The picture is of Edgar Hernandez. He is 4 years old and lives in Veracruz. He is at the centre of the swine flu epidemic. The boss of Ryanair is reported as saying that you shouldn't bother about him ; the loss of Edgar Hernandez would only be a tragedy for people living in slums, he says. Swine flu, apparently, is only a worry for people who live in slums.

Somehow, the picture of that frightened little boy's face has touched me. I will pray for him, which is all that I can do. You should remember him too. He is your fellow being.

I do not know of anyone who has had an easy trip with Ryanair. Its website is terrible, and it charges people if they have to telephone for help. It behaves contemptuously. Its staff in some instances are paid to take their clothes off and to advertise its services semi-naked.

Ryanair's behaviour is one of the very few things I agree with Mary Honeyball MEP about. As she spends her time waiting for Labour's defeat in Strasbourg, she could recover some of her standing by again being as forthright as she has been before about this company.

After all, a very good case could be made that Ryanair is the face of European attempts to deepen the 'internal market' which has produced psychotic company after psychotic company, and sold state companies into subsidy and second-rate status.

Marie Antoinette was, in her awkward way, trying to help by saying the poor should be given the surplus brioche. The boss of Ryanair is not. He says that you should suck throat sweets and forget your fellow human beings.

A discredited celebrity class. A grand peur. A financial crisis. A corrupt church of economics, full of arrogant and empty tax farmers and entrepreneurs disguised as people who think they command respect.

Welcome to April 1789.


The story seems to be fast-developing. Edgar Hernandez was initially diagnosed with ordinary flu. It was swine flu. He recovered. He lives near a 'manure lagoon'. It is produced by the pigs reared for a large American pork product company based in Virginia. The villagers around him claim to have been dispropriated by politicians in Mexico city, who are keen on the development of North American corporate ties and the deepening of a continental market that depends upon the Mexicans and the Chinese being willing to oppress their own people to make the rich, and relatively speaking that includes me, fat on the cheap. What a horrible irony, and I do not mean that in a good way, if instead, this conscienceless practice led to the evolution of a genetically wandering virus along the airways of the rich. The bad that we do in this life will, often but not always, catch us up.

Science Update
: Well, not so much of an update as an addendum. Back in 2007, when Avian flu was being pressed into service by the media, various scientific papers were published on the mysteries of the 1918-19 virus. One talked about the death at Versailles of Sir Mark Sykes, a lost 'future Prime Minister' at the peace conference in Paris. He died with millions of others of influenza. The Interesting Science blog, which now seems to be defunct, used to carry some interesting articles. One of immediate relevance dealt with what might happen if precisely the situation the events in the update above ever delivered us to the brink of pandemic. Have a look.


Anonymous said…
Anonymous coward with five partially relevant links: a credible article on industrial pig farming and another from a significantly less credible source on the flu pandemic of 1918.

I enjoy reading boingboing even though its generally insubstantial but their current guest blogger, Maggie Koerth-Baker, has at least two articles on swine flu that are short but reasonably informative.
Martin Meenagh said…
Thanks for the links, AC
Martin said…
Excellent post, Martin.

Both being of Irish extraction (you one generation closer to the soil, but me with an Irish wife),I don't know if you'd agree with this analysis; but Mr. O' Leary's tedious and gobby controversialism often gives me the impression that he is the exemplar of that type of modern Irishman to whom 'The Commitments' seem more important than the Commandments. I have not trusted his company since it lost my socks at Stansted in 1995. Flying Ryanair is an activity always best categorised as 'necessary evil'; and it is appropriate that he should make news with remarks on swine flu, given that he operates a slew of flying pigs.
Martin Meenagh said…
Thanks Martin.

I tend to agree with you. One of the big shocks to me at Oxford was briefly encountering the Irish society of the day hypersensitive, bourgeois, and identikit in their post-sixties, church hating and IRA fetishizing way. The biggest disappointment, which I suppose is typical, was how, beyond some songs and the Irish language, they were so uninterested in words or thought, and so, well, philistine. They spent their life trying to build a barricade out of the rubble of cultures they misread and pulled down.

I expect that the effect was mutual. I must have looked very strange to them, but what it taught me was that class is pretty near a universal invariant in wordly affairs, and only reason, courtesy and the love of life and God, if you're open to them, can save you from that.

Ryanair are a caricature of a worthwhile company. Don't 'get me wrong'--companies want to make money and their nature can never really be caring. Companies cannot have consciences, only people can, and to that extent I think the rhineland model some on the left here co-opt for their own purposes delusional.

But how ignorant and contemptuous does one have to be to go so far out of the way, in practically every pronouncement, to pour one's self-hatred onto customers, staff, and the vulnerable? And what sort of management culture does this create at Ryanair? These people are living their lives like this, and it sounds as bad as journalistm or politics, or academic life, all of which these days are in large part deeply compromised.

Ah well. Morning rant over. By the way, that video at the bottom of the post of the Victoria chorale singing 'no man is an island' spontaneously is lovely, I think, and very relaxing. I'd be glad to know if any reader agrees.

All the best, Martin.

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