A mysterious illness breaks out at a market in a Chinese city. A physician, hearing rumors of a possible wider danger, attempts to notify authorities of the threat. His entreaties are ignored. He is reprimanded. Only after the medical threat becomes an epidemic does the Chinese government impose near draconian measures to isolate the viral outbreak, closing down entire cities.
In the United States, cutbacks in basic health care services undermine preparedness for an epidemiological emergency. Only after the medical situation intensifies does the President take action to deal with the growing crisis.
In many parts of the world the medical support structure is tenuous at best and epidemiological outbreaks may quickly become crises, virtually impossible to control. Political corruption drains funds from hospitals, research, and the entire social structure. Conflicts provoke this breakdown even further, as in Syria, Iran, Iraq and parts of Africa.
The seedling soon becomes a deadly blossom.
Seen from a spacecraft, one may easily distinguish the isolation, the fragility of this planet. Perhaps it is only this visualization which brings home the interdependence of all peoples. The expression, “We are all in the same boat,” has never been more clearly exemplified.
Some believe that the necessity to aid other nations, other peoples, is a moral imperative. They state, simply, “We are our brother’s keeper,” a view representing an unconditional, religious, moral ethos. But one may look upon this epidemic, this pandemic, in quite another sense: For the cold, hard truth, all morality aside, is that we are all obligated to fight against those forces which have allowed and provoked this crises as a matter of our own self-preservation. We have no choice in this matter.
Impossible? To the extent that all people may begin to accept the moral position that we are our brother’s keeper, probably so. Yes, there are people who try to live and act this way. Bless them. But what about the prospect of trying to persuade our fellow humans that in helping our brothers and our sisters, in helping to save our brothers and our sisters, we are doing nothing more than saving ourselves? No “moralizing” here. Just a matter of simple common sense. And survival.
Sometimes the most horrendous catastrophes may teach mankind a deeper wisdom.
Sometimes not. Tikum Olam.