Burying plague victims in the Middle Ages (Wiki Commons)
There's no doubt about it; ebola is scarier than the bird flu of a few years back. It's more deadly, for one thing, with up to half (or more) of all those who catch it dying from it. And it's horrific both in the way it shuts down bodies as well as causing hemorrhages everyplace one can think of. It is, not to be too bold about it, a plague.
Plagues change societies, and it's apparent to all but the top one percent of western society that, at the moment, we are in great need of substantial change.
A history lessonIn medieval times, the plague put paid to the feudal society, in which a great many were owned by a very few, and those few not owned were systematically starved to death by the owners of the others. In his book The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, historian and all-round good guy Ian Mortimer makes it clear that feudal times ended when the plague had dramatically reduced the population of able-bodied people to work for little or for free for the lords of the manor. All of a sudden, if the swells wanted work done, they had to actually pay for it. And possibly say please and thank you as well. Mortimer makes it clear that he thinks modern society would never have happened but for the Black Plague. Work was suddenly a valuable commodity; workers' value rose and rose for the next several hundred years.
Fast forward to now.
The Koch brothers, a pair of ignorant, fundamentalist bean bags full of turds and air, have bought the United States lock, stock and barrel...except for what the Walton family, owners of WalMart own. In both cases, their stated aim is to keep amassing money for themselves, and possibly a few bought-and-paid-for friends (such as the Republican Party), while those who labor at making money for them are paid not enough to live on and must therefore beg from the "free men" to make ends meet. That is, after working a 40-hour week, Koch and WalMart workers must depend on food stamps and other government benefits to live. Government benefits, lest you forget, equals money derived from the paychecks of those few--and getting fewer--who do earn enough to both pay taxes and live.
The Koch brothers and WalMart are, in fact, a big drain on the rest of us. They keep virtually all the money their slaves, that is employees, make for them AND they soak the rest of us.
How long can this continue? Apparently indefinitely because their handmaidens, Reagan, Bush and Bush, so destroyed US infrastructure, education and public confidence that any dissent by those being harvested by the wealthy has been ineffective.
The Grim Reaper reappearsBut then along comes a plague. Halloo, hallay, one might say, except that we would be celebrating our own death, most of us, so the few might live better, as happened in medieval times.
We know all too well how horrific an ebola death is, and we don't want to die. Neither did the poor of the middle ages suffering bubonic plague, but they had no choice in the matter. Indeed, sufferers were sealed into their houses with their families and dogs and cats...and the rats and fleas that had given them the disease in the first place. When everyone was dead--or those few who recovered or didn't get it were allowed to emerge--the house was burned to the ground. Since they didn't know then that rats and their fleas carried the germ--and the rats could get out of a burning house, especially a rickety medieval peasant's house--they didn't see fit to kill the rats as well, and so even this draconian maneuver didn't stop the spread of plague.
Will ebola travel from nation to nation as the Black Death did? that plague was carried by rats jumping ship in ports, but also by human contact. It is thought ebola is endemic in some populations of African bats. These are unlikely to hitch rides on airplanes and cross oceans, like rats. Clearly, humans can get it from other humans.
The developed nations did little or nothing to stop the spread of ebola within Africa when it first appeared, or to find an effective treatment for it when it was killing only Africans. One might call that Developed Nation Chauvinism, or just plain racism, and one would be right.
I'm not inclined toward wagering, and indeed, in this instance, I would give no more than 50-50 odds that the west is mobilized to protect itself. On the one hand, the Koch brothers and the Waltons might realize they are not immune to ebola, although--insulated from the hoi polloi as they are and able to afford keeping apart--they may have some functional protection. If they realize they, too, could die, perhaps they will contribute to finding a treatment and/or preventing spread. Bill Gates has already done so. But notice, he is not classed with the modern robber barons, Koches and Waltons. As far as I know, people employed by Microsoft make decent wages, as well.
Or will their greed, the Koches' and Walton's, prevent them from helping to end the ebola plague because, a) they don't want to spend any of their money, or, b) they think the peasants are useless and need to die, or both. Indeed, one gormless Republican lackey of their kind has already suggested locking ebola sufferers in together until they die. He was born almost a thousand years too late.
The only silver lining, for those of us who might manage to survive a full-out ebola plague, would be quite medieval. It would be the sudden ability to charge and get paid decently for services currently given away almost free because the Koches and Waltons and other selfish, greedy ignoramuses rule the world.
If you'd like to read all of what Ian Mortimer has to say about the Middle Ages, and be both entertained and informed, click below and buy his wonderful book. (The first image is for US readers, the second for UK readers.)