“We live in historical times that are worrisome and anxious ones.”
By Richard R. Pyves – Author of Night Madness & Courage Sacrifice and Betrayal
There are not many world events in the last hundred years that compare with the magnitude of the current pandemic, which has virtually affected the entire world. For many years I have been fascinated by the 1918 Spanish Flu (H1N1) but never imagined that I would find myself in the middle of our own global pandemic.
The Spanish flu, also known as influenza struck the world in 1918. At the time, The First World War was reaching a key stage in Europe with a major German offensive in the spring followed by a major Allied counter-offensive over the last 100 days of the war culminating in the Armistice in November 1918. This first global conflict involving over 50 countries and colonies resulted in over 35 million civilian and military casualties including over 15 million deaths. Sadly, this horrific loss was compounded in the next two to three years, as the Spanish flu swept through the globe in successive waves leaving at least another 50 million dead and was particularly deadly for young people, whose autoimmune systems overreacted to the virus, resulting in pneumonia and death.
The good news is that one hundred years later, many advances have been made in understanding how viruses interact with the human body. Although the current COVID 19 virus can be particularly deadly to some segments of the population including the elderly, with today’s improvements in medicine and the ability to communicate in a timely fashion “best practices” to prevent infection, the magnitude of the COVID virus impacts will be mitigated versus the world’s experience 100 years ago. Although the global infection numbers, currently at 32 million with almost 1 million deaths is a major concern and the impact on businesses and individuals in terms of employment, stress, commerce, social interactions, travel and general well-being are significant and seem to be never ending, there is hope that there will be many positive outcomes in the longer term.
The current pandemic has changed how we shop, how and where we work and brought a higher level of awareness to the fact that we are all part of a global community. We need to co-operate to achieve success in not only developing an effective vaccine but also in assuring that all countries have the resources including personal protective equipment to mitigate risk and to protect all front line workers and the population in general. The current situation, also highlights that we need to respect the environment and address key issues such as global warming as ultimately changes in our environment from pollution is another way that future generations will be impacted globally. In some countries like Canada, there is a heightened awareness of the need for a minimum guaranteed income for all classes and also the importance of the arts and entertainment communities to help individuals from a mental health perspective to deal with isolation, anxiety and restrictions in travel and social interactions.
In the opening lines of a well-known story – The Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I believe that we can all relate to this well- known line in that for many, they may feel it is the “Worst of Times” but I am confident that going forward we will look back on our experiences during the COVID pandemic and reflect that it was a key turning point to lead us going forward to ‘The Best of Times.”