From religion and science you have a vast array of doomsday scenarios. Films and television programs focus on many of these possible outcomes.
A world-wide outbreak of war and pandemic is always on the horizon. Looking at history, World War I saw about 41 million dead, but accurate numbers are difficult to determine because of the devastation.
After the Great War you had the Spanish Flu or “La Grippe” which took the lives of over 100 million during 1918-1919, but once again accurate numbers are difficult to access. Newspaper and religious journals were convinced that the end of the world had come.
Unfortunately for millions it had because the harsh reality is that once you die so does your world. Death brings everything to an end.
In 1918-1919 as deaths increased from complications of the flu so did fear and panic. Many sought to determine the cause of this virulent malady.
Unfortunately, as in many times of crisis, the foreigner was pointed to as the cause. Immigrants have always been viewed with suspicion based on the irrational prejudice which lies beneath the surface of the human heart.
In addition, friends and neighbors were viewed as harbingers of death. Fear caused people to turn against each other.
Coffins in many places were in short supply because of the death rate. Mass graves were the norm for certain villages and towns across the globe.
In certain regions of the Western USA the Native Americans were viewed as the source of the malady because of their ceremonial rituals for the dead. It did not alleviate this focus that many of the Native Americans died from this epidemic.
In many places public gatherings were banned, even religious services. Religious leaders protested this governmental intrusion, but public health concerns overrode the Bill of Rights.
Today the Summer Box-office income for 2017 was a bit dismal, but back in 1918-1919 picture shows were virtually shut down because officials were concerned about the spread of this plague. Schools were closed as well to contain the spread of something which people, especially children, did not understand.
When schools resumed, there were many vacant desks where classmates once sat. The psychological impact on the children and teachers was devastating.
Shortages of doctors and nurses were common for many places. When these medical professionals became sick the situation went from dire to catastrophic.
As in most times of epidemics patent medicines and other outrageous “cures” arose to alieve the frightened populace. In the links below these remedies are discussed and named.
Where there is a crisis there will always be those who seek to profit. The current emergencies have seen price gouging.
In many ways a crisis brings to the surface the primordial instincts of profiteering—the survival of the fittest. Preying on the innocent and the frightened is one of the sad realities of living on this world.
Before the people of the past are classified as naïve or ignorant, please remember that when a loved one is facing the eventuality of death, desperate measures are sought. The same would be true today and is in many regions on this planet traversing the cosmos.
Coming back to the present many are fearful of what is happening. Call it what you will but there are severe climatic changes affecting the planet.
Tense political challenges are like fuel to a fire. In many minds, a nuclear exchange is now on the current horizon.
Technology is advancing faster than human wisdom and perhaps even human control. The threat of artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction as people’s concern grows about where society is heading.
“Governments seem to be engaged in an AI arms race, designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies. The funding for projects directly beneficial to the human race, such as improved medical screening, seems a somewhat lower priority. I don’t think that advances in artificial technology will necessarily be benign. Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours.” Professor Stephen Hawking
As Dr. Carl Sagan said before his death:
“We’ve arranged a society on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it.”
Will the end of the age come in 2017-2018? The answer is that for many it will as they take their final journey on the road of life.
G. D. Williams © 2017
“Since that time there have been numerous epidemics of the disease. In 1889 and 1890 the disease was epidemic over practically the entire civilized world. Three years later there was another flare-up of the disease. Both times the epidemic spread widely over the United States. Although the recent epidemic is called ‘Spanish influenza,’ investigation has shown that it did not originate in Spain. We now know that there was an undue prevalence of influenza in the United States for several years preceding the recent great pandemic. Because the disease occurred in mild form, and because the public mind was focused on the war, this increased prevalence of the disease escaped attention. Not until the epidemic appeared in severe form in Boston in September, 1918, did it excite any special interest.” – U.S. Public Health Service Report, prepared by Surgeon General Rupert Blue”
― Charles River Editors, The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic: The History and Legacy of the World’s Deadliest Influenza Outbreak
At the height of the flu pandemic in 1918, William H. Sardo Jr. remembers the pine caskets stacked in the living room of his family’s house, a funeral home in Washington, D.C.
The city had slowed to a near halt. Schools were closed. Church services were banned. The federal government limited its hours of operation. People were dying — some who took ill in the morning were dead by night.
“That’s how quickly it happened,” said Sardo, 94, who lives in an assisted living facility just outside the nation’s capital. “They disappeared from the face of the earth.”
Sardo is among the last survivors of the 1918 flu pandemic. Their stories offer a glimpse at the forgotten history of one of the world’s worst plagues, when the virus killed at least 50 million people and perhaps as many as 100 million.
Overall deaths increased by 86 per cent when the virus went on the rampage, says the study, which is based on mortality figures in 14 countries amounting to roughly three-quarters of the European population in 1918-19.
Excess mortality rates in the 14 countries were highest in Italy, where they were 172 per cent above the norm, followed by Bulgaria and Portugal (102 per cent), Spain (87 per cent), the Netherlands (84 per cent), Sweden (74 per cent) and Germany (73 per cent).
This was followed by Switzerland (69 per cent), France (66 per cent), Norway (65 per cent), Denmark (58 per cent) Scotland (57 per cent), England and Wales (55 per cent) and finally Finland, which had the lowest increase in mortality, of 33 per cent above normal rates.
Spanish flu, a novel strain of influenza against which there was no immunity, has been described as the biggest plague of the 20th century. It is so named because of the belief that it originated in Spain before spreading into northern Europe.
In the fall of 1918 the Great War in Europe was winding down and peace was on the horizon. The Americans had joined in the fight, bringing the Allies closer to victory against the Germans. Deep within the trenches these men lived through some of the most brutal conditions of life, which it seemed could not be any worse. Then, in pockets across the globe, something erupted that seemed as benign as the common cold. The influenza of that season, however, was far more than a cold. In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world’s population was infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice). An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy (Deseret News). An estimated 43,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of influenza (Crosby). 1918 would go down as unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace.
Many flu remedies and patent medicines were sold. Professor Robert C. Wilson, “head of the department of pharmacy of one of the leading educational institutions of the country,” according to a Times story on November 20, 1918, invented a new preventative treatment “composted of the most powerful antiseptics and germicides known to science.” The product was called Wilson’s Solution or Anti-Flu. A bottle good for a week’s treatment sold for 35 cents. Users were instructed to sprinkle a few drops on a handkerchief and “inhale at frequent intervals during the day, especially when entering crowds or public places.”
Kerosene mixed with sugar or turpentine with honey were a common folk remedies for sore throat during this time period. Turpentine was also mixed with lard and rubbed on the chest, then covered with a flannel cloth that helped to “drive the medicine right into the lungs.”
Mining camps such as Goldfield, and Tonopah, Nevada, hit hard by the epidemic, resorted to local remedies such as Indian root and sagebrush tree. Tonics of hyssop, dittany, Peruvian bark, orange peel, anise, coriander seed, gentian, yarrow, nutmeg, thyme, rose leaves and port wine were concocted and drank by the glassful.
Misnamed the “Spanish influenza” because Spain had suffered an early attack, the “flu,” as it was called after it became common, may have originated in the United States in the spring of 1918. More pneumonia deaths than usual were reported in April and, as was the hallmark of the autumn flu, many of the dead were in the prime of life.
Microbiologists theorize that the virus then traveled to Europe, where it mutated into an even more deadly form before returning to the United States in the late summer of 1918, probably carried by soldiers returning from World War I battlefields. At first it targeted military camps on the East Coast, particularly in Massachusetts, but soon it spread to civilians and to inland posts.
The fetid, rat-rich, body-rotting trenches provided ideal breeding grounds for the virus that would be responsible for more than five times as many deaths as the war itself. The virus was thought to have originated in chickens and mutated in pigs before emerging in humans in the spring of 1918.
Those afflicted were first aware of a shivery twinge at breakfast. By lunchtime, their skin had turned a vivid purple, the colour of amethyst or the sinisterly beautiful shade of the heliotrope flower. By the evening, before there was time to lay the table for supper, death would have occurred, often caused by choking on the thick scarlet jelly that suddenly clogged the lungs. Between 50 and 100 million people across the world died of what became known as Spanish Flu.
The patent in the name didn’t refer to any government approval, but proprietary concoctions marketed with extreme promises and flamboyant showmanship.
Brimming with alcohol, opium, cocaine, and other unregulated substances, it’s no surprise their users felt like the pills and tonics were doing something, even if they became addictive or, worse, fatal.