There is so much that is so horrible about the Ebola epidemic: the clinically racist withholding of Western funding in any proportion to the unspeakable public health catastrophe in West Africa; the horrific ravages of the disease itself and what it does to victims, to communities, and to nations; and the snug way all of this fits into the prescribe-a-panic regimen of our consumer cocoon politics.
Now that the plutocratic catastrophe we call the American economy has reached a state of hemorrhagically-feverish income inequality and police power, increasingly frequent threats to the homeland are required in order to steer panicked minds away from the quiet fact that our way of life itself is by far the greatest death threat we face. Ebola is the latest: the Red Scare of the moment.
Make no mistake: the dangers of doing nothing about Ebola -- the West's chosen approach -- are awful. Even if theoretical scenarios of the virus mutating into greater transmissibility don’t materialize, which is overwhelmingly likely, the straight-up projections -- a peak of 550,000 to 1.4 million cases in West Africa by January 2015 if adequately urgent measures aren't taken, and an end to the epidemic by early 2015 if they are, according to the Centers for Disease Control -- are stark. And the fiasco accompanying the first documented Ebola case in the United States, in Texas, is a primer in the brokenness of America's chaotic corporate health care system, in which an emergency room nurse's recording of items on an Ebola checklist was somehow not passed on to others in the chain of medical decision-making.
Still, the stone-cold racism and scapegoating in the American response to Ebola is hard to miss. This from the Guardian:
"David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas department of state health services, attempted to allay public concern. 'This is not west Africa. This is a very sophisticated city, a very sophisticated hospital and the dynamics are so significantly different than they are in west Africa that the chances of it being spread [are] very, very, very small.'"
Never mind that the "sophistication" of profit-driven American health care now ranks it among the lowest in the industrialized world. Never mind that the so-called backwardness of now-impoverished West African nations has been wantonly manufactured over the past four centuries by moneyed European conquest that converted self-sufficient economies and stable societies into newly-subdivided and economically dependent territories of ethnic and tribal instability.
Even in trying to quiet the machinery of panic, our American messaging sticks doggedly to its familiar script: that we are better than "they" are, and that if anything brings us down as a nation it will be the threat of the "other," not our own acceptance of a suicidally unhealthy and materially unsustainable way of life.