Dr. Robert McFarlane

Dr. Robert McFarlane 

Modern medicine cures everything, except sudden heart attacks, certain bad cancers, and bad personalities. But for a country – the world – to be laid low by an infectious disease: Gimme a break!

This can't be happening now, except it is.

The Black Death, or what historians call The Plague, killed more than 100 million people in Europe and Asia in the 14th century. That's when people believed plagues were part of the natural order. Those folks had no electricity or running water; they pooped on the streets. The printing press was still a century away, and almost no one could read.

The Plague, no doubt, appeared to extinguish the very few oil or candle lights still on in the Dark Ages. Perhaps even the sun.

Hubris - a word of Greek origins - means extreme arrogance, over-weaning self-confidence admixed with excessive pride. Modern society has developed a societal hubris that deludes us into thinking we are immune to plagues (really, to nature itself), that such a thing, in this age of the Internet and high-tech, is a historical phenomenon as remote as the dinosaurs.

Wrong, again.

It is common these days to hear that we have rights to a minimum wage, lack of discrimination, a clean work place, abortion, and so on. It is easy to forget that these rights, or supposed rights, make sense only in light of the historical progress – paid for by untold sacrifice – that gave rise to a functioning, constitutional government that, in turn, nurtured a flourishing, vibrant civilization.

It's also easy to forget the natural state of man is one of want, privation, and hunger, beset by predatory wild animals and plagues, a life that is, absent government, "nasty, brutish, and short,” as described by Hobbes.

COVID-19 has exposed the thin veneer of our civilization, high-speed Internet access, notwithstanding. Our hope for a COVID war with fewer casualties than would result in our natural state rests with one of the fruits of civilization: Science and medicine. One can only hope those fruits will flower in time to alleviate the horrific consequences of this surprise attack.

COVID-19 has reminded us how fragile we are. In such a perilous era, it is worth remembering how valuable, how precious our government and civilization remain. It is worth realizing that they are all that stand between us and the abyss from whence we came; and how calamitous in this time of crisis incivility becomes.

Dr. Robert McFarlane is a nationally renowned cardiologist in Palestine

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