Updated: Dec 26, 2020
Seventy-three years ago, Albert Camus wrote a novel he titled ‘The Plague.’ It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it has enjoyed a resurgence in readership. Not only is it a great read, but the subject matter echo's eerily off the peaks and valleys of our current pandemic. With prescient imagination, Camus gave the reader a chilling insight into the human psyche when confronting misery and dying.
Of course, Camus had the benefit of reading of prior plagues. History is plagued with plagues and pandemics- they have tortured humanity from the beginning of time. Even the Bible offers many references to plague and pestilence as a reminder that pain, suffering, and death are part of our earthly existence. They are the result of having ‘fallen.’
A phrase Camus never used in ‘The Plague’ was ‘just follow the science.’ But then again, neither was there talk of developing a vaccine or antiviral medications. But one should not conclude that scientific observations were not being collected and different methodologies attempted. The science of the day knew the pathogen came from rats. They also knew it was highly transmittable. They knew that to prevent the spread to other communities, they needed to isolate the small Algerian coastal town of Oran into a virtual island. The plague Camus imagined was indiscriminately killing people of all ages and many of them. But the community resigned itself to a long slow march to the other side of the plague knowing many would not make it.
It is possible that each new generation thinks itself a bit more capable than the last. Technological advances are counted up and in comparison to the stone age or the middle ages or even 1947, humankind's understanding of the complexity of biological systems has certainly progressed. In the beginning of our current pandemic, science turned to computer modeling plugging in variables to conclude an outcome. Many recognized the necessity of an effective vaccine. Some found existing antivirals encouraging. Even billionaires and their wives thought it necessary to bring their considerable ‘something’ to the discussion.
If we are able to, at least for a brief moment, subdue our fears and look with 20/20 vision at the past year, I think we best marvel, as did Camas, at the power of our natural world and the remaining limits of our understanding. That a virus, so infinitesimally small that it takes an electron microscope to see it, complete with menacing tentacles, has subdued our collective intellect and raced through our global village mostly unchecked. From curve to curve, coast to coast, and mask to mask, the devilish SARS-CoV-2 has navigated its way around nearly every human-made barrier, causing illness and, in some cases, death. Our efforts at distancing and the wearing of masks and the restriction of movement have, at best, elongated the curve.
Human hubris, that unique homo-sapien tendency towards arrogance and conceit, is perhaps best illustrated by California’s political class and their technology partners. They went all in early with draconian shutdown orders and movement restrictions. Without the benefit of a single scientific study suggesting the great outdoors a vector of transmission, the governor shut down beaches and sanded over playgrounds. The Hollywood Illuminati and Menlo Park technocrats pretended to hunker down in their sprawling estates made secure by tall fences and guards. Occasionally, some screaming is heard from behind the fences from some movie star stud upset with those not following or understanding the safety protocol du jour of the day.
As 2020 comes to an end, these elites lie naked, made bare by ineffective and unnecessary policies as evidenced by an ever-growing hump of infections and death. Humbled but in denial, California suffers a resurgence of COVID-19 like no other place on the globe. Today, thousands pack to leave as the landscape is littered with homeless encampments and shuttered small businesses. The politicos no longer believe their press releases and are seen in public sans masks- naked to their own hypocrisy possibly concerned with the growing number of signatures on recall petitions.
The hubris of the political elites is nothing compared to that of the technocrats of California’s highest of high technology companies. As if appointed ‘Ministry of Propaganda,’ Facebook, Google, and Twitter, all California headquartered companies, attempt to push, control, and manipulate coordinated narratives as if an arm of the state. Alternative perspectives, even those coming from respected scientific researchers, are quickly stuffed into digital ether. The sender is told to put a cork in it or face expulsion. To the independent, the picture comes into focus- the only science to be followed is the science that follows a coordinated political narrative.
For many, the idea of a ‘ministry of propaganda’ is more frightening than a virus. But perhaps more alarming is knowing that so many are on board with the injustice of this alarming attempt at thought control. Even an aging NBA basketball great couldn’t help himself suggesting we need more censorship- not less.
Certainly, medical technology has made some remarkable contributions to our human existence since Camus pondered the suffering of a modern plague. Today, we’re on the cusp of a vaccine injection that promises to vanquish the microscopic devil and prolong life. Soon, we’re told, grandparents can again hug their grandchildren… some for the very first time. 2020 was the year Priscilla was born, and Grandma Priscilla was kept from cradling her new namesake. But tomorrow is a new day and soon the two Priscilla’s will connect in a most human way- cheek to cheek. That is our hope. The new year is near.
Towards the end of his book, Camus wrote, “And indeed it could be said that once the faintest stirring of hope became possible, the dominion of plague was ended.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!