Great crises tend to bring profound social change, for good or ill. The consequences of wars and economic depressions have been amply studied; the consequences of pandemics, less so. This spring, in order to understand our possible future, I decided to look at the past through the eyes of Gianna Pomata, a retired professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine, at Johns Hopkins University. When we first talked, on Skype, she immediately compared covid-19 to the bubonic plague that struck Europe in the fourteenth century—“not in the number of dead but in terms of shaking up the way people think.” She went on, “The Black Death really marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of something else.” That something else was the Renaissance.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
#236 / Pandemic Positives
An article by Lawrence Wright, published in the July 20, 2020, edition of The New Yorker, has some positive things to say about pandemics - or at least it has some positive thoughts about what has happened in the aftermath of past pandemics:
Wright's article, "Crossroads," part of the magazine's "Annals of History," is well worth reading. Wright definitely identifies both the "good" and the "ill," in terms of lessons from past pandemics, and similarly assesses both the positive and negative possibilities that now face us, as we all wait for the coming conquest of the coronavirus.
It's that "something else" possibility that is so intriguing to me. I believe that our current social, political, and economic exitence is mired in corruption, on just about every level.
I am thinking we could all use a "Renaissance" right about now.