When America wheezes…

Playbill for THE SNEEZE
“When America sneezes,
Asia catches a cold.”

Or so the adage goes. NPR referred to it as a cliche, and canvassed the foreign press for regional varients. The news being, apparently, that the American economy hiccuped or other such trifle.
I cannot help thinking of Chekhov’s
The Death of a Government Official,
adapted for the stage as The Sneeze.

NPR went on: “When the US sneezes, Shanghai catches a cold.” A subset. “When America sneezes, Britain catches a cold.” Mimicry. “When America sneezes, things get feverish in South Africa.” Credited for imagination. The trivialization continued, from: “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold” to “When America sneezes, does the world still catch a cold?” Then NPR asked a financial skeptic to assess the veracity of this cliche. She explained that a sneeze had a generally small radius of effect, and that a handshake was more likely to spread a cold. She was on the right track, wasn’t she? A sneeze is but a trifle.

The net effect of course, was to reiterate, reinforced through repetition, that America has sneezed, and it’s up to others to mind their health. It was a sneeze, that’s all. The light headed, somewhat hazy feeling you are experiencing? Just a sneeze. You’re not faint, you’re not about to collapse into an indefinite convalescence with pneumonia.

When America is bed bound with consumption, there’s no one unaffected to bring her chicken soup. That’s where the medicinal analogy ends. When our economy is out for the count, competitors have their arms raised in the air, ready for the next comer, looking for the next Golden Goose. Business is war. Sun Tsu’s Art of War is after all shelved under Business. If this were a child’s game, it would be King of the Hill, not Doctor.

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