Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks—and if you have, you may want to skip this and stay there where it’s safe—you may have noticed the media has a shiny new toy.
The Ebola outbreak which has reached our shores—infecting less than ten people—has our failed media experiment in a veritable apoplexy. CNN, looking for something to replace it’s 24/7 coverage of MH370 and recapture those golden days of summer, has joined MSNBC and Fox in providing a constant stream of information on the breakout. And by “constant stream of information”, I mean dialing the panic button up to 12 and reporting as if half of the country has been infected with the virus. Rather than a contained outbreak, this Ebola infestation is a new Black Death, scything through the population with grim glee.
Now, I know that it’s hard filling in the time between commercials. A news producer’s job is never easy. But there seems to be something disreputable about media organizations latching on to a very minor outbreak and building it up to be an existential threat to humanity. And, of course, the coverage was nowhere near as manic when the Ebola pandemic was restricted to west African nations. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are facing real catastrophic consequences to their economies and social fabric; but, they’re far away, and in Africa, so not worthy of foaming at the mouth coverage.
Even at a ripe 45, I have some of the sense of invulnerability that I had at 25. There is no good reason for me to be so confident; I have the physicals and admonitions from my doctor to prove so. But, I guess it’s better than being like some people, who treat every errant mole as a sign of the Grim Reaper’s impending visit.
However, everything ends. The one surety in life is that your time on Earth is short an precious. Would we appreciate life if we somehow discovered the fountain of youth? I don’t know. But the short lives we have now make every moment unique, of a singular nature, whether in joy or sorrow.
As life is short, something which always informs my decisions is the question: Am I making the world a better place. I’m not talking about great, macro-historical acts. I’m talking about the little things, the everyday kindnesses, the quotidian miracles which will not make it to the history books, but which may change a person’s life in innumerable ways for the better.
It’s a question by which I try to live. But it’s also a question which too few of our fellow citizens ask.