“One Year After The Swine Flu ‘Crisis’ in Mexico, ‘Amor En Tiempos de Influenza’ is Now Playing Online
By Gregory Berger
One year ago this week, Mexico City was in lockdown. Swine Flu hysteria paralyzed the nation. I am proud to say that I broke that siege by strolling through the center of the Mexican capital with a live piglet walking behind me on a leash. For doing so, I was nearly arrested, along with my collaborators, by panicked police officers who spent several minutes literally debating whether or not ‘comedy’ was a crime.
My ‘stroll’ with a pig was part of the production of ‘Amor en Tiempos de Influenza’ (Love In Times of Influenza) a satirical documentary about the real ‘pigs’ behind the flu crisis that premieres online this week to commemorate the one year anniversary of the scare.
You can watch it here:
Or at www.gringoyo.com
There are many reasons I chose to make this film.
The hemisphere’s biggest, bustling metropolis is home to tens of millions of people who every day brave snarling traffic, jam packed public transportation, choking smog and endless informal markets that turn sidewalks into obstacle courses.
All of that came to a grinding halt for nearly a week when the Mexican federal government declared a national health crisis due to a new deadly strain of influenza that contained genetic material from a flu virus known to infect pigs.
Schools were closed, people stayed home from work, and Mexico City’s streets were nearly deserted. The government instructed anyone bold enough to leave their house to wear a surgical mask.
‘This is like a war,’ declared one talking head from the right wing government on national television, ‘we all need to become soldiers and obey orders from the government, to win.’
As a longtime resident of Mexico and father of a three-year-old boy, I was shocked.
>Initially, I fell victim to the mass hysteria that drove everyone else indoors, fearing for the health and safety of my boy.
But as I regained my calm and understood that the world was not going to end, I became shocked at something else. I was shocked that millions of Mexicans were ‘drinking the cool aid,’ believing their leaders at face value. Many of the same men and women who usually assume that all politicians are crooks, who believe (often correctly) that the government is routinely cooking up intrigue and conspiracy were now believing their elected officials for the first time in my recollection and were afraid to go outside without a useless surgical mask on their face.
It was the same kind of hysteria that gripped the United States after September 11th, and much like Naomi Klein’s famous Shock Doctrine, it allowed the government to get people to do things they normally would never agree to do.
Eventually people realized they weren’t going to die, and the masks came off. But unfortunately, the militaristic intrusion into the daily lives of ordinary Mexicans has continued, and hundreds of illegal military checkpoints now subject random homes and vehicles for warrantless searches and seizure by soldiers, in clear violation of article 129 of the Mexican constitution, under the pretext of the ‘War on Drugs.’ I often wonder if the social engineering and massive crowd control put into practice during the swine flu crisis hasn’t served as an intermediary step in the militarization of daily life in Mexico.
One other lingering question, never fully answered by the Mexican authorities even after an official investigation in the matter, was the role that U.S. based agribusiness giant Smithfield Foods may have played in the outbreak. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer and recipient of the largest fine in U.S. history from the EPA for its blatant and consistent contamination of waterways in the United States, operates a plant in La Gloria, Veracruz, just down the road from where the first reported case of swine flu in Mexico was detected.
A few brave journalists, including Al Giordano of this publication, Julio Hernandez of La Jornada, and even Sanjay Gupta of CNN followed the story. Although a definitive link between Smithfield Foods and the H1N1 influenza virus has never been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, what has been absolutely proven is the unconscionable behavior of Smithfield Foods in Mexico.
The amount of untreated pig sewage that Smithfield Foods pumps into Mexico’s scarce waterways each year is equivalent to the human sewage generated by the nation’s second and third largest cities combined.
As Giordano reported, Smithfield Foods was one of the first U.S. companies to open up shop in Mexico after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. To date, the Mexican government has not sanctioned Smithfield in any way. Guaranteed impunity from environmental crimes is one of the reasons Smithfield operates in Mexico.
Among the other swine to play a part in the 2009 flu outbreak were the right wing pundits on cable news in the U.S. like Michelle Malkin and Glen Beck, who embraced the hysteria to press their own agenda, claiming that Mexican immigrants were carriers of a new plague that would surely destroy the United States as well.
In much the same way that the Mexico City swine flu lockdown helped prepare the general public for increased military checkpoints and searches, FOX news` influenza-induced immigrant bashing was part of a gradual campaign of scapegoating that created the political climate in which Arizona`s new state immigration law was passed.
The good news is that the entire cast of swine behind the swine flu ‘crisis’ – Smithfield Foods, Mexico’s federal government, and immigrant bashers on cable TV – has no immunization against comedy, the most potent weapon for citizens` defense known to humanity.
So one year ago, I sat down in Mexico with my son and told him never to be afraid of ghosts…or soldiers…or right wing lunatics. And to make sure he knew what I meant, I did two things. I responded to the demand by his school’s administrators that I drop him off and pick him up with a mask on by making an elaborate Mexican wrestler outfit and putting it on every morning and every afternoon. The school director nearly had a stroke every time she saw me and gave me a dirty look for mocking the ‘seriousness’ of the crisis.
Then I sat down with him one day during the outbreak and made up a story, like I always do when he is afraid of something. The story began with a demented executive from Smithfield Foods falling in love with a pig and setting up shop in Mexico…
And that is the story that I present to you today. My son was with me every step of the way…when I bought the pig, when I was filming, and at the premiere several months ago at El Museo del Barrio in New York City.
He is a citizen of both the United States and Mexico, and I dedicate this film to him and to all of his fellow citizens` in both countries and to those who have ever been accused of the ‘crime’ of comedy.”
(Quelle: The NarcoSphere.)