Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Pork-O-Phobia Spreads

Per Reuters:

Afghanistan's only known pig has been locked in a room, away from visitors to Kabul zoo where it normally grazes beside deer and goats, because people are worried it could infect them with the virus popularly known as swine flu.

.... "For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza," Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo, told Reuters. "We've done this because people are worried about getting the flu."

"We understand that [there are no direct flights between Mexico and Afghanistan, no pig farms in Afghanistan, and no evidence whatsoever that this isolated pig could be a source of infection] but most people don't have enough knowledge. When they see the pig in the cage they get worried and think that they could get ill," Saqib said.

This sounds like a funny story about Muslim superstition or the endemic ignorance of the developing world, but it is neither.  It is further evidence of the way illness is used as a metaphor -- thank you, Ms. Sontag -- by which people separate the "clean" from the "unclean."  Viewed that way, locking away one poor solitary pig (dare we call it a "scape-pig"?) is actually no less ignorant -- and far more humane -- that imposing economic sanctions on Mexico, or discriminating against Mexicans living abroad.

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