By Daniel RigneyAfter seeing the movie “Contagion,” I now carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with me at all times and avoid unnecessary contact with other persons or objects. Wearing a pair of disposable surgical gloves, I’m at my keyboard scouring a well-known search engine for references to the word “epidemic,” so that I’ll know what specific contagions to be wary of.
After several minutes of intensive Internet research, I’m discovering what appears to be a rapidly spreading epidemic of epidemic metaphors pertaining to phenomena that have little or nothing to do with the spread of literal, biological disease.*
Here are just a few of the figurative scourges currently raging through our culture like mutating viruses, some of them said to be spreading “exponentially.”
Be on the lookout for:
… an epidemic of rhino horn thefts. (Horns are allegedly stolen from museums or poached and sold on the Chinese medicine market.)
… an epidemic of narcissism.
… an epidemic of “gray divorces” among couples over 50.
… an epidemic of smart-phone thefts.
… an epidemic of expulsions aimed at raising standards of school discipline.
... an epidemic of college football scandals.
… an epidemic of laughter in Tanzania. (I’ll have whatever they’re having.)
... an epidemic of “stoned driving.”
… an epidemic of xenophobia in Europe.
… an epidemic of “presumptive forgiveness” – this diagnosis from a clergyman who resents those who expect forgiveness before first repenting their transgressions and mending their ways.
… an epidemic of “false conversions” sweeping evangelical churches among those who feel “saved” but are still not living scripturally-correct lives.
… an epidemic of witchcraft, or rather of witchcraft accusations.
… an epidemic of overconsumption – also known as Affluenza – culminating in overindebtedness, an unsustainable economy, and environmental devastation. (This one’s for real, folks, though it’s not medical per se.)
... an epidemic of circumcision. Ouch.
… an epidemic of fear – exacerbated, one supposes, by a widespread and exponentially-growing fear of epidemics.
Be careful out there.
Postscript (4/19/2012): Further research reveals:
... epidemics of both obesity and picky eating.
... an epidemic of sex addiction, and
... an epidemic of virtue.
Run for your lives!
*For further thoughts on this and other biological metaphors, see Ch. 2 (“Society as Living System”) in Daniel Rigney’s The Metaphorical Society (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).