14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 10 April 2020 — Henry Kissinger says that “the world will never be the same after the coronavirus.” He assumes that the pandemic will forever alter the world order. I don’t think so. The truth is that the world is constantly changing. Every generation change clothing, music, ideas, things, but the substance is still there.
The Internet or artificial intelligence have done more than Covid-19 to transform reality. We never wake up in a world similar to that of the day before. It is like the “river of Heraclitus”: we do not bathe twice in the same river. The waters are different. Civilization is different, although the proximity prevents us from perceiving it, in the same way that the trees hide the forest from us.
Civilization continues through other ways. We do not entirely cancel the background. Hippocrates and Galen were present until the 19th century. Aristotle still has some validity. Greek tragedies and Roman comedies are still alive. This is just a hurdle. A great hurdle, but we know how to avoid it since the English doctor Edward Jenner invented the vaccine in 1796, and at the end of the 19th century Louis Pasteur systematized its preparation. The discussion revolves around when we return to normal. The Swedes are going to open the restaurants soon. They will be followed by hotels, cinemas and party halls.
Who remembers the anguish caused by the pandemic of the misnamed “Spanish Flu”? It killed between 50 to 100 million people from 1917 to 1920. In the United States it even affected President Woodrow Wilson, but it opened the door to the “roaring twenties”, the splendid and noisy twenties, that ended in the “Black Tuesday” in October 1929, when the Wall Street Stock Market plummeted, the starting point of the Great Depression. During that pandemic, only in Spain 300,000 people died, and even King Alfonso XIII, great-grandfather of the current Felipe VI, was infected.
When the AIDS virus affected thousands of people in the 1980s and 1990s, and took the lives of good writers like Reinaldo Arenas (and probably Julio Cortázar), or outstanding actors like Rock Hudson, it seemed that the end of the world was near, but pharmacology solved the problem and turned the terrible evil into a chronic disease. Almost 30 years ago, Magic Johnson, the basketball player, surrounded by his wife and his lawyer, said that he had contracted AIDS. It seemed like a farewell. Fortunately, it was not. He is still huge and robust. Science saved him.
The same will happen to us. Soon there will be tests to find out if one has or had the virus. Soon there will be medicines to fight the pandemic and vaccines to prevent it. When? In the next days, weeks or months. We don’t know the exact date. But we know that some of the best heads on the planet are behind those efforts. Some think of the glory and others of the benefits. Most move due to both. Even rivalry is a great spur. Louis Pasteur cannot be explained without Robert Koch, or Jonas Salk without Albert Sabin. Or vice versa.
Will there be anything positive from this pandemic? Journalist Andrés Oppenheimer said that this misfortune would serve to accelerate distance learning. I suspect he is right. It is the way to make universities cheaper. But there is much more: the tendency to work from home will increase, a tendency that had been happening for at least three decades, when her majesty Internet began to reign, and companies began to “outsource” their creative processes.
In the spiritual field we have the experience. Tango musician Enrique Santos Discépolo believed that “the world was and will be a filthy place.” He was wrong. It is not a small thing to know that a microscopic enemy can shake our entire species, but it is comforting to know that the answer is global. All against the virus and the virus against all. It’s good to see Israel, Eurasia and the American Continent, from Canada to Patagonia, in the same trench. We have to shout it: Long live globalization! Death to the absurd nationalism!
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