…the more they remain the same.
Doing a little light reading…taking a little look-see at the Bubonic Plague. Wow…the greatest of all pandemics.
I’m bored. The better half is watching the Hallmark Channel which is like the greatest all-time worse things to do during a self-quarantine due to our most recent pandemic. Oh, it’s baseball season…but it’s not. At least it is the Hallmark Mystery Channel.
As I did my light reading, I could not help but notice similarities in our reaction to our present pandemic, Corvid-19, and the way our fourteenth-century forefathers reacted. There may be something to this “history repeating itself.”
What concerns me is that despite some seven hundred years of information and knowledge-gathering, we do not seem to be any better prepared to deal with it scientifically than we were then.
Short history lesson. The Black Death probably came from Central or East Asia along what was known as the Silk Road. Traders transported their goods to major European cities but also carried stowaways in the form of rats. These rats carried other stowaways, fleas. The fleas carried a bacterium, Yersinia Pestis. The fleas require a live host, the rats, and when the rats died, the fleas carrying Y Pestis simply jumped to the next closest host…another rat or a person. Y Pestis carrying rats caused the Bubonic Plague.
During the Middle Ages, even the late Middle Ages, hygiene was…not…very…hygienic. It wasn’t as bad as it has been portrayed but the flea carrying rats found a fertile environment to procreate in and a somewhat overcrowded population in cities chock full of hosts. In other words, soap and water would have helped during these times as would a goodly amount of D’con had it been available or the invention of a better rat trap.
“Healers,” monarchs, and religious leaders never connected the plague with rats, fleas, and Y Pestis. I kinda want to give them a pass. They hadn’t developed past barbers overseeing bleedings, leeches to help keep the four humors of the body in balance and the burning of incense and sulfur…as well as rosemary, amber, musk, and fragrant flowers. When they walked, people took their scents with them, carrying packets of herbs…
What is our excuse? Despite advanced warning, people in high places chose to ignore the danger in hopes it would go away with the April warmth and humidity…It’s April 21 and it is still here.
I ask the question because it seems we would rather latch on to any conspiracy theory rather than science. We would rather believe the opinion of a college dropout trying to sell advertisements on YouTube or on certain “news” channels or an Indian with a ‘piled high and deep’ degree in military science rather than epidemiologists with an MD following their names. I digress.
Maybe we need a Jew to sacrifice to the purifying flames of a good ole witch burnin’. Maybe we can use vestal virgins to keep the fires going. We seem to be stoking the fires of disharmony, willing to burn our country to the ground instead of pulling together, not that our European forefathers were any better…but then we do benefit from scientific knowledge over superstition. Don’t we?
Consider this, many Europeans at the time believed the supernatural, earthquakes and conspiracies were to blame. God’s wrath, bad air released by earthquakes and the Jews, friars, witches, foreigners, beggars, pilgrims, lepers, and Romani were to blame. Scapegoats, we must have scapegoats!
Like those going before us, a large group believes, “It couldn’t just be a virus?” There must be some ulterior motive behind it, even though the science says otherwise. At least our forefathers knew nothing of viruses or bacteria.
One widely-held Middle Ages’ conspiracy theory was that the Jews were poisoning the water supplies. Some old Jewish guy was seen feeding cracked grain to the ducks probably. Christians had good reason to wonder, I guess. Jews didn’t come down with the black, oozing lymph nodes as often as Christian Europeans, but no one considered Jews bathed more often and kept their homes clean and free of rats. Hygiene, simple hygiene.
There is a parallel right there. Have you seen the news shows and YouTube videos teaching us how we should wash our hands? Seems after seven hundred years we would have progressed farther.
Another point to ponder, Jews lived separately from Christians in a type of “mandatory” self-quarantine before the Black Death hit and had a higher survival rate as an added result. The Christian response was to burn them out…homes and entire towns. They would have done better to have burned their own towns, killing the fleas and the rats that carried them. That would have slowed down the plague more than burning a witch or a Jewish town or two.
Our response to stay home orders or quarantine? Marching men, blocking traffic with automatic weapons. Gonna shoot that bad, boy virus? No, but you can’t force me to tempt fate…or the health of my family and friends. Much love to the healthcare worker who stared some of them down.
At least we are not burning Jewish towns but violence against Asians has risen. Chinese bioweapons are poisoning our air supply with 5G carrier waves after all or is it Bill Gates? When he squints behind those hornrims, he looks a bit Chinese. Scapegoats, we must have scapegoats with a conspiracy theory or two…just like my European forefathers.
An interesting fact during the Black Death. The poor had a much lower incidence of survival. They were already compromised. Broken down by poorer diets and a harsher lifestyle, the serfs were the first to die from God’s wrath and went to their maker in much higher numbers.
Is there a parallel there? I’m sure if I looked at the great flu pandemic of 1918-1919, I would see the same thing. The poor dying in greater percentages. I can see men sitting in their tall office buildings shrugging their shoulders and nodding in approval of “survival of the fittest” while their workers died, or men in business suits saying sacrificing our family members for the good of the economy is an honor.
During the Corvid-19 scare, we are seeing it again. Compromised groups, groups without access to healthcare, people we call “essential workers” are being sacrificed for the greater good of our economy. We are seeing high numbers infected by racial profile and interestingly, among grocery workers. Along with them are the aged and those with underlying issues. People we should be protecting instead of shrugging off as simply a statistic of “selective” Darwinism.
The response of some, “Well it’s not Corvid-19 killing these people, it’s their underlying conditions.” Really? Maybe you should go bleed yourself…a gallon should end the problem.
Every pandemic has caused major social upheaval. Corvid -19 will be no different. The Black Death led to the rise of towns and the middle class, the collapse of feudalism, the Reformation, just to name a few historical changes. Maybe you should read about the changes caused by the Black Death to get an idea of what might be ahead for us. Don’t I’ll probably write about it eventually.
The first thing you should keep in mind, the Black Death only peaked in the mid-1300s, it didn’t go away. It came back again and again. Corvid-19 will spike again if we choose superstition over science.
Superstition is not the best word, but I don’t know what might be. We have a cult that believes nothing put forth by our scientists, medical doctors or news reporters and that a robust stock market somehow helps us all.
The picture of the rat…I personally have nothing against four-legged rats as long as they stay in the wild. I don’t like the two-legged version anywhere.
Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0KTel1ZOkEs6ionAjK8k5jwlt8q9QKXKdsazPkJQYrwJD2ZPhwsMtCpZs