Much has been written about pandemics and public health. In 2013, for example, the Journal of Sociology of Health and Illness published a special issue on pandemics and emerging infectious diseaes
Finally Russel Brand had a good take on the subject that tracks with my own thoughts.
In situations such as these it is good to keep one's head about you while all seem to be losing theirs. While there is definite cause for concern how we, as a community and society, addresses this problem will say a lot about how we collectively organize ourselves in the future following the waning of this crisis. Varvarousis writes that we are seeing, in some pockets, individualism and a lack of community (e.g. runs on groceries, etc.). What creates these problems, he argues, is the lack of any kind of deliberative process. While the World Health Organziaiton is supposed to take the lead in these global pandemics, in practice, countries are responding in various different ways and using different technological apparatuses.
The current preventative measures being enacted in Canada are positive measures and the responses of my local health authority have been calming and measured. Still, American news is filled with increaing partisan rancour. A unified approach is a good idea for global problems.
Varvarousis writes that there are two ways to interpret the present experience. The first is as a crisis and the other is as an emergency. Crisis, interpreted in the classic Greek form is positve. "Crisis signifies a destabilisation of the mainstream, of the given order and it opens space for new forms of being – and becoming – to emerge."
On the other hand, "A state of emergency only freezes people – absorbs their agency and their capacity of acting and thus reinforces the dominant order. The crisis can be potentially inhabited constructively, a state of emergency cannot".
He finishes the article by writing:
To conclude this article, I think we should not be against public health measures, and I definitely believe that limiting oneself for the common good is a necessary strategy in the current situation. But we should always remember that the stories we say, the information we spread, and the way we spread it, make a lot of difference on the heritage that we are leaving behind and whether it will help human societies to better sketch out and realise in good terms their common future. Coronavirus is threatening, no doubt. However, we must remain firm but open, inventive and committed to our plan for a better society. Let’s try to stop the dehumanization of the extremes. Let’s transform this emergency into a real crisis.
I agree and think Russel Brand similarly offers a useful rejoinder.