So, it is the end of March 2020, and many of us are sequestered in our homes, trying not to get the virus that’s now sweeping the globe and has already overwhelmed the health care systems of numerous countries. People are talking about little else. Clearly, this event is big–but how big, and what are the implications for our history as a whole?

This past weekend I made a video on this subject and so far people are finding it useful and insightful. Here it is.

I wanted to post this because this subject has been on my mind. Forget for a moment, the actual danger of this pandemic. I know we are not “going back” to where we were. It won’t happen. It never has. Following every plague and epidemic, society has made a significant shift. Other events shifted it too … but a worldwide disease always shifts society and the way the world sees itself.

The Black Plague ended serfdom in Europe and ultimately changed the culture of the continent.

The biggest plague of them all, the one that killed more people than ANY other plague in history including all the sweeps the Black Death made through the world, as well as all the deaths from AIDS and the deaths in World War One was the Spanish (not really Spanish) Flu of 1918. As an aside, that disease was born among the cattle in Kansas and grew to its full potential in the trenches of WWI. It wiped out 50 million people.

From it was born modern medicine, modern scientific research. Computer and advanced technology. It was the beginning of our now. Coronavirus is not as lethal as Spanish Flu, but nonetheless, it is sweeping the world at the same speed that characterized the 1918 flu. The pandemic will change the entire world. 

Sean deals with events that I don’t feel competent to deal with. In the end, life is going to change. Not so much for the boomer generation, but for everyone younger than us. One way or the other, we are not going back to where we were, whatever that meant. It will be different and better. I hope.

Wearing masks during the 1918 Flu epidemic

We are not going back to what we were doing before. It is not only improbable. It is quite literally impossible. Many jobs people had “before” will be gone. The places for which they worked will not reopen or will downsize. Many small and medium-sized businesses will close and never reopen. There will be a glut of ownerless homes and empty apartments on the market and fewer grandparents. Many more people will work from home. Transportation will change.

No amount of money injected into the economy will force “recovery.” We’ll need more than money. We’ll need real jobs and a return to productivity that we seem to have lost.

We seniors probably won’t live to see the the big social, economic, and cultural shifts. Many of us don’t have 25 or 30 years left. But it will happen because it has always happened. The days before Coronavirus will be “the old days” and the time before March 2020 will be the “new” good ole days past though I’m not sure what was good about them.