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The Sissy Cynic's Guide to Ebola

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What makes the Ebola epidemic unique in all of human history? Different from smallpox, different from polio, different even from HIV AIDS?

This time, people don't merely demand a cure, they expect one. Yet that expectation comes at a time when faith in human institutions has never been lower, nor cynicism higher, when every movie is set in some kind of Hunger Games dystopian future and heroes are for children who still believe in Santa Claus.

There is a serious disconnect here. We are witnessing a kind of sissy cynicism (I apologize to anyone offended by that word. I make no reference to sexual identity, all genders can be sissy cynics) that disdains any displays of hope. But that disdain is phony.

A real cynic says we're all doomed and there is nobody who will help us, so don't expect anyone to fall for your reassuring lies. We're not fools.

A sissy cynic parrots those words, but he doesn't mean them. What he's really saying is "where is our cure?" He's complaining about the lack of something no self-respecting cynic allows himself to expect: help.

Deep in the heart of the sissy cynic is a scared child who wants mommy to help him, and, what's more, believes she can.

And, in this case, he's right. We do have the power to stop an epidemic in its tracks. Mankind has grown that powerful. Plagues decimated societies for thousands of years, over and over again, and the most mankind could do about it was pray for mercy from the vengeful gods.

Then, in the blink of an historical eye, our eyes grew microscopes and then electron microscopes, we dismissed "humours" and discovered DNA. We threw out the leeches and promulgated the germ theory, tinkered with medicines, improved sanitation and created vaccines. Suddenly, even viruses had no place to hide. We conquered many epidemics. Now we expect to conquer them all, right now.

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What would be the proper societal response to the gift of such power, a gift mankind gave itself? Gratitude? Sure, for a while. But gratitude is a corrupting emotion that can sour into contempt.

That is what happens to sissy cynics. They pocket gifts like a billion-chip i Phone, never understanding how it works, but expecting it to work every time, flawlessly. And when it doesn't--hell, even when it does--they complain about it.

The expectation of a cure for Ebola is a tribute to the human spirit. We believe to an absolute certainty that we can detect, defend, deploy and conquer this enemy. Every complaint, every protest, every cynical whine about the CDC and Obama betrays the deep belief of the darkest sissy cynic in human empowerment.

A true cynic is incapable of outrage. Outrage is rooted in disappointment, and a real cynic cannot be disappointed. He expected nothing to begin with.

But we expect everything and our disappointment is endless. We know what humanity is capable of, we take for granted the astonishing power mankind has gained over famine, flood and disease. But we never let those feelings show. Instead we disdain and complain, we foist a fake cynicism on ourselves and parade our world-weary "wisdom" for all to see.

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But that's for public consumption only. The truth is that we're sissy cynics and our cynicism is less than skin deep. When the vaccine comes along, the skin-deep sissy will bare his tender, naked flesh and say, put the needle in, right here.

We should celebrate humanity's hard-earned power over an uncaring universe. For fifty-thousand winters mankind has had the flu. For the past fifty we've had the flu shot. We should rejoice that we've grown smart enough to look a plague right in the eye and say get back inside that diseased fruit bat where you belong.

How did such a thing come to pass? Oracles and holy men never imagined the flu shot. The revered wisdom of our tribal elders and the magic of our folk healers mumbled nonsense for millennia without ever stumbling across a root that worked for flu.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on Amazon.com, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)
 

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