THE world has to acknowledge the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is not the worst that mankind has ever experienced, and it definitely will not be the last, especially if we go back in time to learn from the lessons that history offers and benefit from them, as well as contemplate how mankind overcame disasters despite the modest capabilities in the past.
In the year 536 AD, volcanic dust had covered the world for 18 months. Snow covered the earth. Crops and livestock had perished in the United States of America, Asia, Europe and most of the Middle East. Hunger had spread, claiming tens of millions of lives, and destroying villages and cities.
At that time, mankind did not surrender but instead clung to life. People came up with various methods to overcome the catastrophe, the effects of which culminated in the bubonic plague in the year 541 AD. It was also known as the Plague of Justinian.
This plague killed millions, but the world adapted with the new catastrophe and transformed the economic downturn into an industrial economic renaissance, starting with exploration of silver and increase in agricultural crops and livestock, to improvement in protection methods which today are considered as primitive.
Throughout history, pandemics and natural disasters have struck the globe. Even though the technologies were not what they are today, people performed miracles in the sense that medical sciences and economies improved, and ports and trade routes expanded.
In the sixth century, oil was not the backbone of the economy. There were no planes, cars, and factories dependent on it. There were no media platforms for countries to compete. There were no shares of every medicine for people to own. There were no seizing of face masks and medical ventilators as is currently happening. Instead, wars and invasions came to a stop because the need to cooperate was greater than the need for occupation and control.
At that time, the means of communication and transportation were not advanced as today. There were no medical and research laboratories as there are now. Despite that, we become surprised when we one day hear news about a new medication or a method of treatment, and then become disappointed the next day; even perfume sellers have an opinion regarding this matter.
Mankind has not learned from the past. All the massive scientific accomplishments have not provided the most effective solution to the coronavirus pandemic. It is as if countries and scientists were caught off guard despite the existence of many studies in which experts had warned of epidemics that could spread throughout the world. This is perhaps ironic.
Undoubtedly, nature has its own laws that humans are subjected to; hence, with every great suffering the world has experienced, it surely manages to survive and move on.
Given that everything has to come to an end, humanity today must adapt to nature and accept its political and economic ramifications, and work on capitalizing on them positively in order to avoid disasters in the future.
Nonetheless, the beginning and the end are alike, but the lessons to be learnt differ from one another. Every person has to decide whether he will benefit from such lessons or return to his former condition.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times