NOPE, that’s not the latest fake news being spread by that broadcast journalist who’s gullible, hysterical, incompetent or a paid Yellow agitator (or all of the above.) Neither is it the prophetic vision of some religious nut.
That’s how many Filipinos died as a result of the misnamed “Spanish flu” that ravaged the world in 1918-1919 and killed at least 50 million and afflicted 500 million souls. It took the lives of 80,000 Filipinos and infected 4 million. That makes the current Covid-19 pandemic — so far — look like a minor cold. The other day it infected “just” 1.8 million people (4,428 Filipinos) and killed 108,834 (247 here.)
I find it astonishing that a pandemic of such colossal magnitude hasn’t been etched in our collective consciousness. I consider myself well-read, but it is only in researching material on the current pandemic for this column that I became aware of the horrific scale of that tragedy which afflicted humanity just in the last century.
One explanation is that the drama — if I may use that word — of the Great War (the First World War), its clash of empires, the emergence of terrible new weapons of war such as mustard gas and tanks, and the heroism of soldiers eclipsed the “mundane” deaths of millions of ordinary human beings, each dying only with a whimper.
Another explanation is that the pandemic was so horrific, that as in the case of individual consciousness, our global mind consciousness coped with it by blocking it from memory.
Indeed, one puzzle has been the fact that literary writers of that period — supposedly the people’s voices, hypersensitive to the human condition — were for some reason silent on the horror of the Spanish flu, even if many such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and John dos Passos were witnesses to it. One writer though speculated that the hell of the Spanish flu actually silently wormed its way into the minds of writers and especially philosophers to create a genre of works of cynicism and ennui just before World War 2.
How else could T.S. Eliot — considered the single most important and unparalleled poet of the modern era — have thought of these chilling lines, “This is how the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.” Was the bang World War 1, the whimper the last breath of a flu-infected man?(more…)