Friday, October 17, 2014

Albert Camus and the Ebola Plague

The Ebola virus that has terrorized West Africa and is currently spreading fear in the U.S. has an interesting precedent in a book written long ago by the late French writer, Albert Camus.  This book is called "The Plague" (in English) and is interesting because of its parallel with the current Ebola outbreak.

There is an interesting psychology at work in the book, and it serves as a warning to what may be happening today.  The Camus book is about an epidemic of bubonic plague that afflicted the city of Oran in Algeria more than a half-century ago.

The reactions to the first case of plague that wracked Oran were very similar to what Americans are experiencing today from their government.  The city officials first reaction was to reassure the citizens that everything was under control, and there was no need to be afraid.  Of course, the plague progresses until it decimates the city and imprisons its inhabitants.

There's a great deal more in the book than the tiny bit I've mentioned here.  It's well worth reading, and I would call it one of the quintessential books of all time.  Aside from the grim terror of the disease itself, it is the psychology of the people and the government of Oran that is most interesting.

Hopefully, we'll do a little better than Oran did in the 1950s (I think) but, nonetheless, it's taken the Obama administration and the U.S. medical system far too long to take the Ebola epidemic seriously.  And while the medical establishment, after some grievous mistakes, seems to be rising now to confront the danger, it doesn't help that a certain politician (guess where) wants us to believe that an "Ebola Czar" (a lawyer, to boot) will quiet the fears caused by the administration's weak knee-jerk reaction.

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