The great role of pathogens in human affairs is one of those things that had largely been forgotten, at least by the general public. In the West, it has been a couple of generations since a pestilence gave us a good scare. The Hong Kong flu was the last time people really worried about the invisible death. Even that was pretty mild, compared to past pandemics. You have to go back to the 1950’s to find an invisible killer that got the attention of the public. That’s almost three generations ago.
The fact is though, the invisible killer has been a part of the human story since there has been a human story. People suddenly coming down with some unknown ailment and dying in volume is as much of the human story as anything. A fair bit of our superstitions have probably been driven by such events. If you cannot come up with a natural explanation to events, you come up with a supernatural explanation. That fear of the supernatural got constant exercise throughout human history.
That may be what we are seeing with The Great Madness. It is that old fear of the unknown, not exercised for several generations, suddenly being turned on by the threat of the Chines flu. In the past, people knew how to control this fear and rulers knew the danger of succumbing to it. Modern people are now like teenagers discovering the opposite sex. Our fear hormones are in overdrive and we have no ability to control and channel them. Hence the great panic we see today.
There’s also the fact that we have conquered nature, for the most part. Even things like hurricanes and earthquakes are not much of a threat. Sure, a hurricane can knockout New Orleans, but everyone understands what was really going on there. That disaster was due to man not respecting that nature does distribute her gifts equally. Natural disasters may knock down some buildings, but they are quickly rebuilt. Increasingly, our buildings are resistant to the best Mother Nature can throw at us.
Even when it comes to pestilence, humans have been taking the fight to Mother Nature in a big way. We are probably a generation away from conquering diseases like cancer, at least the most common forms. Genetics could very well allow us to overcome lots of other natural disorders that shorten our lifespans and diminish our lives. The lack of great plagues seems like proof that the days of such things are numbered. Maybe this virus is a reminder that Mother Nature has plenty of fight left in her.
That said, this pandemic is a piker compared to the past. The Swine flu, which hardly anyone remembers, despite happening just a decade ago, had twice the body count of the Chinese flu in the United States. There’s still time, but in the grand scheme of things, this pandemic is never going to be on the list of great plagues. The best chance of it being remembered is if the economic fallout is such that people remember for generations that we tried shutting down the world over a virus.
That’s probably the most interesting aspect of pandemics. They often leave their mark in how they shape human events. How different would our world be if Athens never suffered a plague and went on to defeat the Peloponnesian League? How about if Justinian was able to reconstitute the Roman Empire? It’s impossible to know, but most likely we are what we are because of these plagues. They not only alter the timeline, but they cull the herd in ways that are felt for many generations.
This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. I am now on Deezer, for our European haters and Stitcher for the weirdos. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below.
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This Week’s Show
- 00:00: Opening
- 02:00: The Plague Of Athens
- 12:00: The Antonine Plague
- 22:00: Plague of Justinian
- 32:00: The Black Death
- 42:00: Modern Pandemics
- 57:00: Closing
Full Show On Spreaker
Full Show On YouTube