Selling Misery

Source: newstimes.com

What happens when they start dealing in misery? What if their bread is earned when people bathe in blood and tears? Nothing much, it makes some very engaging and entertaining television. Not implying that they cause the misery themselves, although you could always speculate, but the world has enough troubles to keep people occupied at the same time anyway. After all, it is a huge planet. But it is a small world.

Everyone seems to know everything, even though they understand nothing. But at least everyone gets to know what is happening around. The media are there to tell you that. News every second of the day. Well, if you look at the world headlines, they hardly stretch past three stories, but of course, that is not the case with the domestic issues, which in case of certain countries, as the ones located in the subcontinent are rather of a violent and unpleasant nature.

There are crimes and misdimeanors and then there are natural calamities, floods, earthquakes, plagues and epidemic and accidents. There also is terrorism, the latest spice in the soup of misery, the one we sip day after day, night after night. The one that tastes unbearably horrible, but the one that we have grown addicted to. Like a junkie who cannot afford to buy his favorite drug anymore and suffices himself on whatever thrill he can find.

Writing about misery is like waging wars. You need to find some evil to write about, to whine about, just like you need to create some evil to wage war against. Oh, pardon me, find evil, or realize its existence wherever it maybe and in whatever form, especially Weapons of Mass Destruction. But there is always enough supply of what is considered to be evil in our world, if anyone sets their mind to write about it. Their task is much simpler than that of the general or the politician or the diplomat-statesman.

But then again, there are the overzealous, and then there is professional competitiveness. The eagerness to cover and report the story first, the eagerness to determine the cause and effect first, the eagerness to declare the verdict first and most of all, the eagerness to sell the misery first. The winner takes it all and the early bird catches the worm. You need to be at the right time, at the right place, with the right words. Just leave any sense of civility at home, if you happen to have it.

Some people died of a terrorist bomb blast. Oh, jolly good. But strategy first. You, move to the crime scene, you, the hospital, you, call the buffoon Interior Minister, you, call the retarded Chief of the Police, you, call the sadist analyst, you, shoot the corpses, you, write copy and you, read the bloody news. And tell the marketing guy this is why the headlines should just follow that ad that we run every hour.

But don’t get me wrong.

They are doing an excellent job.

Somebody has got to do it anyway.

People need to be informed of what is going on in the world.

But of course there comes a time when it is all too obvious that too much information for comfort is being attempted to be published. Something that certainly no one wants to know, or even see.

But it is information nevertheless.

The more information, the better.

Remember that, always.

As news reporters, we intend to bring you the very emotions that people go through when they lose a loved one.

We go beyond impersonal facts.

We bring you, the reality.

And did we say that we will entertain you as well.

By humiliating them.

Exhibit A.

INT. BILAL’S HOUSE OR THE SCENE OF MOURNING – DAY

We see a crowd gathered around a house. We walk in. We see a corpse lying in the middle of the room, clad in a white shroud, surrounded by women of all ages, who are wailing and crying. We see our correspondent.

 CORRESPONDENT

  Viewers, as you can see the corpse of 10 year old Bilal and you would also

 be able to listen to the wailing of his family. He died in a bus accident that

took place yesterday, killing 30 more like him. A very emotional scene, I

have to say. Let us go and talk to the family to learn how exactly they

are feeling.

Walks up to the crying mother.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

What exactly happened here? How did he die? Although I know.

  MOTHER

  (traumatized, wailing)

 (Says something incomprehensible) Bus accident. (Continues saying

something incomprehensible).

CORRESPONDENT

Viewers, you just listened to the mother of the child. Nerve-wrecking

scenes here. Let us now talk to the little sister of the kid to get an idea

 of how exactly she is feeling.

Walks up to a five year old girl who looks shell shocked. The correspondent thrusts his microphone in front of her face. She starts staring at it.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

 How are you feeling?

A man standing beside the girl, whose legs are the only things visible in the scene, pushes the girl to speak. No response.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

 Do you miss your brother?

 LITTLE GIRL

  Yes.

SLOW MOTION.

We hear a depressing sitar or sarangi Indian classical music tune to go with the sentimental response.

CLOSE UP.

We see the corpse of the young Bilal pictured in a psychedelic fashion.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

Little Bilal wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. But now, he cannot.

He pauses and smiles.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

Because he is dead.

And remember, you saw this exclusive report first on <insert name> Channel.

Stay tuned for more action.

I could make a few bucks selling this scene and these lines to a local news channel. But then again, it would be plagiarism.

I stole the idea from one of them anyway.

Dengue Fever Blues

Source: phuketgazette.net

Dengue fever. I had heard the name of the disease quite a few times throughout my life, ever since my childhood, and I had always taken it lightly. Of course you are not supposed to get freaked out by a disease you don’t even know about when you are a child, until recently as all that changed  A serious dengue fever epidemic broke out in Punjab with its greatest concentration in Lahore. Thankfully, as yet, I or anyone that I know personally have not been infected yet, which is a great advantage of not living in Lahore right now, or say, the parts of Lahore which are getting affected the most, as there are many cities within cities.

Becoming sick in a country where an epidemic outbreak is wreaking havoc can be a very dangerous feeling. In case of dengue fever, caused by dengue virus of the genus Flavivirus spread by the Aedes genus of mosquitoes recognized by its distinct white spots or stripes, the very thought, let alone actually contracting the fever, is probably much more excruciating than any other disease. There is a reason for that. The symptoms of the disease are so vague and commonplace that everyone who gets ill can start fearing for their lives.

Of course, the bone-breaking part of the fever and the appearance of the rash are very specific symptoms that point towards dengue fever, but other than that you would never be able to tell if you have the virus in your veins and if you are in risk of developing serious complications that it could lead to. So it is only natural that the entire city turned up to get themselves tested for dengue fever at hospitals in Lahore. What makes things even worse is that in many cases, it remains asymptomatic. Surviving with the dengue fever virus can be alright, but that exposes other people to the risk of infection.

No one would be afraid of, or even give a damn about the dengue fever thing had so many people not died because of it in its present outbreak in Lahore, with over 5,000 cases reported, over 100 lost their lives and many ill even at this time as I write these lines. I have not kept the exact count of the deaths caused by the epidemic, or at least that is what have been thought to have caused those deaths, but each time you hear the news of more deaths, it shakes you for a minute, frightening you, while also alarming you and renewing your caution.  Although statistically, the death toll resulting from dengue fever is supposed to be extremely low. Maybe, the deaths caused by now have been extremely low. Who knows. One death seems a lot.

This is where an epidemic can be frightening. It is living among death, in a sense. But not too much. I recall that the world has seen worst epidemics, and pandemics for that matter. Wonder how they would have lived through the Black Death.

There is no vaccine or treatment for dengue fever, they tell me. This is how much control we have over the life of the patient, but the treatment is based on symptoms.

This makes you wonder how helpless we are. The only way to evade the disease is to kill mosquitoes and not to let them bite you. Simple. But it is not that simple. At the same time, the politics people argue about it as usual and people die, suggesting that perhaps not even an alien creature can unite the human species. So much for Roland Emmerich’s ideals. If you don’t believe me, you can enlarge a mosquito to giant size and see for yourself what I mean by the alien creature. Now I spend my days dodging it all the time.

Although dengue fever poses a statistically small threat of hemorrhagic fever resulting in death, but how do you know you are not under the risk when you suffer from it. And there is no way to kill the microbe because it is a virus, yeah right. That’s just about how strong human beings are on a cosmic level. The question is what is the point of creating all the sophisticated weapons in the world, which are supposed to protect you, when you cannot even protect yourself from a damn virus, or even a mosquito if its occurrence is not prevented in the first place.

This also raises a question about priorities. Neither will everyone see this nor necessarily agree with it, but why cannot humans as a species concentrate on research that allows them to overcome microbes and diseases resulting in severe complications and deaths with increased focus, and I mean spending more on it than on other apparently useless ventures, as I am sure medical research is always an ongoing process and has made tremendous progress.

Because to me, the measure of the scientific progress of the humans is the absence of a vaccine for a microbe that causes a deadly disease. And I am not even talking about the efforts of the local governance because usually this particular disease breaks out in countries with low resources and generally incompetent and/or corrupt governments.

However, I salute all the medical professionals whoever they are and where ever they are working against this epidemic and curing people and most of all, offering them hope for life. I can never do that. Believe me, you live like never before after you have a close encounter with death.

Why not wage wars and Crusade and Jihad against mosquitoes, especially the Aedes genus of mosquitoes, instead of each other.

At least I am declaring Jihad against mosquitoes.