One general contractor’s observation. Over the last few months, I have read a lot of commentaries from numerous outlets, foreign and domestic, regarding 2020 and specifically the COVID-19 virus. They run in two or three veins. Snarky finger pointing at everyone involved at the official, policy making level, a subtle mixture of piety and angst. Far worse, there is just a sense of failure as common, ordinary humans to help other humans—to aid the world tribe. It seemed there was a failure to act, a failure to be better prepared, a failure to do more, and a failure to do the right thing. I am not sure we’re on the right path even now.
But let’s be frank, no fault-finding exercise can address the very real trauma of loss of life experienced in this last year. It is a bit like navel-gazing—engaging yes. An editorial or a newscast, whether rational, visceral, or even vicious probably saves no one. Indeed, we would all love to move on. As a human it hurts to gaze too long at the events of 2020.
However, we could gaze at our own navels for a different reason. We should consider the human toll of various epidemics throughout history, through history’s wider lens. We might adopt a more sober view of these present circumstances. We might plan better and be more prepared—because there will be a next time. History teaches that. For example, the bubonic plague flared up numerous times over 16 centuries. In the mid-1300’s it killed nearly half of the population of Europe—at one juncture 60 million people died in less than 10 years. Okay, not to be a sensationalist nor diminish the loss of life in these present times, but you can see a pattern.
My high school history teacher, Mrs. Neipman, used to say, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Back then I thought her much touted use of George Santayana’s quip to be self-serving. She was a history teacher right? This was an attempt to glamorize her passion for history and bring excitement (perhaps) to a boring subject? Fair enough, Mrs. Neipman. It is true. Humans often repeat the same mistakes.
From a mountain top view, humans are incredibly susceptible to germs and viruses. When humans first started living in agrarian communities 7000 years ago, we increased our susceptibility pandemic disease of all types. See what history says about our existence on the big blue planet. Here are some links to some cringe-worthy reading:
(warning: the list of worldwide epidemics goes on for 19 pages—again no attempt to diminish these present tragedies)
You can see that humans, while dominating some aspects of our environment, have not been able to dominate all creatures, particularly the microbial ones. We are nimble, adaptable creatures…but also fragile. Is it time to re-think our strategies? One general contractor’s observation.