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Swine Flu: It’s Not Race, It’s Capital April 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Health, Latin America, Mexico, Racism.
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Written by danielschmidt

April 29, 2009, www.latinamericanmusings.wordpress.com

Swine flu did not begin because of Mexican genetic fallibility, terrorism, or otherwise. These accusations are baseless, ignorant and racist.

Swine flu is about capital, not race. Swine flu is the fault of multinational pig farms (despite their “moans”) – housing pigs who lay in their own shit, are fed antibiotics so as not to die from diseases they swim in, and are quickly processed and eaten. One does not get swine flu from eating swine, pigs, but develops a strain of disease from a pig, which is then transferred person to person.

Recently, it is almost impossible in the media to receive any sort of information. Think of the Somali pirates (no mention that we pour toxic nuclear waste and shit into their harbors). This time, we hear no word about Smithfield, the conglomerate pork processor that is headquartered miles from my home. It has been the policy of the United States to export its ability to produce massive amount of food across the world. Smithfield’s plants, in Mexico and elsewhere, did not happen overnight, but this was something that we should have seen coming.

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Perote, Veracruz, where it is believed the strain of swine flu came from, houses an enormous “half-owned” agricompound, run by Smithfield, that produces mass amounts of swine. As Mike Davis notes, in his wonderfully needed “Capitalism and Flu,” this morning:

In 1965, for instance, there were 53 million American hogs on more than 1 million farms; today, 65 million hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities–half with more than 5,000 animals.

This has been a transition, in essence, from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, unprecedented in nature, containing tens, even hundreds of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems, suffocating in heat and manure, while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates and pathetic progenies.

Mexico has been our haven for cheap labor and lax standards. Not only is the world in an economic mess, but in an environmental one too. However, I am not suggesting that everything is known about the flu (it travels unpredictably, springs up in any season: where does it go? how does it travel?), but our drive towards capital at the cost our health has cost us, at best, a health scare, at worst, a pandemic. Washing ones hands will do not good if one is living in shit.

Our contempt for the environment, capital, human beings had led us here. It is not Mexico, or Mexicans. They, unfortunately for us, are not the problem. Mexico does not lack the genetic code to be productive humans or healthy humans, they deal with a lack or resources and a disdain from the US, both in policy circles as well as cultural circles. (In fact, Mexico learned about the swine flu strain six days before it was even picked up by the press in the US – but that speaks to our arrogance as much as our ignorance).

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storagecanoecaDespite Mexico becoming a scapegoat for the US and the West’s responsibility in this health scare (guns, drugs, and swine…), Mike Davis suggests that we not sit back in our understanding of what I outlined above. He emphasizes, in his article and in his 2006 book, Monsters At Our Door, that pandemics are real, and should be feared. The Spanish Influenza of 1918 began as a benign flu and roared back with a vengeance just as World War I came to a close. It is not too much assume, according to some, that this could happen once again.

The governments of the world project readiness. President Obama suggests that we should be concerned. Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Director, declared a state of emergency on Sunday and has freed up the distribution of antibiotics, Thermaflu and such in case of emergencies. But Davis doesn’t think this is enough.

The swine flu, in any case, may prove that the WHO/Centers for Disease Control (CDC) version of pandemic preparedness–without massive new investment in surveillance, scientific and regulatory infrastructure, basic public health and global access to lifeline drugs–belongs to the same class of Ponzified risk management as AIG derivatives and Madoff securities.

It isn’t so much that the pandemic warning system has failed as it simply doesn’t exist, even in North America and the EU.

I cannot comment on the readiness or reliability of our ability to stop this flu from killing more people (almost 200 have died in Mexico alone, no other casualties have occurred from other nations). But I will emphasize that Mexico, and specifically Mexicans, are not the problem. It may have originated in Mexico, but if it happened in, say, Fort Riley, Kansas, like the 1918 flu, we would not be having this discussion. This would be a global tragedy instead of an occasion to once again ignore one’s role and perpetuate the same fractured stereotypes that have led us here in the first place.

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