Commentary by James Gillespie
I can recall, several years back, hearing about the threat of the H1N1 virus. At the time, I was unperturbed. I was audacious enough to not feel any concern for a disease post festum was a true threat. And while I at least bear some semblance of having matured between the era of the H1N1 and today, the first mention of an Ebola threat was reminiscently non-threatening. Thankfully, I am very wrong in this emotional retort.
While many writers today may attempt to appeal to a gullible audience regarding nascent theories, irrespective of potential threat, a topic which is consistently brought up by all news or entertainment sources is unique in this respect vis-a-vis the former theories. Whatever the specificities of the Ebola crisis — yes, crisis — may be, its ubiquity in contemporary culture should raise the brows of even the most ignorant and oblivious individuals. That being said, as the topic develops, ignorant individuals need to become less ignorant, lest they risk their ignorance evolving into a life-endangering form.
The glib titles of the innumerable articles containing Ebola only move the community so far. In this respect, just the number of Ebola mentions becomes a nuisance rather than a pedagogy for the masses. This inclination to be affected by prime facie interpretations must be remedied by a unitary public awareness of potential threats supported by both hypotheses and empirical data. In my own experience, this was accomplished via one word: airborne.
The visual stimulus of the word “airborne” resulted in an abrupt change of mind: a shift from complete ignorance to superficial concern. Do not let “superficial” imply a negative connotation. Just the opposite — this superficial concern for a potential threat was enough to heighten my own awareness to feel consternation at even a dim echo of “Ebola.”
The populace needn’t be forced into occupying this frame of mind by any grandiose political leader such as President Obama. The duty falls on the sensed severity of the situation by any and all individuals. In terms of the resolution of the issue, such will be accomplished independent of public awareness — medical research happens even if we do not hear of it. In fact, the increase in public awareness will not only decrease the threat in terms of contraction, spread, etc., but it will also increase the participation in research.
Credulity of target audience needs to be rendered extraneous; awareness of a true potential threat to health must become ubiquitous. There already exists the hypothetical scenario in which the populace learns, post festum, that a virus has become airborne. Ignorance as bliss does not apply to every occurrence of ignorance. In the situations where bliss does not obtain in the face of ignorance, ignorance may very well be a blight.