The virus is the smallest life form, though some scientist disagrees with calling it “life form” because it cannot multiply on its own. However, others say that it is because the virus has its own genome, which is passed to the newly emerging generation. To multiply, the virus injects its genome into a cell, forcing it to replicate it, which creates a multitude of new copies of the virus with the inherited genome. During such a process, very often, the host cell dies. Among others, it may enter cells of the human body, causing potentially very serious damages manifesting as a variety of illnesses. COVID-19 is one of those: once it enters into the human lungs, it spreads, destroying the lung cells. In response, our immune system may over-react, and that causes such an increase of fluid in the lungs that the body, deprived of oxygen, cannot cope with that, and the person dies. This mechanism is very similar to what was happening to the H1N1 virus, which was responsible for the Spanish flu epidemy.
The greatest, relatively well-documented, viral epidemy that lasted about three years and had happened around 100 to 102 years ago is called „Spanish flu,” though its origin has nothing to do with Spain. It lasted during the final phase of World War 1, which „helped” the disease to spread all over the world. It was a real pandemic causing the death of 35 million to 75 million people, while about 500 million have been affected. Lack of proper statistical data is the cause of this huge margin of uncertainty. So depending on the number of who died, it would amount to 2 to 3% of the total world population.
Spanish flu had two phases: during the first, lasting a few months, it was relatively mild, similar to the usual flue. But later, the virus mutated and became deadly. It particularly attacked young people with well functioning immune system, because its modus operandi was to cause the immune system to over-react, affecting the lungs, which became filled with liquid, and people died by suffocation. Its mortality rate, that is, percent of people who died to those infected is not certain but is assessed between 2% and 3%
Now, a different but similar virus COVID 19 emerged a few months ago, this time in China. Both of these viruses originated from animals though it is not completely clear which ones. Since the mortality rate is similar to the Spanish flu, that is around 3.4%, and the number of confirmed death cases (at the time I am posting this article) it is 3,100, in comparison to Spanish flu, is truly insignificant: only around 0.004%, so why is the pandemic of panic? Why are medical experts so concerned?
The answer could be simple; the media do not talk much about a possibility, that this kind of virus, like many others, has a nasty habit of mutating. Such mutation may cause COVID-19 to become relatively benign, as it is the case with the yearly epidemic of ordinary flu, but it can be as deadly as it was in the case of the Spanish flu. It began in a very insignificant fashion, called „three days flu,” but after a few months, it muted into the powerful serial killer. At this point, it is impossible to predict what will happen to COVID-19, maybe it already reached the peak of its destructive power, or maybe it will become worse. Too little is known about the details of the Spanish flu and possible future behaviour of COVID -19, to draw any conclusions.
This could be a legitimate reason to worry, but there are others, which had hardly significant importance during the Spanish flu epidemy but are very important now.
COVID-19 and economy
The impact of Spanish flu on humanity was devastating: some areas and towns were virtually wiped out. It was a tragedy, largely forgotten, which can be only compared to the Black Death or Black Plague, which in 14 century wiped out from 30 to 60 percent of the European population. But the Black Death was caused by bacteria so, most likely and now would never reach such magnitude because antibiotics and vaccines could eliminate it.
The real victims of the COVID – 19 is not only the people, but it is also the economy, and particularly the financial markets. And those are the key reasons why some governments and their agencies began to act with unexpected speed and panic.
During the period of Spanish flu, and after, the economy was significantly hit: there were not enough workers and farmers who were decimated by the war and the flu, so factories and farms were slowing down or even collapsing. But due to the lack of the internet and television, the media were limited to mainly to radion and newspapers, the stock market had not responded as fast as now, and it has not played such a colossal role as it does now. Recovery of the economy in the USA caused the over-enthusiasm of the stock market that it soon collapsed, causing, in turn, world-wide economic crises so-called „great depression”. It lasted until the thirties, when the president of the USA, F.D. Roosevelt, introduced drastic measures called „New Deal.”
Returning to the present, we find our modern capitalistic economy in a very tight bind: too much action on the part of governments and international financial agencies could increase already growing panic, and the stock market may fall quicker than it does. On the other hand, trying to say that it is a hoax (a la Donal Trump), may cause people not to believe and the epidemy will spread beyond control, and the authorities will be rightly accused of lack of action and conspiracy
The next question, which arises, is: why the public panic affects the market? After all, the traders, investors and speculators do not have to sit en masse in the stock market chambers being exposed to the virus, to do trades – all of that can and most of it is done via the internet.
The answer is brutally simple. I mentioned it briefly in the previous chapter about consumerism, and now we will look at it in more depth. The panic and restrictions imposed by governmental agencies and privet institutions interfere with the mass consumption. The fear of illness and death is often stronger than the desire to buy. And when the consumption falls, then the income of providers of goods and services falls as well. It is the worse scenario that could happen to the capitalistic economy, providing legitimate reasons for panic. Consequently, the stock markets behave like a yo-yo: one day 5% down when some pundits declare alert, and next day it goes up because they reversed the prediction, some central banks provided reassurance of easy loan and so on. To facilitate that, some central banks will cut their lending rates so the consumers can borrow more and keep buying while the producers can easier maintain their debts.
All of that nervousness shows that the present form of capitalistic economy is getting more and more fragile and unreasonable. We cannot predict the outcome of the CODID-19 epidemics: it may fizzle, or it may take such a dimension as the Spanish flu, though it is unlikely because of all the preventive measures which undoubtedly will be applied. But anything significantly more serious than what we witness today could cause an economic apocalypse.
Wisdom living and COVID-19 epidemy
I am not providing here any specific suggestions on how to deal with the COVI-19 epidemy itself because you may find more than enough advice on the subject. You can read about it what specialists at Lancet Journal have to say, or what all the people who write a lot about it on Facebook and similar if you trust them more. But the attitudes of dignity would prevent to surrender to panic while discernment plays a key role in selecting from the plethora of information, often contradictory, those which appear to be helpful.
But, as I said above, the impact COVID-19 epidemy goes far beyond its danger to our health or even life. We need openness to see the whole picture and discernment to go deeper and try to find out what motivates many of the advice-makers. For example, the Surgeon General of the USA suggests not buying protective masks, arguing that they do not help to prevent the infection. However, in the same communique, he explains that buying masks may cause a shortage, while the medical personnel needs them. You do not need me to explain further to see that this statement is contradictory, but discernment will help you to understand why such a person occupies such an important position – after all, he is a Trump’s appointee.
On the less factious note, the discernment is also necessary to see clearly the precarious state of our current economy. The panic which accompanies the epidemy is not limited to its danger to the health of humanity. It becomes brutally obvious that it plays a secondary role in the world’s play. The causes of the real fear and panic, which embraces the economy, are due to a variety of restrictions like limiting travel and tourism, canceling public concerts, closing supermarkets and shopping malls. All of that causes the general public to buy less. That means that the growth of consumption and, consequently, production could be interrupted. However, the state when the National Product Growth (GDP) would fall below 2,5% it is called a recession, which is terrifying for the capitalistic mentality. But if the decline would go even further and GDP becomes negative, it is a depression. At such a point, lenders may try to recover their money (remember that the world debt exceeds 180 trillions of dollars). It is so terrifying that all the economic pundits, gurus and experts, as well as politicians, prefer not even contemplate such a scenario.
As far as people who prefer wisdom as the guiding principle of behaviour, such a possibility calls for dignity and stability. Together they would prevent succumbing to the panic and hysteria fueled by the hope and fear and propagated by the media. Then, in response, to decide what to do, they use discernment and finally take action.
To avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to be crystal clear that I am not predicting some kind of apocalyptic future. Instead, I am suggesting not ignoring the possibility of such a situation and use our wisdom to prevent it. It does not mean that we are supposed to find a way to fix the falling apart capitalistic system, rather, to find ways how to protect humanity and the world from the possible serious and maybe irreparable damage.
I think that it is said enough to show that the evolving epidemy of the COVID-19 virus may have consequences that go far beyond its destructive biological character. I hesitate but feel obliged to say something about, so-called, biological weapons. We have no idea about what has been done in various countries (hopefully not too much), but now, with incredible ease of applying genetic engineering, they can be easily manufactured and distributed. The COVID-19 epidemy gives just a preview of what may happen. As far as human beings are concerned, biological weapons may be far more dangerous than nuclear. I decided to say that because ignoring such a possibility would not make it disappear.
However, let us end it on a much more positive note. The COVID-19 havoc may discontinue and everything may return to what it was before. However, the current panic and its results may cause the believers in the inability of the current capitalistic system, to see that it will not continue indefinitely. It provides a rare opportunity to become aware that, before it is too late, it is time to collectively began to create an alternative society where the guiding principle is not ignorance, greed and desire to dominate but wisdom.