Outrage Is Not a Strong Enough Word

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Outrage Is Not a Strong Enough Word

Vijay Prashad

Someday the world will be free of the coronavirus. Then, we will glance backward at these years of misery inflicted by virions with spike proteins that have struck down millions of people and held social life in its grip. Much will be debated about the origins of the virus and the rapidity of its spread around the world, a transmission that shows how closely interconnected we have become due to modern transportation technology. There is no going backward from the processes that will continue to shrink the globe, bringing us closer and closer together, bringing other viruses and diseases greater... and greater host populations.

Turning inward is not a solution to the waves of contagion that have already come before us – from the plagues of the early modern period onwards – and those that have yet to appear. There is not yet a method in our arsenal to eradicate the possibility of something like the coronavirus. Our focus must be on how we protect ourselves.

Will we ever take the lessons from the last pandemic or, after a sigh of relief, will we move forward with the arrogance of victory toward the next catastrophe? The 1918 influenza epidemic rolled through countries just as the Great War came to an end, the troops carrying the virus back to their homes and bringing the death toll to between 50 and 100 million people. Historian Laura Spinney wrote in her book Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World (2017) that, when that pandemic came to an end, there was “no cenotaph, no monument in London, Moscow or Washington, DC. The Spanish flu is remembered personally, not collectively. Not as a historical disaster, but as millions of discrete, private tragedies.”

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