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The Failure of our Imaginations

By March 17, 2020June 30th, 2020Natural Disasters, Pandemics, Survival, The Weekly

The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegl

“Remember, despite all the current events, there is no crying in baseball. — Actor Tom Hanks, who is recovering from coronavirus in Australia. (Thursday, Twitter)

“I can’t think of a time since social media graced the world with its large-and-in-charge presence that it would be more important to let the actual experts be the experts.” — Author Beth Moore (Wednesday, Twitter)

“Look for the helpers.” Fred Rogers

It’s time for me to say a few things about COVID-19, the ncoronavirus. In case you missed it, on February 11 the WHO named the disease, COVID-19 – short for Coronavirus Disease, a global pandemic.  Corona is the Latin word for crown or halo, the actual shape of the virus. COVID-19 is the name of the disease you get from being infected by the ncoronavirus.

After deciding to write about the coronavirus, I was unprepared for the virtual mountain of information and articles currently being written. I typed in the word coronavirus on Google and it came up with 7,970,000,000 results in 0.93 seconds.

Is there really anything new to say about the subject? What can I possibly write at this juncture that would be worth you taking the time to read? What is not being said? That is what I hope to explore with you in this week’s edition of “More than Meets the Eye.”

There are several questions that I have been asking myself. Is this really the first time there has been an outbreak, epidemic, endemic or pandemic like this one? Why did no one see this coming? Or did they? Why does it seem like many are acting as if this is the end of the world?


Let’s begin by looking back. Has there ever been anything like this pandemic in our lifetimes?

Before we take a very brief look back in time, if you are interested in the terminology you can go here to see the difference between, global outbreaks, endemics, epidemics, and pandemics…Click here.

I.  During most of our lives, there has been one troubling epidemic after another. It appears that our lack of remembrance of these events resides in that they did not directly affect us, for the most part. Therefore, they now seem much worse and more urgent. It is like the difference between major and minor surgery. Minor surgery is the surgery you are having. Major surgery is the surgery I am having. 

The world has been struggling under the weight of these kinds of plagues for millennia. Only now, the West with its wealth, knowledge and power has been invited to the party and everybody is looking for the exit door, but no one seems to have found it yet.

Just as a reminder, here is a shortlist of the diseases and plagues that have taken millions of lives during our lifetimes. I will not include the Spanish Plague in 1918-1920 which took the lives of 50,000,000 people.

  1. Ebola– The disease had its first identified outbreak in 1976 in Africa. Since then, there have been several other outbreaks. Altogether, it has resulted in thousands of casualties. Though primarily in West Africa, it has spread to a few other continents as well.
  2. SARS 2002-2004… A particularly concerning problem with SARS is that there is no known cure or vaccine. Once a patient gets it, all doctors can do is to try to provide support and care for the symptoms. In the young and healthy, there is a fatality rate of about ten percent, but among the elderly or ill, the fatality rate soars to over fifty percent.
  3. MERS– Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness that is new to humans. It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to several other countries, including the United States. Most people infected with MERS-CoV developed severe respiratory illness, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Many of them have died.
  4. Swine Flu- Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, sporadic human infections with influenza viruses that normally infect swine have occurred. When this happens, these viruses are called “variant viruses.” Most commonly, human infections with variant viruses have occurred in people exposed to infected pigs (e.g., children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry.) In addition, there have been documented cases of multiple persons becoming sick after exposure to one or more sick pigs. Also, cases of limited person-to-person spread of variant viruses have occurred.
  5. Zika Virus- In April of 1947, the Zika virus made its debut into the world. Scientists were in the Zika Forest of Uganda doing research and discovered the infection in a monkey they were examining. The Zika virus has proven to be very manageable and usually goes away in less than one week.
  6. HIV/AIDS- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV), or through sharing injection drug equipment. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The human body can’t get rid of HIV and no effective HIV cure exists. So, once you have HIV, you have it for life.
  7. Measles- Many scientists estimate that the horrible plagues of the antiquities, such as the Antonine Plague of 165-180 AD, may have actually been measles. This disease has been particularly devastating when a population without any immunity encounters it. For example, the measles claimed the lives of half of the population of the Honduras in 1529, and in the 1850s, it wiped out twenty percent of all Hawaiians. Before the vaccination, roughly eight million children died each year from this disease.
  8. Cholera– The first cases of cholera were reported in India around 1817. It rapidly spread around the world. It tends to come in waves, flaring up in a violent pandemic before disappearing for a few years. America alone has faced three serious epidemics between 1832 and 1866. The World Health Organization estimates that 120,000 individuals expire from cholera every single year.

II. With this many deaths and this kind of human destruction, one would ask, has this not been the subject of intense study, so that nations could prepare infra-structurally for an event such as COVID-19? The answer is yes, and no. Yes, there has been intense study. No, little has been done to prepare for an event of such magnitude.

In October of 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Risk and Foresight Group assembled a coalition of about twenty experts in global health, the biosciences, national security, emergency response, and economics. The session was designed to stress-test U.S. approaches to global health challenges that could affect national security.

Their scenario closely parallels the current coronavirus pandemic. It was amazing how prescient the study appeared to be. Their study discovered several things that the international community needs to get right in order to correct the course of this current virus, as well as what it needs to consider to be prepared for inevitable pandemics in the future.

Here are several conclusions which were reached by this board of experts.

  1. Early and preventative actions are critical. Establishing trust and cooperation domestically and internationally among governments, companies, workers, and citizens is important before a crisis strikes. With the toxic political and social environment in the USA and other nations today, this is a problem that needs to be solved quickly.
  2. Communication is vital—but a decline in trust makes it harder. Dramatic shifts in the world also raised new alarm bells for health security in our world. The first of these is the need for consistent messaging and trusted sources of information.  Trusted news sources in the world today are far and few between. This too presents a formidable obstacle to overcome.
  3. International cooperation is key. A virus knows no borders, as we are seeing with the real-world coronavirus outbreak. There is a disconcerting heightened mistrust among countries in the world today. The key to human survival is the ability to cooperate with one another. 
  4. The private sector will be vital to managing future outbreaks. They hold many of the keys to producing all that is needed by a society to manage these destructive onslaughts. 

The principal conclusion of their study was that national and local leaders simply don’t take health seriously enough as a national security issue. Congress holds few hearings on the topic, especially in the defense committees, and the White House last year eliminated a top National Security Council position focused on the issue.

What were the recommendations of this group?  Across all the threat streams they examined, early detection, public and international trust and information sharing, and harnessing innovation in the private sector were vital to effective risk reduction. Only time will tell at this point whether the results of this study and the current pandemic will alter the behavior of our leadership, and cause them to prepare for the future.


Why did I entitle this edition of MTMTE, “A failure in our Imaginations?” I did so because of the quote stated above by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” At our own peril as humans, we forget the past. We’ve relegated everything that our elders have told us, (the stories, the events, and the family histories) as simply the past. We no longer consider with respect the wisdom of our seniors. We have become so individualistic and egalitarian.

We are taught— Nobody can tell you anything. Do your own thing. Take your own pathway. Fierce individualism is the mantra by which to live. This could be causing a serious breakdown in our ability to collect the intellectual capacity of our community.  It’s almost as if we are determined to reinvent the wheel over and over again, because “my generation” (whatever your generation may be) obviously does it better. I fear that this form of self-absorbent behavior could lead us down a terrible road that does not need to be traveled.

We need to remember that there are important lessons to be learned from our past. What will we learn from this present crisis? Will our children and their children gain any benefit from the trials through which we are currently journeying?


By way of remembrance, it should be noted that throughout history the Christian Church has risen to great heights to be “salt and light” in the middle of these kinds of epidemics. It has done so at  great cost, but none so great as the price paid by Jesus Christ.

“The Christian response to plagues begins with some of Jesus’s most famous teachings: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; “Love your neighbor as yourself”; “Greater love has no one than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends.” Put plainly, the Christian in a time of plague considers that his or her own life must always be regarded as less important than that of his or her neighbor.”

“For Christians, it is better that we should die serving our neighbor than surrounded in a pile of masks we never got a chance to use. And if we care for each other, if we share masks and hand soap and canned foods, if we “are our brother’s keeper,” we might actually reduce the death toll, too.”

The follow-up.

Lesbos: ‘We want our island back’…


The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at:


I would recommend that you read this article in full. It does a great job of helping us to understand the role of the Church throughout history in times of terrible struggle.

© 2019 • More Than Meets