The title of today’s column is a liberty I’ve taken with one of my favorite books by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Love In The Time Of Cholera.
We are living in what feels like a long time of Covid-19, may spend a chunk of our lifetimes with it or one of its evolved offspring, and then something all new may emerge from one of the animals that share the Earth with us. Get used to it. The Egyptians and the Romans did between the years 541 (first historical recording of a pandemic) and 750 AD. The last all-country epidemic was the cholera that struck Haiti in 2010. There was a SARS outbreak in Asia, and a touch here, in 2003 but it was quickly contained. Contained. Not killed. It lurks somewhere. Get used to lifestyle changes.
A young woman I met is a Kamehameha Schools grad who’s been accepted at Columbia University, but rather than communing with Mother Columbia on the steps of that great school’s library, she’s here and attending classes remotely. Remote Columbia ain’t great, but I think she’ll get out of it whatever she puts into it.
I did long hours of remote classes from LaSalle University Law School while in the Air Force, got my LL.B and was pretty damn good at codified law, common law, and even Chancery Court. He who works hardest and adapts survives.
Youngsters with working parents are doing remote schoolwork in a tent “classroom” at the Kaimuki YMCA this semester. They have Y supervisors, recess periods, wear masks and socially distance. I think they’ll do just fine if they work at it rather than daydream through the lessons.
People have been adapting to much more than masks and remote classes forever. Dealing with deadly viruses and bacteria has been more common than not. The 542 AD plague which struck Justinian’s Constantinople is recorded as killing 10,000 people every day. In the mid 20th Century, smallpox killed more than a billion worldwide. If you survived by acquiring immunity you probably were very badly scarred in the face or blind.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Mask Of The Red Death is a tale from the time of the plague in Europe (1347-1351) that killed almost a third of people then living there. It came back in a second weave in Marseille, France, in 1720.
The cholera bacterium made its first notable appearance in the 1800s in India, then to Thailand, Oman and Zanzibar. The second wave decimated Russia and moved on to Naples, Italy. There would be seven outbreaks later, in Indonesia and Peru, and what was thought to likely be the last time in 1991 in the Congo. But no, there would be 2010 Haiti.
Pandemics and epidemics never really stop. Prof. Adam Kucharski says it best in his new book The Rules of Contagion: “If you’ve seen one pandemic, you’ve seen … one pandemic.”
Get used to it.