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Oh God! We’re Gonna Die
By Joseph Walther
Oozing with sarcasm and staring lethal daggers in my direction, she said, “You don’t believe anyone or anything.” Yes, that’s what she told me. My own Daughter! Me, the personification of patience and understanding. Me, the guy whom our Holy Father, the Pope himself, emailed, “When the time comes make sure that your family CCs me on your obituary announcement. We don’t want any unnecessary delays in the canonization process.”
Shocked and wounded to the very depths of my bone marrow, all I could do was shout back, “Oh yeah, you just hang in there. Someday you won’t have your old dad to criticize OR worry over anymore.” Then, I stomped out of the room. I know what you’re all thinking. “Not a bad come back for someone who isn’t even a Jewish mother.”
In case you’re wondering which one of us started this squabble, SHE did! As usual, I was calmly minding my own business when, out of the clear blue, she began talking about an information session that she had attended at work that day. She works for Superior Court and one of the judges had briefed the staff on the ramifications of the “coming” bird flu pandemic.
And, what had I done to deserve the wrath of Kahn? NOTHING, that’s what! Unless, of course, you consider asking a pertinent question, for the purpose of clarification, a major crime. I simply asked, in my usual nonjudgmental, unbiased, and calm demeanor, “Where the hell did this crap come from?” The next thing I hear is, “YOU DON’T BELIEVE ANYONE OR ANYTHING!”
I simply must remember to send Her Honor a thank you note for bringing all of this to my daughter’s attention. Perhaps, if she has any pre-teenage children, I could send them a set of drums.
Look, I love my daughter. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She’s an intelligent, attractive, and perceptive twenty-seven year old. She has worked very hard for everything that she has accomplished. She’s understanding, people-oriented, popular, loves every animal on the face of the earth, loves life to the fullest, reliable and, sometimes to a fault, trustful of others.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that she has become one of the world’s leading hypochondriacs. People from all over the world call her for consults. I don’t say this out of condemnation, either. When I was a kid back in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Catholic Elementary School, I had all of the earmarks of a budding, potentially successful hypochondriac, too.
I distinctly remember Sister Helena, my fourth grade teacher, telling us how Jesus walked among and healed the lepers. One of the other kids asked, “What’s a leper, Sister?” She then explained a disease called leprosy and its symptoms. She explained how one leper, in particular, discovered his leprosy by accidentally spilling scalding water on his foot and not being able to feel it.
Nice going, Sister! I spent the next 15-years of my life pouring hot water on my feet to make sure I still had feeling in them. Another symptom that she casually mentioned was the formation of small pimple-like bumps on the ear lobes. I’ve tugged on my ear lobes so much over the years that it’s a miracle I don’t trip over them.
I was born in 1942. It was no picnic, either. I distinctly remember Dr. Skura, who delivered me, holding me upside down by my ankles. “Holy crap”, I thought, “start breathing!” I knew I could do it on my own. Just as I was about to take that first breath, WHACK! He smacked me really hard right across my butt.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the circumcision. They didn’t use a small scalpel. It was a machete and, I swear, it had a 5-foot long blade. Yes, I remember all of it and I’ve never forgotten any of it. I’ve been cranky as hell ever since. The smell of antiseptic still makes me paranoid as all get out.
My generation, as have all previous generations, was bombarded with all sorts of doom and gloom predictions. They scared the daylights out of many gullible believers, me included. In retrospect, however, most of them failed to materialize. While the numbers were legion, let me just outline a few of them here.
At the advent of insecticides, some serious scientists predicted that oceanic life forms would perish if we permitted their use. Granted, we’ve overused insecticides big time. The last time I checked, however, no ocean life forms had perished from the face of earth as the result of their use. Oops!
In 1968, a renowned entomologist by the name of Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D, burst onto our television screens via the Johnny Carson Show. Dr. Ehrlich’s specialty was actually Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he was also a reputable researcher on human overpopulation. His book, The Population Bomb, predicted worldwide food shortages and wholesale starvation. Many members of the scientific intelligentsia agreed with his predictions. Oops, it never occurred.
Several years later, some of those same scientists predicted with absolute certainty that famine would over take the world in the decade of the ‘80s. Again, oops. With the exceptions of Ethiopia and Sahel, it didn’t happen.
In 1991 after Iraq invaded the oil fields of Kuwait and set them on fire, people predicted, again with absolute certainty, that food production in South Asia would cease to exist. Oops, it didn’t happen.
With the development of supersonic transports came the predictions that their use would destroy the ozone layer. Oops, it didn’t happen. Oh, we’re destroying the ozone layer, but supersonic transports have nothing to do with it. Since that time, we’ve found much more efficient ways for accomplishing the ozone layer destruction.
Again, beginning in the early ‘80s and going through the mid-‘90s, respected scientists predicted the exponential growth in the number of AIDS cases. In the beginning, the doubling time for new AIDS cases was one year. In other words, each year the number of cases would be double the year before that. Unchecked, in a ten-year period we’d have a thousand times more AIDS cases. In 20-years, we’d have a million times more cases to deal with.
The predictions made no sense to anyone with a 3-digit IQ. Exponential growth, such as that described by some of the “experts” of that era would have wiped out our species in short order. Natural obstacles have a way of leveling off this kind of exponential growth. Admittedly, AIDS is not a trivial matter. But, as in the other cases of predicted doom, it didn’t happen. Our species is still here. So is AIDS, but its exponential growth pattern has ceased.
The year is 2006 and I have a friend who is still using toilet paper that he stored away as the result of the Y2K predictions of worldwide chaos. As I recall, not a single airplane fell from the sky when the calendar turned over to the year 2000. Not a single bank failed. In fact, the whole affair turned out to be a downer for the doom and gloomers. Save your pity, though, most of them made fortunes on their “How to survive Y2K” books.
Finally, bird flu is not a trivial matter, either. I don’t mean to imply that it is. Neither am I trying to brush my daughter off. It’s already a reality within the animal kingdom. Transmutation from animal to human is a possibility. Some claim that it has already happened. Perhaps it has. To my knowledge, however, no one has absolutely confirmed it. I also understand that book sales on the topic have doubled in the past 6-months. There’s that exponential growth again!
Caution and prevention are prudent moves. But, scaring the hell out of people does nothing but perpetuate the “chicken little” syndrome. Perhaps someone should explain to the Chinese government that it’s not a good idea to eat and sleep in the same room in which you slaughter your chickens, especially if they have bird flu.
My pragmatism remains intact. Back in Catholic school, Sister Helena also tried to convince us boys of a strong correlation between masturbation and going blind. I’m pretty sure that the Bishop put her up to it. She failed miserably. And, even though my glasses resemble the bottoms of Coke bottles, I still am not convinced.
One last thing. Dr. Ehrlich is still alive and serving as Bing Professor of Population Studies in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. Since he’s a renowned expert on butterflies, I emailed him for help in solving an ongoing argument I’ve had for years with a priest friend of mine. Do butterflies fart? If so, do those farts really smell like incense?
I’ve not received a reply. But, a guy with his ability is probably pretty busy.
Have a great week.
Joseph Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. Send your comments. Just click here.