A relativist view of emergency sucking

I don't mean to be a bore about these things, but I try to be fair, and not long ago I wrote a long post complaining about "two dishonest words that especially offend me,"

because of their inherently argumentative nature as well as their tendency to distort perceptions of reality.
Anyway, because I used the colloquial expression "suck" to characterize the words "sodomy" and "entitlement," I now feel duty bound to use it to characterize another inherently argumentative and often dishonest word -- "emergency."

In this case, running low on free condoms is said to be an emergency:

as if anymore proof is needed that a wild Olympic atmosphere permeates B.C.'s largest city, now there's an apparent condom shortage.

That's right. As you read this, an emergency shipment of condoms is desperately making its way across Canada to the West Coast city.

Health officials in Vancouver have already provided 100,000 free condoms to the roughly 7,000 ahtletes and officials at the Games. That's about 14 condoms per person. But as of Wednesday, those supplies started running dangerously low.

So naturally, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research decided to step and make sure there were no hitches in Olympic action.

"When we heard about the condom shortage in Vancouver, we felt it important to respond immediately," said Kerry Whiteside, CANFAR's Executive Director. The organization assembled three large boxes of about 8,500 condoms, much to the relief of libidos at the Olympic Village. They're expected to arrive on Thursday.

Is there a condom shortage in Vancouver? When I google-mapped the city and searched nearby for condoms, I got 164 hits. Topping the list was the Rubber Rainbow Condom Company, although one of the Google reviewers complained that the local pharmacy chain beats their prices.

But are the innumerable Vancouver pharmacies now sold out of condoms? I seriously doubt it, because I was unable to find a single allegation or complaint anywhere about such a general "condom shortage." The problem seems to be that there aren't enough free condoms to be distributed to Olympic athletes. It is being reported that they were being grabbed by the handful -- not necessarily for their intended purpose:

It is unclear whether or not the condoms are being used for safer sex or stocked away as souvenirs. Canadian Olympic team mentor Marnie McBean suggests that athletes are collecting them. "It's kind of like a joke thing. People just take handfuls of them. They're out there everywhere. They're just out and people grab them."

For those who are not using the prophylactics to celebrate their victories, they may be stocking them away for future value. One collector auctioned off a batch of 5,000 leftover condoms from the Beijing games, but with the strong demand in Vancouver it seems unlikely there will be any left behind.

Well, doh! When you're giving away something that's free now but likely to become collectible in the near future, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that people will grab them.

I don't know what the Olympic condoms look like, but this cute image is floating around everywhere.

OlympicCondoms.jpg

Anyway, I am very skeptical of the claim that there is an actual condom shortage in the city of Vancouver, and I don't think the word "emergency" is being used properly. Because, if it is an "emergency" to run out of free condoms, then the word "emergency" really does suck.

It's nothing new, though. As I pointed out in a post questioning whether a Chicken McNuggets shortage was an "emergency", the word has been used to describe all sorts of things that are not true emergencies:

  • According to Barbra Streisand, we are in a global warming emergency.
  • Autism is a national emergency. (As I'm sure are countless diseases.)
  • The current state of US math education is a national emergency
  • The lack of awareness throughout America about the nature and impact of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation is a national emergency.
  • It is a National Emergency to have no domestic manufacturing of Vitamin C!
  • And this man makes a good argument that his student loan is a national emergency and demands a federal bailout.
  • None of this should be read as a suggestion that there's anything wrong with supplying Olympic athletes with plenty of free condoms. They are a good thing, and certainly advisable to use in the event of a sexual encounter with a stranger. But surely people who have gotten as far in life as Olympic athletes are smart enough to know this, and most likely enterprising enough to be able to find a condom when the need arises in a big city like Vancouver. Using the word "emergency" in the way it is used here is a bit condescending, and it implies that they are impulsive children who cannot control their genitalia and are thus in need of nannying.

    Calling a free condom shortage an "emergency" makes about as much sense as it would for an abstinence advocacy group to call a shortage of free abstinence-only sex education leaflets an "emergency."

    (Please bear in mind that I meant that as an ironic comparison and not as an emergency suggestion!)

    posted by Eric on 02.27.10 at 12:12 PM










    Comments

    The tragedy of the condoms. TANSTAAFC!(Exit giggling.)

    Sarah   ·  March 1, 2010 3:38 PM

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