Wednesday, October 29, 2014


I read a novel several months ago (Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card) about a contagion that was spreading quickly across the African continent, bounding without check from village to village. One became two, two became ten, ten became a hundred, a hundred became a world-wide panic. What was initially a problem of the primitives living in their third world hovels, became a different monster altogether when its first cases starting appearing in the populous, modern cities. The virus was initially passed from a diseased simian to a village boy when it sneezed in his face. The boy then infected his immediate family and from there the virus took wing as visiting relatives from outside villages made their way back home. The novel is several years old, but it clearly was written based on the first published cases of ebola. Over the past year, the more recent outbreak in Africa has mirrored the events in the novel in very eerie fashion.

In the story, the U.S. president developed world-wide support for a complete blockage of the entire African continent. His rhetoric was that the only way to protect the rest of the (civilized) world was to isolate the disease until it had completed its scourging course. Nobody goes in, nobody comes out. In today's news, infected people are leaving Africa and transporting the disease all around the world. It is actually a model of a maximally efficient procedure for widespread distribution of a disease. Take a modern airliner filled with 400 people who will travel from airport to airport, coming in contact with hundreds of other people along the way to their final destinations, who will in turn come into contact with hundreds of other people, and so on and so on ...

There was a recent news story of a nurse coming back from Africa who was put into quarantine. She was eventually released early to go back to her home and her usual routine. She was raising a clamor that her rights were being violated through forced isolation. Nevermind the fact that she was a nurse at ground zero, had an elevated temperature, and could be a carrier of a deadly seed. I spoke recently with a colleague of mine who I respect as a reasonably moral and considerate person. He told me that if he knew that he were infected he would still feel no issues whatsoever with getting on a plane and flying home to see his family. I think that this is an attitude that many people have, and they, in fact, feel that it is their right. I am left incredulous at how selfish we have become as a people. The majority of the time we think about ourselves and our own needs and desires.