15 April 2020

Terminology is an agenda

So the written Chinese 猫头鹰 literally translates to "cat-headed eagle" and sensically translates to "owl".  (If you are a French speaker, "hibou" rather than "chouette".)  German "Kriegsmarine" literally translates as "war fleet" but sensically as "navy". There are arbitrarily many examples.

Which term people pick means something about their intent.

"Wet market",  湿市场, is a term to distinguish a traditional market with fresh produce from a supermarket. Up until supermarkets became regionally popular, the term would just have been "market" or "public market".  Since we've known with some confidence for a while now that the important mutation that created  SARS-CoV-2 happened in a human -- this is not direct zoonotic transmission -- the focus on misrepresenting wet markets as responsible for the current pandemic reveals layers of agenda.

First off, blame someone else.  A pandemic was identified as inevitable a long time ago; certainly there was no possibility of not knowing that after SARS in 2003.  Failure to be ready today is just that, failure.  Responsible government requires owning up to the failure.

Second off, yes, novel zoonotic diseases are a problem, but it's a problem because humans are over their carrying capacity, on the one hand, and making that worse, on the other, by using an open-loop resource extraction economy.  Trying to stuff all of that big systemic problem into "look at the appalling foreign practice!" isn't what could be described as helping.

Thirdly, blame isn't presently useful.  Co-operation is.  Minimum standards of data-openness are a reasonable thing to ask prior to co-operation.  Admissions of guilt absolutely not.

Pay attention to the agenda.

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