Monday, August 3, 2009

As Swine Flu Spreads Globally, Handshakes Are Out and Shoulder-touches, Japanese-style greetings and namaste Take Over in Age of Global Pandemics...

As Swine Flu Spreads Globally, Handshakes Are Out and Namaste, Japanese-style greetings and Shouldershakes Take Over as Human Greetings in the Age of Pandemics!

Doctors now advise about NOT shaking hands or kissing on the lips or even cheeks as a form of greeting as the SWINE FLU PANDEMIC spreads worldwide, putting millions at risk. So as handshakes go out of fashion, upon doctors' medical advice, a new kind of human greeting is taking over, and for want of a better word, it is being called the SHOULDER TOUCH. Other alternatives include Namaste greetings, based on Indian traditions, and Japanese style bow greetings. And more: new alternative greetings will likely spring up, too. Send in your ideas and suggestions with photos to:

To do a shoulder-touch, extend your right hand out straight in front of you with the palm down, place it gently on the person you are greeting's right shoulder, as he or she does the same to you. This way, your hands do not TOUCH and no germs or bacteria are exchanged, flesh to flesh.

See photos for illustrations. Will this catch on? Perhaps.

Hat tip to Professor Solomon in Maryland who first broached this subject with this blog in his book about UFOs, in which he described a similar human to alien shoulder touch greeting. I thought to myself: THIS MIGHT BE AN IMPORTANT WAY FOR HUMANS TO GREET EACH OTHER IN THIS AGE OF PANDEMIC SWINE FLU OUTBREAKS!
From Professor Solomon's book: "Can I Smoke Aboard a Flying Saucer?" (pdf)

"He raised his right arm and I thought he was going to shake hands. But he laid his open palm down on my left shoulder, which was evidently their form of greeting or salutation."


Swine flu forces border crossers to swap handshakes for elbow bumps

[Serrano calls himself a tour organiser; he hooks up American tourists with guides, and also sells bus tickets to Mexicans to cities all over the US.
Usually, he has all kinds of hand contact; now he is exceedingly careful. As we met, he instinctively reached out his arm - but then pulled back at the last minute, opting for an improvised elbow bump instead.]

Nobel laureate Dr. Peter Agre, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, demonstrates a special handshake intended to help prevent swine flu....
[just a 27 second YouTube video clip]

Kimberly Brooks at says on May 4, 2009:
"Curb The Swine Flu: Lose The American Handshake"

[In 2005 during the Avian Flu hysteria, I wrote a column here called "Curb The Avian Flu: Lose the American Handshake". I had just come back from living in India with my family and found myself enthralled with the practice of Namaste -- pressing both palms together and making a bow to greet others in lieu of the handshake.]

UFO REFERENCE: Part Humor/Part Medical Seriousness
[Professor Solomon tells me: As for that shouldershake, it's described in a book titled "UFOs: Key to Earth's Destiny!" by Winfield Brownell. Brownell has individual chapters on various UFO contactees. One of them, Dick Miller of Michigan, claimed to have been aboard a flying saucer, where he experienced the shouldershake.]


Anonymous said...

Kimberly Brooks writes in Huffington Post:

In 2005 during the Avian Flu hysteria, I wrote a column here called "Curb The Avian Flu: Lose the American Handshake". I had just come back from living in India with my family and found myself enthralled with the practice of Namaste -- pressing both palms together and making a bow to greet others in lieu of the handshake. I thought myself clever for the alliteration of "American" and "Avian". Needless to say, the piece got mauled in the comments section by pack of raving right-wing lunatics who claimed I was just like all the rest of the unpatriotic unappreciative American left-wing nut jobs that wrote for the Huffington Post -- then in its infancy. It was one of my first blogs and I was so traumatized that I didn't publish anything for months afterwards.

But, alas, I had a point. With global travel, chronic antibiotic overuse and an ever greater means by which a virus can spread across the globe, why must we touch hands every time we meet or greet someone? The handshake is an obvious vestigal gesture left over from a time when hands needed to be shown free of weapons. It's time to lose the handshake once and for all and embrace Namasté as the new greeting.

Israeli-born Dan Fishel of Columbia University demonstrating the nuances of the American Handshake.
I had never given much thought to the way Westerners greet each other. Grab firmly, pump and look straight in the eye and say hello. Nothing is worse than a limp handshake. In fact, I'll take the fist bump over the handshake any day. I'd rather do pretty much anything else than touch the one part of the body that's touching everything else all day. I used to live in Paris, and I just loved all the kissing. Not super hygienic, but the only way to go if you're going to catch a killer virus.

Before spending time in India, I had, of course, performed the obligatory Namaste in yoga class. I didn't know exactly to whom I was praying but all I knew is that it cleared my mind made my back feel fantastic. When I arrived in India, at first I thought I was getting an elaborate performance of service by the people who worked in the hotel we where we were staying in Delhi. Then I noticed that everyone in the whole continent greeted each other this way: hands pressed together in a praying motion, eyes closed and saying "Namaste".

Before I had become acclimated to the gesture of Namaste in India, I was introduced to a man in Jaipur who wore a beautiful orange turban. "Kimberly meet Anu. Anu meet Kimberly," my friend said. Just as he bowed toward me with his hands together, my right hand instinctually jutted forward and smashed right into the poor man's soloplexis. From then on I made a conscious effort to greet people with a subtle bow and Namaste instead of the handshake. As I did it everywhere I went, I became aware of how my movements affected my attitude. When we came back to the states, I became aware of how aggressive the handshake really is.

I learned that Namaste doesn't really mean Peace as I thought it did. Namaste literally translates to "I bow to the Divine in you" or "The Divine within me honors The Divine within you." What a beautiful way to greet another soul.

With everyone in a panic about the prospect of a flu pandemic upon us, we have a golden opportunity to stop the unnecessary spread of germs, lose the American handshake habit and positively change our attitudes at the same time. Let's change our custom and adopt this better one. So next time you meet someone new, put your hands together and make a little bow.

Anonymous said...

The other Kimberlye Brooks column on same meme:

''Last year, we had the great fortune of spending a few months in India, mostly Delhi. Until then, I had never given much thought to the curious way Westerners greet each other. In fact, as soon as I arrived I mistook the subtle nodding with the hands clasped together as going along with the best service I had ever known in my life. Everyone I initially met indulged me with my culture and shook my hand. Then I noticed that when people greeted each other, they would join their hands together in a praying motion, nod ever so slightly, sometimes even close their eyes for a moment and say, "Namaste".

Of course, I had performed the obligatory Namaste in Yoga class too, not knowing exactly to what I was praying to but not giving it much attention. All I knew is that it cleared my mind made my back feel fantastic. But I was frankly surprised that this practice extended beyond yoga and pervaded the country. Aside from India's intoxicating scents and colors (worthy of a billion blogs), what struck me most was this special way people encountered each other.

I soon learned that Namaste doesnt really mean Peace as I thought it did. The gesture symbolizes the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us. It literally translates to I bow to you or figuratively, The Divine within me honors The Divine within you. In light of the worlds of persistent religious friction, I'll take Namaste over the dueling guys-in-the-sky (Jesus, Allah, etc.) any day.

During our stay, I took the kids to Jaipur and spent time with an Indian family in Rajasthan. Shivali, the mother, introduced me to an acquaintance of hers that we met while walking in one of the markets. The man wore a beautiful orange turban. "Kimberly meet Anu, Anu meet Kimberly" she said. My right hand jutted forward for an eager shake in the requisite draw-your-weapons-or-reveal-that-you-have-none fashion. I expected our right hands to collide, as usual -- the violent agreement of the handshake--no rigorous pumping, but firm and resolute in a mutual show of strength. After all, even for a woman, there is nothing worse than a limp handshake. Instead, as he put his hands together and he bowed gently, my hand jabbed him in right in his ribcage. I blushed and I looked for the hole in the ground.

After that, I adopted the practice of this style of greeting my remaining time in India. It stayed with me long after we returned to America as well. I became aware of how my movements affected my attitude. It also made me realize how aggressive the handshake really is. With the media atwitter about the prospect of an avian flu pandemic upon us, we have a golden opportunity to stop the unnecessary spread of germs, lose the habit and positively change our attitudes at the same time. Let's change our custom and adopt this better one. So next time you meet someone or see a friend walking down the street, put your hands together and make a little bow. Namaste and A Santé.''

Anonymous said...

Other views:

"When I hear suggestions like this, I think about the 1950s ideas about raising infants. To make them healthier, they would separate them off from other children. They actually got more ill, they finally discovered, because we need human contact, including human touch. I hope we don't sacrifice this greeting gesture just because it will supposedly make us healthier. It may only increase our sense of isolation.

Anonymous said...

''Decent Q&A about Swine flu here, backing up words with scientific explanations people can understand to dispel some fears and explain where the real concerns lie.''

Anonymous said...

Other views:

"I agree with you on the hand shake - although it will be a challenge for our culture to change."


"Another thing that is a challenge for our culture to assimilate is coughing and sneezing into our elbow. I first learned of this 3 years ago and have been a huge advocate since.

We in america cover our coughs with our hands. But, hands touch. Everything. Doorknobs. Lightswitches, keyboards as I type. Coughing and sneezing into your hands is a guarantee that germs and viruses are going to spread.

Elbows don't touch much. Try to touch things with your elbow.

I tried to teach my 3 yr old to cough and sneeze into her elbow but it was hard. So I created the Germy Wormy Germ Smart for kids program to teach them.

If you are concerned about the spread of swine flu and your kids - please check out the Germy Wormy website. If only to learn how to not give and get germs.

Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 05:43 PM on 05/04/2009
- + Moshe I'm a Fan of Moshe I'm a fan of this user permalink
Great idea.

Hygience and health should be our first priorty, especially when there are far better ways to demonstrate respect for those we meet anyway.

What we say and how we treat others is far more important than whether we symbolicly touch hands."

Anonymous said...

''Maybe we should all bow to one-another.

It seems like an appropriate greeting to me, and I prefer it's origin. The western hand-shake was originally done to prove that one had no weapons. Of course there were a few bastards cunning enough to be born left-handed so this didn't always work.
On the other hand bowing is the act of intentionally lowering onesself out of respect. It implies deference, which *I think* is an improvement over simple non-agression.

Of course, bowing hasn't always been *optional,* but I'm rambling now''

Anonymous said...

Certainly in times of contageon, and in particular now with our emerging understanding of how complex life is, we should be aware of how it spreads and if debilitating disease can be reduced by eliminating handshaking, we should do it...but there's still a few ifs. For instance, the overwhelming majority of microbial life, from virus and bacteria to dust mites, have been with us a long time and are in all likelihood beneficial, or at the least are part of our complex system. For all you know the next hand you shake could have a bacteria that protects you by fighting off viruses. For all we know, maybe the next killing epidemic will be the result of excessive handwashing with anit-bacterials. As our scientific understanding of disease continues to grow (and there's a lot of growing yet to do), so will the proper tactics become apparent to all of us without having to follow guidelines so heavily reliant on cultural norms that seem better if for no other reason than they are appeallingly exotic.

''As for the ancient tradition of bowing and wishing each other well, I like that too, and I'm tinged with just enough of the characteristics from the Asperger's spectrum to suspect that's some of the reason, why I like it...the personal space being so important to us...artists are quirky that way, y'know.

William Pilgrim

Anonymous said...

What some illibereal racist hatemongers are writing in regard to swine flu, sad but true, I mean sad that they write this crap:

"i hope the swine flu KILLS every open borders obama worshipping liberal. new york thought mexican shit only affects the southern states and thats fine with them (liberals hate their own country) but now its affecting you new york. how do you like the MEXICAN SWINE FLU NOW NEW YORK LIBERALS?? FUCK YOU! "

to which TazoWolf replied:\

"I'm sorry you feel that way, poster above. Ours is a country of immigrants. Nearly all of us are descended from immigrants at one time or another (except for native Americans). I truly hope you open your mind in the future and come to accept that people of all races should be treated equal. People being liberal or not has nothing to do with the effect of this flu. No one deserves this, and every death is a tragedy. "

Anonymous said...

Generally, people who die from influenza are older people or those who already have respiratory problems. They end up dying of pneumonia. But this time around, the people who died in Mexico are younger. They are apparently healthy people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. That's a big deal. When a virus seems to preferentially affect healthy people, it suggests its a new virus and is causing an overreaction of the immune response.

Anonymous said...

A doctor in Bali, Indonesai, tells me today: re this webwsite:

Dear Danny -- and Kimberly Brooks, too, --

in Bali, namaste model is more common. But since swine flu is caused by
virus, .......facemask and patient contact should be important.

Dr Iswara

dan said...

Brian Burke's spent his life trying to grasp the handshake.

by J.F. Pirro

Brian Burke scoured yard sales, tag sales and antiques shops around the globe. For 30 years, he built his collection of handshake memorabilia -- like the Roman Empire itself -- piece by piece.

As a result, he owns thousands of objects of both value and kitsch, including 3,000 postcards alone. There are coins, busts, banners, even a gravestone, all depicting a handshake. It all overtook a classroom (he retired last spring after 39 years as a Latin and English teacher at Germantown Academy) and a former Jenkintown condo he called "Handshake House." It's a moniker that's followed him, he says, to the Fairmount-section apartment he moved into this summer.

Philadelphia is a perfect repository, Burke says. At the very least, the world's only known handshake historian says the city can lay serious claim to having reinvented the handshake. In his aspirations for brotherhood among all, William Penn shook everyone's hands.

"The Quaker democratic ethic in Philadelphia took the European habit of pledging faith (with a handshake) and planted it in the fertile soil of a democracy," he says. "Since this pledge of faith could grow more meaningfully in democratic Philadelphia than in aristocratic Europe, Philadelphia, more than aristocratic Virginia or theocratic Boston, may be said to have given the handshake a new birth."

The 60-year-old Burke's interest began in 1974 while he was looking for images for a Latin course. He purchased a 49 B.C. Roman coin from a Walnut Street dealer. Now in a safety deposit box, it features goddess of fertility Pietas on one side and clasped hands on the reverse. A year later, to help with a theme-based English course on friendship, he bought a circa-1900 glass paperweight that encloses clasped hands with the word "friendship."

dan said...

Whether his students were reading Homer, Virgil or Hemingway, the handshake always had a foothold in Burke's classes. He says he could occupy students for months in a Virgil course, "just with passages that end in a hand clasp." In English, he'd cover Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, which contains a handshake every eight pages for 800-some pages. "I've just been observant to that sort of thing," Burke says.

As for the fascination, he says the handshake represents a pledge of good faith, a personal allegiance; similar to other abstract concepts like love and faith, the handshake is a difficult topic "to get a hold on."

The handshake, Burke says, "is an acquired skill, and does not represent how good and sincere we are but how well we have been trained to represent ourselves as good and sincere."

Needless to say, he's cultivated his own handshake over the years. He also admits he's overly self-conscious about it: "I hold mine a little longer than most," Burke says, adding that although he's never timed it, he figures his grasp lasts three seconds. Still, he advises the shake shouldn't be so long that it makes the other person uncomfortable.

Burke's so preoccupied with the handshake that he recently declined membership in a city church when he was disappointed by the minister's "fishy" handshake.

He's no fan of the bone-crushing handshake (aka the power shake) or those who don't make eye contact while shaking. He dismisses as "too cute" the up-and-down "pump-handle" shake like the one exchanged by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in Top Hat, a 1930s dance musical he's studied.

As an academic, Burke, who grew up in Overbrook before landing at Episcopal Academy, then Harvard, Michigan and Bryn Mawr to earn his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D., respectively, all in classics and Latin, says it'd be easy for the book he's preparing on the topic to be scholarly and boring. Instead, he'll focus on the sociological aspect of the handshake.

He'd like to finish writing in the next two years, while also slowly sending his expansive collection to auction, thus, er, washing his hands of it. "Every class has a beginning and an end," he says. He contends the book "must do a duty" to his collection. Thus far, a presidential motif has guided his research.

Of note, in 1906 or 1907, Theodore Roosevelt set a still-standing single-day presidential record of approximately 8,000 handshakes at a New Year's reception. "It was an athletic undertaking," Burke says. George Washington, on the other hand, was never fond of shaking: "Washington was such an aristocrat that pressing flesh was hardly his thing."

However, it's Abraham Lincoln he loves as much as the handshake itself. The 16th president is fodder for Chapter 1. Burke reveals that the day Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, his hand was so sore from shaking hands the day before, he almost couldn't sign the landmark document.

As for George W. Bush, Burke says the president "could fit" into the book, but he's "not classical yet." "Most presidents have a handshake personality, but I haven't read anything about Bush's," he says.

In the meantime, Burke will be working to get his hands around it.

Lisa said...

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Anonymous said...

Namaste and Boobies :)