Maurier story filmed by Hitchcock. The birds are coming!
As the reports get ever closer to our homes, we search the skies as the migratory birds, usually the innocent harbingers of springtime, return in their flocks to infect us with some foul disease. We must corral them, close them, kill them.
In Spain as elsewhere, the trick from the Ministry of Health is to slow down the disease, to appear to be doing something useful. Watch the birds in the wetlands. Intern the chickens and close down the markets.
But the disease is not in the birds, it has travelled to the cats. They too must be controlled. The pigs, the cattle, the wild things of the fields and woods! The neighbours.
Soon this grippe will pass through our communities, to infect or spare us. We must be patient and should not panic. It will come. It will pass.

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