Fri | Jan 18, 2019

The seat of the scornful

Published:Tuesday | October 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can't yet agree on how Ebola is spread. One (the CDC) says Ebola is pretty much a glorified, super STD transmitted by the bodily fluids semen and blood as is the case with HIV. The other says in addition to via blood and semen, it can be transmitted via coughing, sneezing and touching of surfaces. I'm no specialist, but I am inclined to believe WHO, just from observing how health officials interact with those afflicted with Ebola. When last I checked, no one wore hazmat suits to treat AIDS patients. Besides, better safe than sorry.

Without inciting panic and hysteria, it is a scary time. Yes, the instances of Ebola have been isolated to sections of West Africa and the odd case has popped up in the United States and Spain, but your mind can't help but think about how easily the disease could spread farther. It's like Outbreak, the movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman, is playing out in real life. It all feels slightly apocalyptic.

Psalm 1:1

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."

Let's forget the ungodly and sinner bits and zero in on the scornful section. I think Fada God may have to revisit this beatitude because things and times have changed. Now more than ever, with all the plagues and pestilence, a little scorn is necessary.

I never imagined that those words would come from my mouth. I'm a hugger; and I've never before now thought twice about a handshake or any kind of casual bodily contact. Jamaica isn't big on personal space. It's just not a cultural hang-up that we have. A bruised knee or a scraped elbow were things that happened to all of us, and I never paid them any attention. But now the world is different.

With Ebola, and so many other communicable diseases spread by touch, some of which are life-threatening, should we now operate differently? Kids fight. The usual remedy is to tell them to hug and say sorry. They hold hands to pray, share lunches, catch each other's colds and there's the legendary end-of-day last lick. And their little hands end up in their mouths all the time. How much of this, if any, should we discourage? Is it premature for us to brace our children and ourselves, curbing our personal-contact practices early ... just in case?


The threat of Ebola is already awakening in many a little scorn. A friend of mine shamefully admitted to recently discriminating. He recounted the story of being in the presence of someone with an African accent and how uncomfortable it made him because his first thoughts were: "When last she go Africa? Wonder who she came in contact with?" What spiked his paranoia even more, she coughed. That once-ignored, innocent, involuntary action this time caused an instant clearing of all those around her. The truth is that many have developed xenophobia towards anyone with an African accent. Unfairly so. The just over 7,000 confirmed Ebola African cases pale in comparison to the 1.1 billion Africans who remain Ebola free. But that doesn't stop people from being scared.

The minister of health advised against all non-essential African travel - not just to West Africa - and some have criticised him for this generalisation. One friend likened it to saying, "Don't travel to North America because a case was found in Dallas." Are you naive and foolish to put political correctness over safety?

Ebola has lots of consequences. Already, carnival countries like Trinidad are thinking about the implications of a potential Ebola outbreak. The bodily fluid of sweat is Mas produced, and that would spell nightmare. There are also practical issues to work out. How do communal things that pass many hands like money work under Ebola conditions?

While we deliberate on the how much we will scorn in the future, I have to lift my hat to every doctor and nurse. You don't get the luxury of being scornful. The things you get exposed to every day ... and you endure it; risking your life to save the life of others. Bless you. I hope at least the ministry has bought a bunch of hazmat suits and is keeping them in storage just in case you are called to serve.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.