We are living through history here my friends; we are living in interesting times. Nothing like this has happened since the 1918 Spanish Flu; 100 years of good luck now broken. World War I happened from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918. The worst month of the Spanish Flu was October 1918; the Spanish Flu overall happening from January 1918 to December 1920.
From the Spanish Flu wikipedia entry:
“The second wave of the 1918 pandemic was much deadlier than the first. The first wave had resembled typical flu epidemics; those most at risk were the sick and elderly, while younger, healthier people recovered easily. By August, when the second wave began in France, Sierra Leone, and the United States, the virus had mutated to a much deadlier form. October 1918 was the deadliest month of the whole pandemic.
This increased severity has been attributed to the circumstances of the First World War. In civilian life, natural selection favors a mild strain. Those who get very ill stay home, and those mildly ill continue with their lives, preferentially spreading the mild strain. In the trenches, natural selection was reversed. Soldiers with a mild strain stayed where they were, while the severely ill were sent on crowded trains to crowded field hospitals, spreading the deadlier virus. The second wave began, and the flu quickly spread around the world again. Consequently, during modern pandemics, health officials pay attention when the virus reaches places with social upheaval (looking for deadlier strains of the virus).”
We are now in the first wave of the Covid-19 Coronavirus epidemic. It is yet to be determined how bad this first wave will be but certainly at least compared to what we are used to this “first wave” appears to be pretty bad already.
In King County in Washington State there were 125 total deaths as of March 27, 2020. Of these 125 deaths 0 were under 50 years old. In the entire state of Louisiana there were 119 deaths as of March 27, 2020. Of these 119 deaths 16 were under 50 years old. That looks to me like two different strains of virus, the one in Louisiana being worse than the one in King County, Washington.
It is suspicious that the worst influenza pandemic in relatively recent history happened to get started during World War I; that maybe something about the troop mobilization of young men all crowded together contributed to that pandemic being particularly bad. No similar wartime mobilization forcing large numbers of young men into crowded circumstances is happening now so hopefully that means there will be no mechanism to encourage this new Coronavirus to preferentially target the young and the healthy or to become more virulent and deadly so that it can spread faster among people forced into close contact with each other.
Thinking about the current situation; there are a lot of young men in prisons in the United States and there are a lot of old people living in nursing homes or assisted living centers; and of course there is New York City.
During the Spanish Flu pandemic there were no antibiotics, there were no ventilators, and there was no vaccine. From a political point of view the Great War (World War I) was what was most important. There was no self-induced economic crisis to maximize social distance and therefore save lives. An estimated 675,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu compared to a United States population of 106 million in 1920. With the current population of America standing at about 330 million people the same number of deaths as a proportion of the population would be 2,100,000 deaths.
Now we begin to see what a major flu pandemic looks like in the modern high tech rich world. We assume that we will be able to get a good vaccine for this thing in 12 to 18 months. We have antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections which is good. We might have some drugs to directly treat Covid-19 soon, in a couple of months, we hope. If we want to have enough ventilators we better start mass producing them fast; we have to expand our number of hospital beds fast. These are all privileges compared to the past; let us not forget.
Most extraordinary of all we have the order for all non-essential workers to stop working or work from home if they can in many states; self-imposed economic shut down to maximize “social distance.” I am not aware of this ever being done before in human history. Again this is an amazing luxury compared to the past, this idea that a large part of the workforce can simply stop working for an indefinite period of time in order to not spread disease. This is courtesy of the welfare state; the government is ready to step up and give you the money you need to live during the time of government ordered idleness.
This is an extraordinary time; a self-imposed economic crisis to minimize the impact, the number of deaths, from a suddenly emerging health crisis. The scale of this health crisis if left unchecked seems to be on the level of the 1918 pandemic. The great thing that will save us is a vaccine. If only we can hold out and not get infected for 12 to 18 months then we will escape the danger and life will go back to normal. We Americans are rich, there are many material things we can do without, the government will make sure that things never get too bad in all of this, and then science will save us with the miracle cure or the miracle vaccine and all will be well again.
In 1918 fate was fate, if you died you died, there was a war to fight and you had to feed your family; you mourn the dead but life goes on. The Great Depression and World War II were the next challenges waiting for you.
It is hard to speculate what this crisis means for the culture, what it means for the family and relationships between men and women. We have at least temporary mass unemployment because now we are afraid of each other; afraid of giving and receiving disease. No contact, stay away, and since many jobs require social activity or facilitate social activity or lead us to congregate closer together now those jobs have to end unless they are “essential.” School has also been cancelled in much of the county.
In a certain way this does emulate the traditional family set up. The traditional family is not based on mass unemployment but it is based on female unemployment. It is not “traditional” for the man to not work but it is “traditional” for the woman to not work. You can see this temporary (we hope) unemployment as being bad socially to the extent it impacts men but good socially to the extent it impacts women.
Another question, how many of the “essential” jobs still being maintained in the economy are being done by men? It would tend to be good if more women are being forced out of their jobs for the time being than men.
This social distancing campaign has forced women into a more traditional position, it is forcing men away from the more traditional male role, and it is making everyone more dependent upon the government.
Will the economy be able to hold up during this crisis? With the government giving away lots of money and lots of people not working that will lead to the problem of too much money chasing too few good and services available for purchase; in other words inflation. There is also a lot of income and wealth inequality that desperate people will resent and think that maybe that rich guy over there should share his money with those less fortunate in these hard times. To what extent will the free market and individual choice be able to maintain itself during this crisis of collective purpose to reduce the spread of Coronavirus at all costs?
There was a definite trend towards conservatism and a return to patriarchy visible in the 2010s before this crisis hit; this making me think that the trend towards conservatism and patriarchy will continue through this crisis and after this crisis.
Patriarchy is a collectivist mindset; it is an orientation towards the common good and towards God. Patriarchy is not about maximizing profit or materialism and it is not about individual choice; it needs to be remembered that the ethic that women should not work is very strong, even foundational, to patriarchy.
The response to the Coronavirus pandemic is being framed as a collective struggle against a common foe where we all have the responsibility to sacrifice for the collective good of minimizing the number of deaths we will suffer and keeping everything together in the interim.
This collectivist impulse of sacrifice for the common good can be directed in a traditionalist way towards rebuilding and protecting the family in addition to or alongside with the imperative to protect the old and the sick that is the basis of the great struggle currently being waged against the Coronavirus.