Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Would a global pandemic plague be the least-worst scenario?

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Yesterday, I again came across reference to the impact of the Black Death plague on medieval society. It was a quite extraordinary phenomenon: so sudden, so universal, so devastating - and I simply cannot imagine what it was like to experience the death of around half the population within a short time.

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Yet, what is remarkable is how little affected medieval society was.

There are apparently only three brief references to the Black Death in the whole of Chaucer; and the fact of it does not seem to have made much impact on either Langland or the Gawain poet.

It is, in fact, quite easy almost to forget the plague when discussing the history of England. There were 'benefits': apparently peasant wages doubled after the Black Death (due to shortage of labour) and this effect took some hundreds of years to be lost. Indeed, it is the post-plague benefits which tend to get empasised these days.

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Of course, medieval society was segmentary - consisting of many almost-self-sufficient segments or units.

Modern society is by contrast massively interdependent - so the effect of a pandemic would be very different and in some respects probably much more devastating, and much harder to recover from.

In addition, all the non-governmental levels of organization (the trades, professions, churches etc) have been systematically attacked and mostly destroyed over recent decades.

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Anyway, with the impending collapse of the Western economy, organisation and capability (leaving aside culture) - which has been sustaining the world through its food, transport, medicine; there will be some kind of major mortality from disease, starvation or violence - or combinations thereof.

We are faced with the near certainty, the 'necessity' of billions of casualties worldwide, from some cause or another.

And I wonder whether a global pandemic might be the least-worst, most merciful of these options?

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(Although, for the reasons stated above, I suspect that pandemic might lead to massive violence and starvation as well, since modern society - perhaps I mean just British society - lacks the segmentary mechanisms for preventing them.)

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These reflections were prompted by these irony-tinged biological reflections from Greg Cochran concerning the benefits of near-extinction to a species:

http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/bouncing-off-the-bottom/

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Note: I am a Christian and an evolutionary theorist, and Cochran is the other one - he is Roman Catholic. However, his IQ is approximately double mine.

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CORRECTION 

Despite the internet meme, which I unwittingly propagated, I have discovered (by asking him) that Greg Cochran is NOT a Roman Catholic: a Christian, yes, but not RC.

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