Epidemics and mass panics, then and now
A friend living in Italy asked me, “Has your opinion of the seriousness of Covid-19 changed with events or are you still convinced it has been exaggerated?” It was a good and fair question. Here was my response:
“It is, in fact, both the same and different.”
The same in that in my lifetime, I have seen similar viruses simply worked through. Nineteen fifty-eight’s, for instance, and even the H1N1 virus in 2009. Yes, people got sick, and yes, some died. But both were accepted as part of human life, thus human life continued.
Today, everything is “OMG! It’s the end of the world!” For, seemingly as never before, the supposedly “serious” media have a very clear and well articulated agenda, and that, along with the ever-present social media, has changed the pace of distribution of both accurate information and false rumors.
People are what they are. And based on what they are — taught (or untaught), experienced, and saturated with — that is how things must be until something changes people.
World Wars One and Two changed people. As did the Great Depression that accompanied the stock market bust of 1929.
If the world had reacted differently, so would have been the course of history. Possibly for the worse, very likely for the better.
That is what is happening. We are reacting as people of today react to such things.
Overblown? Yes. Totally. But within expectations.
Put another way, if the same thing had happened to an earlier generation, none of what we see today would have occurred. And the end would likely have been not very different.
If homes are made of rice paper, one must deal with fire differently from how one will if one’s home is made of stone.
We live in a rice paper world.