Mi­cro­scopic pathogen brings world to its knees

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - Opinions -


The 19th-cen­tury sci­ence fic­tion thriller “The War of the Worlds,” by H.G. Wells, comes to mind in the midst of the coro­n­avirus cri­sis. In the novel, the in­vad­ing Mar­tians are fi­nally de­feated, not by mil­i­tary might, po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing or sci­en­tific skill, but by mi­cro­scopic pathogens for which these ex­trater­res­tri­als have no im­mu­nity. They are over­come by the small­est and least likely of foes. Now we find our­selves in a 21st-cen­tury non­fic­tion dilemma, fac­ing an en­emy we can­not see, smell, hear, taste or feel. All our mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial com­plex, all our po­lit­i­cal brag­gado­cio, all our sci­en­tific and med­i­cal know-how have been re­duced to telling us our cur­rent best de­fense is wash­ing our hands, stay­ing away from one an­other, and hop­ing for an even­tual vac­cine.

It has taken a sim­ple and un­likely en­emy to bring us lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively to our knees. We can’t bomb it, threaten it, buy it, or even wish it away. No so­cioe­co­nomic sys­tem can over­come it. A virus has suc­ceeded in get­ting the en­tire world’s at­ten­tion, re­mind­ing us of our hu­man lim­its and of how lit­tle it takes to make us fear­ful. It is a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence. We aren’t as in­vin­ci­ble as we like to think we are.

We do not wel­come COVID19 to our world; but it is teach­ing us a great deal about our­selves and about who or what we be­lieve in to save us.

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