Tuesday, April 7, 2020

SOL#20 - The Single Story: Notes from the Pandemic

Voyeur (M.A. Reilly)

Historian Frank M. Snowden in an interview with Isaac Chotiner in the March 3, 2020 issue of The New Yorker, said, "Epidemics are a category of disease that seem to hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are." Snowden is the author of recent text, Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present.

Snowden’s observation that epidemics reveal who we really are rings true. I want to suggest here that who we are is not singular and the story of the pandemic is not singular either, even when it is presented as such. Snowden from Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present writes:

“Diseases do not afflict societies in random and chaotic ways. They’re ordered events, because microbes selectively expand and diffuse themselves to explore ecological niches that human beings have created. Those niches very much show who we are—whether, for example, in the industrial revolution, we actually cared what happened to workers and the poor and the condition that the most vulnerable people lived in” (Snowden, 2020).

It is these ecological niches that Snowden mentions that interest me. What ecological niches does the spread of the virus and the reporting on the virus reveal and conceal? How removed are we from the example Snowden gives of the industrial revolution and our care today for non-medical workers who work in hospitals and risk their lives as they are not afforded the necessary PPEs?  What does media tell us about the spread of the disease to people who live crowded together due to poverty?  What knowledge to we have of the spread of Coronavirus based on race?  It is unsettling to see figures being reported each day and economics and race are missing. Why is that?

We have the opportunity to tell multiple stories of the coronavirus and in doing so hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are.  I wonder if we are brave enough to demand that our government and media do so.

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