How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—and Open Minds

Here’s a good article from the New Yorker. You can listen to it, also.

The plague marked the end of the Middle Ages and the start of a great cultural renewal. Could the coronavirus, for all its destruction, offer a similar opportunity for radical change?

How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—and Open Minds

By Lawrence Wright

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Great article and well written! (Okay, that was redundant. :grin:) The history was really interesting and the economics was a surprise!

In the paragraph starting “The Black Death caused economic and demographic collapse throughout Europe…”, about 60% down the page (on an iPad in Reader View, anyway), this was an eye-catcher:

The relative standing of capital and labor reversed…

Consequently, I am not as much as an anti-Keynesian as I was! I used to think that going off the gold standard was a bad thing. (Remember your Monopoly Community Chest card? :slightly_smiling_face: Collect $50 if you do. :grin:) Now I’m not at all so sure.

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I think another fact about plague was that when so many people died, there was an excess of production assets and land available.

I heard a lecture on this years ago. The diets of regular people improved. Lives improved. Opportunities expanded.

By the way, the people who wrote the Avengers Infinity Wars and Endgame got this wrong. In those movies, the elimination of half the population drove the world into a depression — despite the fact that there suddenly were twice as many houses and cars and tractors per capita.

I am culturally deprived, not having seen them. :disappointed_relieved:

The big changes in life on earth came after the major wipe-outs too, but that was little consolation if you were a starving sauropod. While the little furry mammals survived as a group, I bet it was a tough times for them also. So, guess I am not really pumped about what great things might come out of this in a generation or two. Though I guess by hitting the elderly hard, it gets rid of a lot of dead weight in society. Maybe the virus was really made by Gen Z and Millienials to get rid of us Boomers!
It does make you consider how social unrest has been historically politicized and how that might play out in our time.


Thanos sought to improve life in the universe by eliminating half the inhabitants.

Not only do we stop taking up resources, those young whippersnappers inherit our assets.

That has a familiar ring to it. Ah, I know: Theranos. :grin:

"What I see right now in the United States is that the pandemic has not led to new creative thinking but, on the contrary, has strengthened all the worst, most stereotypical, and irrational ways of thinking. I’m very sorry for the state of your country, which seems to be in the grip of a horrible attack of unreason.” She continued, “I’m sorry because I love it, and have received so much from it.”

She’s not the only one.

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Sorry, Vance, but I’m pretty sure they got it right. The sudden wrench of 3.4 billion people loosing countless friends and loved ones instantly would have caused mass panic, depression, spiralling cases of PTSD, suicide, and self-destructive behaviour. I’m sure most people to live through The Snap would have willingly given all tractors in the world to have their loved ones back. In fact, this line of thinking is developed for the audience through character Hawkeye - in many ways, in Endgame he represents everyone who lost someone.

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By far she’s not the only one!

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We disagree, Liam.

Yes, people would be shocked and depressed initially, but people move on. They keep working. They still work to help the ones they still have in their lives.

Wasn’t Endgame set years after the removal of half the population?

And the Black Death did issue in a time of prosperity.

One does not simply ‘move on’ from The Snap. And it is hardly comparable to the Black Death. Thanos makes the Black Death look like a bad case of the flu!

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Europe lost 30-50% of it population through a terrible illness. The ones who lived watched them suffer and disposed of the bodies while sick themselves.

In the science fiction story, half the people disappeared without suffering.

How is the Black Death so much milder?

People who lose loved ones to seemingly random acts of violence tend to have more trouble grieving and find it harder (if ever) to find closure. Cf. People who lose children to cot death; children who are snatched and never found; sudden heart attacks; Loved ones hit by a drunk driver who hops the curb, those who never return from war, etc.

I don’t agree with you that the Black Death and The Snap are comparable, but I won’t go to the stake over it. If you don’t agree, that’s cool, let’s just agree to disagree.


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