Corona and Globalization Part II
5: Disease epidemics in world history
Illness has changed the course of history in the past. Historians believe that the Justinian plague of 541 led to a lasting weakening of the Eastern Roman Empire. This marked the beginning of the period of unstable and chaotic migration in European history.
During the European conquest of America from 1492 onwards, up to 90 percent of the continent’s population died of diseases brought by the Europeans, and which the American population lacked resilience to. This made the conquest easier than it otherwise would have been.
The most famous pandemic in world history, however, is the Black Death, which ravaged large parts of Europe and Asia from the 1330s to the 1340s, with regular later outbreaks. In Europe, the population decline led to a weakening of the nobility and the upper class. Since there were fewer workers, those who remained could demand higher wages. There was a lot of vacant land, and poor farmers could become more prosperous. Europe renewed itself after the plague, but in Arab countries the plague led primarily to recession. Arab culture had long been ahead of European culture in science and architecture, among other things, but now it has changed.
The last major pandemic, before the coronary pandemic, was the Spanish flu from 1918–19. It did not in itself lead to major societal changes, but World War I came to an end when this flu pandemic began to spread. It is impossible to know what effect the Spanish flu could have had in peacetime.
Based on knowledge of pandemics in world history, it is not inconceivable that the current pandemic will also have lasting social, political and economic consequences.
Previous epidemics have also shown that it is common to look for scapegoats, often foreigners or minorities. In the same way that the US President in March 2020 referred to the corona as “the Chinese virus”, European Jews were often identified as responsible for plague epidemics in earlier times.
With the exception of China, according to RECIPESINTHEBOX, all countries perceive it as if the disease comes from outside. In some African countries, harassment and threats against Europeans have been reported, as the virus has been introduced there by people who have been to Europe. When your fellow human beings are potentially carriers of a disease that can be harmful to you and your family, it is natural to become suspicious of other people in general, and strangers in particular.
In a larger perspective, it is clear that the corona pandemic is already being used by political forces in favor of more border control, less immigration and nationalist withdrawal, ie movements and parties that are often referred to as anti-globalists.
At the same time, the pandemic shows that all people are in the same boat and dependent on each other. There is intense international cooperation to develop medicines, and global health organizations from MSF to the WHO see it as a global crisis that cannot be solved by individual countries. In other words, the pandemic can lead to both increased nationalist withdrawal and a strengthened global humanism. Since the virus is global, the pandemic can lead to a recognition that we are one humanity that must solve the problem together.
7: The world after the pandemic
During March 2020, the coronavirus changed the world. The brakes were put on, and it happened almost everywhere at the same time. This is how we were reminded of how dependent the world’s population is on globalization, but also how vulnerable individual societies are.
Globalization is unlikely to be the same again. Although the pandemic is mitigated through various types of measures, there are many indications that the virus will live on for a long time.
Socially, there will be restrictions on mobility and physical contact in the form of trade and travel between countries. Extensive transnational contact, ie contact across borders, will be associated with fear and risk.
We will still have a lot of contact, but in other ways. All types of digital services have received, and will continue to benefit from, a tremendous upswing. It will be easier to be Netflix than SAS – not only in 2020, but probably also in 2021. Online meetings, digital concerts and video meetings will replace many physical meetings, also in the time ahead.
Economically, it is necessary to rethink due to the high unemployment figures and the crisis in that economy. World trade will not be able to stop completely – because then how will Mauritius get oil and Norway get wheat? But it will be regulated in new ways, where health and safety may become more important than economic growth and profits.
Politically, the result can be both intensified nationalism and more international cooperation.
It is possible that the world will change course. For a lifetime, researchers and environmental organizations have pointed out that the global economic system is on a collision course with ecology, climate and the welfare of future generations. Perhaps the cooling of the world economy and people’s daily lives will lead to a more sustainable world society now emerging as a realistic alternative and not just a utopia?
One lesson that can be agreed upon is that globalization leads to the rapid and uncontrolled spread of many kinds of things and phenomena, for better or worse; from Indian mangoes and Japanese cars to movies on Netflix – and viral diseases. The intertwined world of this century has created great wealth and economic growth, but it has also led to major climate problems and – that is – a medical catastrophe with ripple effects for the entire world community.