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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Contagion

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

A woman, Beth, (Gwyneth Paltrow) shakes hands with a casino chef while at a conference in Hong Kong. She touches someone else. She changes her flight home to Minneapolis so she can have a longer layover in Chicago to have a liaison with a former lover. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), waits at home with his stepson, Clark (Griffin Kane). Beth seems to have the flu, but becomes deathly ill and dies. Clark follows.

The Center for Disease Control is alerted; the World Health organization in Geneva is alerted. Someone sends conspiracy-theory blogger, Alan (Jude law),  a smart phone video of a man collapsing in the Tokyo subway.
 
The CDC calculates how long it will take this phantom disease to multiply and spread.  A scientist isolates the virus but the government shuts him down – but he goes ahead to develop a vaccine anyway. 
 
Over the steady drumbeat of days flashing at the bottom of a screen, we discover the source of the virus and how it spreads. We see heroism; we see selfishness and greed. We see generosity, panic, and power plays. We see blame attributed so the government doesn’t look bad. We see a blogger who is onto the truth about the collusion of government and corporations falsify information about a cure and cast doubt on citizen reporting over media giants.
 
The interesting thing about “Contagion” is that it shows us what a pandemic looks like in a panoramic way. We see how the U.S. government and the World Health Organization might handle it, and the nobility and decency of people contrasted, and sometimes replaced with humanity’s basest instincts.
 
From a Christian perspective, you will find all of the Beatitudes and the Deadly Sins represented in the film.
 
Steven Soderbergh often takes on social issues in his films, as does Participant Media (Jeff Skoll, founder of Participant Media, is an executive producer) but I am not sure what the movie was trying to say other than to provoke us into washing our hands – seriously. It was an interesting watch, to see how people might react in such circumstances. But what did the movie really mean?
Certainly it means to keep an eye on the three-way marriage between government-corporations-media and to ask questions.
 
How ready is the world to take on a super-virus? How many people need to die, especially if a corporation patents a vaccine making it cost prohibitive? Are lengthy testing protocols worth it when, as someone said, that the warnings about side effects are as long as the credits for a movie. Animal testing? Human testing? What are the consequences for all the genetic manipulation we are carrying out (or someone permits in our name) on food, and the immune systems for humans and animals?
 
“Contagion” isn’t a story as much as someone saying, “Look, this could happen. You might want to be more involved in society so that we, the people are making decisions.”
 
That’s what I got out of it. And – please, wash your hands. Seriously.
 
By the way, the acting is very good. Listen especially to what Dr. Cheever says (Laurence Fishburne) when he explains (twice so we get it) the custom of shaking hands: in the olden days, you extended your hand as a sign of trust, to show you did not carry a weapon.
 
He thus intimated that these days, dirty hands are a weapon. 
 
But, what about people who don’t have clean water to wash their hands?

Lots to think about.


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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog When we go through pain it is easy to feel abandoned or forgotten, but suffering doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us, He does. Even Jesus suffered, and He was completely without sin.

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