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Ring around a Rosey, or a look at how the Black Death of the middle ages is reflected in the current outbreak of a Ebola
In the middle of the 14th century, however, there seemed to be no rational explanation for it. No one knew exactly how the Black Death was transmitted from one patient to another–according to one doctor, for example, “instantaneous death occurs when the aerial spirit escaping from the eyes of the sick man strikes the healthy person standing near and looking at the sick”–and no one knew how to prevent or treat it. Physicians relied on crude and unsophisticated techniques such as bloodletting and boil-lancing (practices that were dangerous as well as unsanitary) and superstitious practices such as burning aromatic herbs and bathing in rosewater or vinegar.
In many ways we can see distinct similarities between the Black Death and the current outbreak of the Ebola virus in western Africa, Like the medieval plague then there is no known cure for Ebola now and despite all of the wishful thinking, despite all of the advances in medicine in the last 600 years we are just as powerless to stem the spread of this disease. And I am sorry to be the bringer of bad news but I think that this disease is going to have a similar effect on the population of Africa as the Plague had on 14th century Europe. We can certainly expect that the death toll will soar into the millions as efforts to contain it continue to fail.
Why do I expect such a large death toll?
This is a virus that not only spread through the exchange of bodily fluids but also remains active in the items that those fluids fall upon, thus bedding and clothing that the infected have touched becomes vectors for the disease to reach new victims. Add to that cultural practices pertaining to the care of the sick that funds family looking after their own, a low level of education, the effects of other diseases poverty and crowded living conditions and it’s not had to see just how optimistic any suggestion that the disease can be contained are. Just look to the example of the response to one man with the disease who is now gravely ill in the United States to get some idea of just how much effort is needed if you are too truly contain the infection: This level of response is just not possible in third world west Africa and so it seems inevitable to me that the infection is going to spread exponentially just as the black death spread exponentially in 14th century Europe.
So what can the modern west do to help stem the spread of the disease in Africa?
Well not much at all really, we risk losing a large number of our very skilled people if we send them into the disease hot spots firstly because the treatment that is available essentially boils down to trying to keep patients hydrated and waiting to see who has the natural ability to fight the infection. Those brave souls who are trying to treat the currently infected are trying to do so while wearing Hazmat suits that are essentially a fancy yellow plastic bag which I’m sure you will realize is nothing short of tortuous in the tropical climate of the region. So not only do the health workers run the very real risk of contracting the infection but also they risk dying from heatstroke in the suits they try to prevent infection with. Several health workers who have caught the Ebola virus have been evacuated so that they can be treated in Western hospitals but if the numbers of infected western heath workers were to increase I can foresee the practice of repatriating them being wound back or even abandoned in the effort to contain the disease. Aid in the form of medical supplies, certainly can and should be provided but the major imperative now has to be containment, and quarantine of all parts of Africa where the disease has been found.
The Environmental bigger picture, or accepting the will of Gaia
In the natural world there are clear limits to the population of any species. Be it the amount of substance that a particular species can find or something in the environment that find them tasty and therefore limits their numbers through predation. Human beings are very clever in their ability to eat almost anything that is nourishing and in many ways we have become the apex predator in every part of the eco-system. That in conjunction with our ability to mitigate that other limit to population, disease. Has seen our numbers soar beyond 7billion souls on this small planet. I would seem to me that pandemics are one of the ways that Gaia addresses the problem of too many people on the surface of the planet. Oh humanity certainly has dodged a bullet from pandemics in the recent past. But this disease is not going to be so easily dodged. I think that it has already reached a critical mass that makes it virtually unstoppable. Heck thanks to modern air travel I will be very surprised if is even just contained on the African continent.
Things are going to get a great deal worse before they get better
During the Black Death whole towns succumbed to the disease they were left with only the dead in residence sometimes the dead were not even buried and it’s not hard to imagine that happening again in Western Africa if Ebola really starts to take off as I am expecting it to do.
What we need to realize is that modern medicine is good, its clever and its largely been the bringer of better lives for all of those it has touched, from the poor children spared the mortal diseases of childhood that used to take so many children well before they reached maturity to the wonders of surgery that can see the imperfections and damages to our bodies repaired and replaced in a way that would seem magical to a medieval man contemplating the plague yet here we stand in the same place as that medieval man facing a disease pandemic that we cannot stop and a death toll that we dread will be larger than anything humanity has not seen in the last six centuries.
If this danse macabre does play up a storm it will change every aspect of global human society we could well go from a place where the people desperately compete for places in the economy to one where skilled workers will be in very short supply in many parts of the planet. The mechanized west where we already have machines that enable a very small number of people to grow the crops to feed the many or to operate the machines will probably get through this upcoming disaster well enough but any society still that practices subsistence agriculture can expect the same hard times that befell Europe after the plague because there was simply not enough people to plant and harvest the crops. Those who have been worried about climate change May well find all of their concerns are moot because a world with less people on it will not be producing anywhere near the emissions growth they are so certain is the problem. On the other hand the worlds mercantile economy is likely to be severely affected by both the loss of potential customers and the cost of trying to address the disease.
One other thing that we should recognize is that many people see the world through the lens of their religion and those religions that have a millenarian tendency may well see Ebola as some sort of divine retribution for our “sins”. A faith like Islam on the other hand which places such value in the observance of a mass gathering like their Haj could well be both a vector for the spread of the disease and suffer a huge number of casualties among its faithful.
OPPOSITION LEADER Bill Shorten has warned against waiting “too long” to change the constitution to acknowledge indigenous Australians — and said any reform should be “substantive” and not tokenistic.
“I believe that the sooner our constitution gives just recognition to our First Australians, the better,” he told The Australian.
OK Bill but what does that mean? will such changes have any practical effects in the lives of any Australian?
“It is a historical wrong that must be made right. But it must be more than a token gesture — it must be substantive change”.
“Bipartisanship is critical for any referendum proposal to succeed. I’m prepared to work with the Prime Minister on this to make sure there is a political consensus on the timing and the content”.
If I’m not mistaken the “historical wrong” Shorten is referring to is the Establishment of the British colonies , firstly in NSW and later elsewhere, well personally I just can’t see such events in the sort of negative light that Shorten shines here.
Coalition indigenous MP, Ken Wyatt, who is leading the process, has been more cautious, saying any vote should only be held when “Australia is ready.”
Mr Wyatt, the chair of the cross party constitution committee, said: “We shouldn’t go too early but we shouldn’t go too late either and run the risk of missing the opportunity.
Err OK Ken but until we see the words no one will have the slightest notion of the virtue of what is proposed now will they?
Mr Wyatt’s committee is currently consulting on the wording to be taken to a referendum.
“The Committee is considering presenting a progress report in December and is not required to present its final report until 30 June 2015,” he said.
So does that mean that we are going to get nearly another year of these endless empty gestures trying to soften up the public for an as yet unenunciated change to the constitution?
Aboriginal Commissioner Mick Gooda has called for the referendum to acknowledge indigenous Australians to be held next year.
Delivering the annual Nulungu Reconciliation Lecture in Broome, Mr Gooda challenged the Prime Minister to hold a referendum before the next federal election and avoid endless rounds of consultation on the issue.
How typically undemocratic a notion from a minion of the left.
Joint Campaign Director of the Recognise campaign Tim Gartrell praised Mr Gooda’s “excellent contribution to the debate”.
“We’ve always said we shouldn’t wait a day longer than is necessary to make these important changes to the constitution,” he said. “This also means all the preconditions need to be in place. The momentum needed for success is growing every day. There are now more than 215,000 supporters who have joined Recognise.
215,000 supporters is notthat significant when you consider that we are a nation of more than 20Million people, in fact I would suggest that 215,000 supporters is barely even all of the “usual suspects”
Labor’s first indigenous senator -Nova Peris does not back Aboriginal Commissioner Mick Gooda’s call for the referendum to acknowledge indigenous Australians to be held next year, arguing it is better to take longer than get it wrong.
Senator Peris, who is the deputy chairwoman of the committee looking at options for recognition, said rushing the issue would be devastating.
“It’s imperative we do the work required to ensure this succeeds,” he said. “To risk failure in an attempt to simply rush the procedure would be devastating.”
Well for once I agree with a Labor person about something! That said unless we have a very clear enunciation of just what words are to be added to the constitution and what the possible effect of that change could be then I for one will be campaigning against there being ANY change simply because those advancing the yes case are already being deceptive. You see I am old fashioned enough to think that there should be no laws on our statute books that privileges any individual on the basis of their race or ethnicity, or what they claim is their race or ethnicity. We live in the here and now, in a contemporary Australia whose laws apply equally to all with a blindness to race gender or ethnicity. Its not a perfect blindness to those distinctions but its close enough to sing its praises and we should resist any move that makes the law notice the colour of a man’s skin, the faith in his heart or even if he is a man. So many on all sides of politics espouse notions of equality and I think that if we the public are being asked to agree with the proposition that some Australians are going to be considered “more equal” than the rest of us that we should just vote NO!
The thing is that as there are now many thousands of people who have studied science enough to have “qualifications” it has become a very “broad church” that has elements that can support and endorse almost any proposition. Add to that the fact that there are many millions of people who are reasonably scientifically literate and an Internet to allow anyone to engage in the previously closed shop and you have the foundations for science becoming the new secular religion of the modern world.
No more perfect example of the making science a religion exists than the branch of science that deals with our climate and trying to predict the way that it may change into the future. Because “climate science” is utterly immune to any testing by the foundational tenet of science, the scientific method, So instead of being able to test the theory of AGW (which we can’t do because we don’t have a spare planet earth to experiment on) we the public are fed a constant stream of faith statements and dire predictions all of which are based upon some rather convoluted reasoning built upon a great deal of assumption, a little bit of (incomplete) data and huge amounts of confirmation bias, The proponents of this theory have take on a priest like role and many of their congregation argue about what they imagine will happen with the certainty of the religious zealot.
the simple truth is always going to be that we won’t know what the future of the climate will be until it actually happens and we are going to have to adapt to any changes if and when they come. We can try to anticipate change and spend a great deal of effort and treasure in the process but what if those anticipations are based on a wrong call? That was the underlying point of Newman’s piece in the Australian. As a “clever country” we have to be able to jump which ever way we have to to survive and prosper into the future. The planet is littered with edifices to failed millenarian thinking, the temples and monuments meant to placate the gods that did not avert the expected end of humanity lets not fall into the same trap of wasted effort just because the priests of the new warming religion wear white coats and use computers instead of tearing the beating hearts out the chests of human sacrifices on the altars of their faith.
I am very much in waiting mode at present mainly for the new water-tank that we have ordered for Chez Hall. You see if you were to be building a new house in our shire you would be obliged to have at least 10,000 gallons of storage but because this place was built before such requirements came into force we have had to get by with much less than that, in fact our main house has just a 3000 gallon tank. and it has proved to be not enough on few occasions which has meant that we have had to buy water and at $160 a load it is not cheap (especially when that load of water is too much to put in our tank). To make sure that we don’t have to buy water so frequently (if at all) again We are buying a new plastic tank that will hold 5000 gallons its not cheap though its going to cost us nearly $2700 but that will be a very worthwhile investment.
The site for it is to be the same spot that I had a metal tank previously. That metal tank was one I got for free some years ago and it just needed a few patches and a dab or two of silicone however those repairs did not make it last. It took a poor broken me a long time and quite a few cutting discs on the angle grinder to break it up in to manageable pieces for removal. Anyway the new tank arrives Monday or Tuesday next week and you know what we are experiencing the first rain that we have had for ages right now just before it arrives, so does anyone want to give me odds that having installed the new tank the Gods will ensure that we have a sustained period of dry weather?
Its what I am expecting to be honest.
Am I the only one who sees this event here as the beginning of a very nasty carnival of death for west Africa? Because I just can’t shake the conviction that we are going to see a tide of death flowing out of that part of the continent that will make the bubonic plague look like a mild case of the sniffles. It already seems that the official death-toll may well be underestimated and as there is no cure or even an effective treatment beyond hydration and a plaintive plea to what ever deity one holds dear.
You see disease epidemics like this one are virtually unstoppable once they get rolling and this outbreak of Ebola is certainly rolling now.
Frankly if the disease can be contained within the African continent the world will be doing very well but even on that score I have my doubts because we live in the age where anyone can be traveling the world by the perfect disease incubators/infection pods in the shape Jet airliners
Trying hard not to abandon hope here but frankly all I can foresee is a carnival of death that may soon get to the point where there are not enough of the living to inter the dead. I really hope that I am wrong in my dark expectations but I see nothing to convince me otherwise.
Pessimistic mood on this one Comrades
If there is any disease that strikes terror into anyone’s hearts it should be Ebola if you have just come back form the Link I posted I have no doubt that you will have experienced that shiver down your spine of REAL terror. Sadly I think that we are witnessing the African pandemic that I have been expecting for a very long time. You see I don’t think that this outbreak will be contained and that the current death toll is going to become exponentially worse in a very short time frame Frankly all it will take is one international traveler to contract the disease and this could have global consequences.
I hope my dark prediction is wrong Comrades but I see no reason that it should be, its already getting past current attempts to contain it and I’m also sure that among all of the hand wringing, the sackcloth and ashes from the “compassionate Green left” there will also be more than a few devotees of Gaia who are going to see this as the will of the goddess. And maybe there is more than a seed of truth to the nation that disease and pandemics are the way that balance is restored when a species begins to reach the limits of its ecosystem to sustain it. After all humanity messed with all of the other checks and balances on our numbers globally with our vaccines and disease prevention programs we have made possible the global population boom in the last couple of centuries. Sadly try as we might modern technological society has not been able to make the idea of restraining fecundity popular in the over crowded third world the same way that it has become the norm in the first world. Its obvious to me the “refugee” crisis that the planet faces is also an artifact of the same rubric. Well if things go the way that I am imagining then much of that impetus to move into the first world may be hugely diminished. Simply put empty countries will not provide the same incentive to emigrate.
For the duration of an active pandemic may well provide the understandable urge to flee but the need for disease containment and quarantine will constrain people movement and after up to 90% mortality every able body will be needed to rebuild viable societies competitive pressures will be for all intents and purposes be gone and healthy citizens will be at a premium in all of the countries where life is now so cheap that snuffing them out means nothing. If we need to look for historical precedents the effects of the bubonic plague in Europe gives us some idea of what we can expect. Whole cities essentially emptied of their people, the dead lest unburied, houses and farms abandoned and left to decay.
As both an Island and a first world nation Australia is well placed to weather this coming storm we can quarantine ourselves against the ingress of the pandemic in a way that others won’t be able to do. The global politics of this will not be at all pretty but I suspect that it will prove one thing and it is this. “Climate change*” just won’t matter because a world with substantially fewer people on it is going to have substantially lower emissions of CO2 and that is the salvation the Profits of the faith say we need…
Tin foil hat time:
Maybe the Ebola outbreak has been engineered by “Deep Green” activists to “save” the planet… Would they really do it? I would hope not but you just never know when it comes to those who are driven by a mad ideology
No Cheers on this one Comrades
*assuming that the Profits of the Green religion are right which is a big ask
Find below an interesting essay By Paul Russell that I reproduce under its Creative Commons license from Online Opinion. I think that Paul makes a quite persuasive argument that Dr Nitschke goes too far in trying to make suicide seem more rational than it often is one thing we can be sure of and taht is its not as sweet as its presented in Soylent Green
Bouquets to Jeff Kennett and the Beyond Blue organisation for their clear and appropriate condemnation of the actions, or rather inactions, of Dr Philip Nitschke in relation to the suicide death of a Perth man in the story that ran on the ABC’s 7:30 report a little over a week ago.
According to the media reports and to Dr Nitschke’s twitter feed, he is basing his defence, in part at least, on his claim that there is such a thing as rational suicide.
The idea that suicide can be somehow a rational choice is not new. In fact, an organisation exists in the UK called the ‘Society for Rational Old Age Suicide’ and there has been one study that I am aware of that canvasses the issue.
Dr Nitschke has consistently maintained that every adult should have access to the means to their own end. The faux lower limit, in light of this, seems more about trying to soften the public perception of this macabre death industry than it does about any corporate sense of public duty.
When we think of suicide we commonly understand that people who contemplate ending their lives will be viewing their problems through a very dark lens that does not, at that time, offer them any hope or possibility that what troubles them could be dealt with in a less dramatic fashion.
But there is always hope; there is always some other solution. Time, good counselling, talking to family and friends, taking exercise and a good night’s rest can all help us see past those solitary, dark moments. We can all help.
Some years ago now, my work with homeless and at risk youth gave me a very clear window into this issue. That’s why I’m so grateful for the work of Beyond Blue and other suicide prevention organisations. Suicidal people can often appear to be quite rational; their plan and their reasoning behind it, quite compelling. Were we to have accepted the assertion that any of these people should simply be left unchallenged and unsupported because they could put up a calm and cogent argument for their actions we would have been abandoning them in their time of deepest need. The intuitive assessment that suicide should be shunned and is never the only option is natural, normal and something hardwired into humanity. Thank goodness!
And while the argument about whether or not someone can be genuinely rational is, intuitively false – an oxymoron as one commentator put it – it is largely academic and should not be brought to bear upon suicide prevention nor our natural responses to those in need. The message would be a dangerous one and bears within it the distinct possibility of an implied endorsement of some suicides.
Think about it. At the end of this article and of every story on this subject we’ve grown to expect that responsible media will always carry a closing line saying something like: “If this article troubles you, phone…….. for confidential help.” If Dr Nitschke’s argument holds true, would public policy then demand that we add something like: “Unless you consider yourself rational; in which case contact Exit on….”? Yes, I know an example in extremis but I think it makes the point.
That the public commentary has focussed on the WA man is understandable in as much as he had direct contact with Dr Nitschke. But the ABC’s story also told of the suicide death of a 25 year old Victorian man who used the services of Exit to purchase information and thereby, a prohibited substance to end his own life. Nitschke’s defence here that the man lied about his age on a tick box on an Exit website is as ludicrous as is Exit’s self-imposed supposed lower age limit of 50 years for such services.
It is this supposed right-to-die that is the false over-arching philosophy by which the death of a young person can be somehow ‘rationalised’ by Nitschke and Exit. In 2010, in response to a Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Report showing that two thirds of deaths in the preceding decade using the Exit drug-of-choice, Nembutal, were for people under the age of 50 with nearly one-third being younger than 40 and six being in their 20s, Nitschke said: ”There will be some casualties … but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information.” Tell that to the families of the two men featured in the 7:30 Report! Suicide prevention should never accept the notion of acceptable casualties!
And herein lies a bigger question which suicide prevention organisations and the Australian public generally need to come to terms with: How is it that we have somehow grown to accept that it’s okay for older people to seek to end their lives; that there’s somehow a distinction to be made about access to suicide methods and suicide ideation, generally, based upon age?
This notion that somehow ‘older people…feel immense wellbeing’ from having the means to kill themselves is very odd indeed. Certainly, studies on people who have accessed suicide methods in Oregon under their legalised suicide system do point to this as an outcome for some. But if we apply the same general thinking towards people who are suicidal as described earlier (and I argue that we should), we should be thinking clearly about the reality that there is always another way past presenting difficulties and dilemmas – even if these problems ultimately include advancing age or a difficult prognosis.
We should be preventing suicide by treating every suicidal person with equal respect and act the same in every case. If not, then aren’t we at risk of failing people in the same way as Nitschke’s cry for the recognition of rational suicide would?
It’s about time this macabre and clandestine industry was subject to public scrutiny.
Dead, deceased, it is no more, it has shuffled off its mortal coil, the Carbon tax has fucking snuffed it, or death of a vile impost on our lives.
The tragedy of the Carbon tax/ETS is not in its passing but that it ever existed in the first place because it was always based on a false premise, namely that it was ever going to make the slightest bit of difference to the global climate and so many leaders, on both sides of politics have been destroyed by it. It took out Rudd, Turnbull and Gillard in turn and it also played its part in taking out the resurrected Rudd as well. There has been more bullshit produced to promote the various incarnations of this toxic scheme than our national herd. And for what? All that it ever gave us was a wildly expensive token gesture and a rather nasty piece of socialist wealth redistribution which in layman’s language means it was a totally useless money churn.
Even if you believe the AGW proposition there is no reason to believe in the often chanted mantra that the best way to address it is through a “market mechanism” because there is absolutely no reason to believe that such a mechanism can ever produce the desired outcome without some nasty unforeseen consequences, of which the massive spike in energy costs is a rather good example, and before anyone says “its the gold plating of the poles and wires” that caused the majority of those price rises I’m going to say that the “gold plating” is just another example of the same thinking that the poor long suffering consumers are an eternal milch cow that can be taken for granted by planers and ideologues just as they take for granted the idea that costs for essential commodities can rise endlessly and no one will suffer or object.
Suffer and object we have and now the vile impost on every aspect of our lives has be dispatched to the dustbin of history and any claims that it will bring down Abbott in its passing are utterly ridiculous. The trend in technology now is very much focused on energy being used as efficiently as possible and for that I do think that, to some extent, we can thank the panic merchants of the Green Religion but just as we can take from the Christian religion useful notions of community and what makes a good society without taking on the supernatural Mumbo Jumbo of that faith. So to we can take the good things that have come from the Green religion, like seeing our planet and its biosphere as a whole and complexly interconnected entity of which we are just a small part, but we can let go of its millenarian prognostications and dire predictions of doom because no matter what life and the earth itself is far more resilient and adaptive than the doom merchants of the Green religion are willing to admit