I finally finished reading The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry about the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak.
They say history repeats itself and reading that book while the great COVID epidemic of 2020 is going on over a 100 years later is chilling. Man doesn’t seem to learn. It’s the same old song and dance.
Cities hold parades (Philadelphia in 1918, New Orleans in 2020) and havoc ensues. Communities that isolate themselves do better than those who delay. Politicians fire public health professionals and replace them with political patronage appointees. They choose to ignore the impending crisis out of fear of disturbing the economy and moneyed interests. They seek to blame foreigners. In 1918 some claimed that Germans agents from submarines brought the flu to America. In 2020, Covid-19 it is a Chinese plot from a lab in Wuhan. And on and on.
Here is the mandatory must read ending:
“So the final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that those who occupy positions of authority must lessen the panic than can alienate all within a society. Society cannot function if it is every man for himself. By definition, civilization cannot survive that.
Those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one.
A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”
Tell us the truth and we will fight together, lie to us and chaos will divide us.