Humbug, COVID?

The origins of the English word “humbug” are not known but its meaning is certainly accepted widely in the different English of the world, made popular in the 19th century by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” where Ebenezer Scrooge, a grouchy tightwad, dismisses Christmas with his “Bah, humbug!” to mean “nonsense,” “a deception.”

While many of us may agree that Christmas commercialism does smack of a big scam, I can’t imagine banning its celebration or phasing out its messages of loving kindness. Mr. Scrooge, on the other hand, used “Bah, humbug” to justify his refusing to donate to charity, not giving Christmas pay to an employee, and, simply, not being happy and merry.

I’ve been thinking though; it seems we now live in a new “Bah, humbug” era that lasts throughout the year and not just Christmas, with more dangerous consequences.

I’m referring to a pandemic of science denialism, people “humbugging” the many urgent emergencies of our times despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the reality of these crises. One of the most glaring is denying the climate emergency, even as a growing number of scientists fret about our possibly not being able to meet certain targets to slow down the gas emissions from fossil fuels causing global warming.

I’m not going to go into all the “bah, humbug” issues today, especially with the holiday season, and I promise a cheerful close to the article today, in the spirit of the season.

But I did want to write about one of the targets of science denialism and this is COVID. I’m catching a growing number of social media posts and an occasional letter to the editor, playing old songs of COVID denial that started even during the height of the pandemic. The claims are familiar: COVID was concocted by governments (China or the United States, depending on one’s ideological bent), or by Big Pharma (to sell vaccines) with some even more outlandish conspiracy theories that do not deserve to be repeated here.

Several governments, including our neighbors Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Taiwan, have renewed warnings and advisories mostly to get vaccinations and to start using masks again when in crowded places. COVID is on the rise.

I worry people are not taking the warnings seriously.

This is a personal concern because two days ago I tested positive for COVID. I won’t bore you with details except to say I woke up Wednesday morning sweating, with a fever, a splitting headache, and a hacking cough.

Fortunately, I still had COVID testing kits at home. Within a few minutes, the dreaded two lines appeared on the plastic cassette with my sample swab for testing.

I had to send word to people I had been in contact with, advising them to observe themselves and get the test … and to isolate, which I am doing as well, for at least five days, longer if symptoms linger and if I continue to test positive.

It doesn’t matter who infected me. What’s important is that I did take precautions, especially because I was traveling and attending meetings with large numbers of people, but it seems even occasional lapses were enough to get me infected.

It’s dealing with the “now” part that’s most difficult with all schedules a mess. The worst part, especially because it’s the holidays, is being pretty much on your own. “COVID Alone,” I played in my mind, feeling like the kid in “Home Alone.”

I’ve had support, of course. My ex drops in with food, convincing me, even more, that it was good we broke up before we could kill each other because this way we end up best of friends. But it’s still the dogs who are the most reliable—you can hug them without worrying about giving or getting COVID.

Sure it’s a milder strain that’s going around but “mild” is relative. The coughing is bad but worse is the wheezing that comes with asthma attacks taking advantage of COVID … and other problems of age that COVID complicates. Malaise is a nice word that means yucky feelings that worsen when you look at the term papers and office reports to read.

Yes, there are still people who die from COVID infections, usually the elderly and people with medical conditions like heart disease. Bah, humbug?

But I’m going to keep my promise for a cheerful column. My sister sent a link to a Lea Salonga rendition of “Payapang Daigdig” with the Tabernacle Choir. That motivated me enough to track down the concert itself and I was thrilled to find the entire event, “Season of Light,” is on Next week, I will write again about that concert and other delights I found to help me entertain COVID.

Bah, humbug to bah, humbug!