4 April 2020 – In the pandemic age the divide between optimists and pessimists appears to have been filled with data-ists, a new breed of followers of data and of the scientists and visualists that produce them. A self isolating data-hungry population now fixated on metrics of deaths, glued on curves that resist being flattened.
In the meantime older divides persist. Gaby Hinsliff pointed to one in The Guardian last week when she referred to how Prince Charles and Boris Johnson got swift Covid-19 tests while front line NHS staff were being denied access to them. It may seem churlish, wrote Hinsliff, to dwell on what divides us rather than what we are discovering we have in common. Yet, she went on, we seem to be moving into a dangerous new stage of this epidemic, one where heart-warming stories of hope and altruism may give way to something darker.
As deaths increase and the ineptitude of those in power is revealed, as authoritarianism creeps in and supermarket shelves empty Hinsliff’s churlishness may not seem that misplaced.
It may be useful to recall the hidden variations of some of the Greek words that have come to dominate our vocabulary these weeks; words like πανδημία (pandemic) and επιδημία (epidemic). The latter is the noun use of επιδήμιος (epidêmios) which means “among the demos, among the people”. Ominously the Greeks also used it for επιδήμιος πόλεμος which means civil war.
Civil strife could be stretching it too far. As far perhaps as the possibility that in the year 2020 the prime minister of a member state of the European Union could suspend parliament and rule by decree. Unthinkable.
For Gaby Hinsliff’s article of 26 March 2020 click here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/26/coronavirus-prince-charles-covid-19-test-old-divisions