Coronavirus: Our Own Personal World War Z

by Elizabeth Tebb 4 months ago in literature

My 1,000 Book Challenge

Coronavirus: Our Own Personal World War Z

You may have seen the movie, and its own way the movie attempts to cover the same principles as the book. It focuses largely on the politics, economic consequences, and measures that first allow an extremely contagious pathogen to first spread, then be eradicated. However, I highly recommend that if you want a very accurate, highly probable assessment of our global response to a pandemic, read the book by Max Brooks.

“Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has. That's not stupidity or weakness, that's just human nature.”

― Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

The spread of the zombie pathogen, much like COVID-19, begins with an unknown bite between species in rural China. No, this is not to place blame. I've already written about how calling COVID-19 "the Chinese virus" only invites fear of an ethnicity. However, virologists and infectious disease researchers have already identified China as the source for outbreaks of SARS and MERS. As in the cases of Coronavirus and other contagious pathogens, the zombie virus bypasses the predictable link between wild animals and livestock, transmitting straight to people. And at that, to uneducated people without proper access to doctors.

Much as COVID-19, what begins as isolated outbreaks quickly becomes a growing pandemic that nations attempt to handle individually, while suppressing the true danger of it continuing to spread. Air travel continues, people attempt to leave quarantined areas and head for other countries. There are periods of calm that falsely tell people the worst is over. This is typical of any contagion. It ebbs and flows through populations as it finds hosts who will continue to spread it to other groups.

“Can you ever "solve" disease, unemployment, war, or any other societal herpes? Hell no. All you can hope for is to make them manageable enough to allow people to get on with their lives. That's not cynicism, that's maturity.”

Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

The book then explores how life continues on with the vague threat of zombies looming in people's minds. At first, it seems like people begin neighborhood patrols and stay indoors, hoarding "essentials." Sound familiar? People look to the government for measures that will protect them from complete pandemic, but often do not follow the guidelines. There is the dissemination of information to the public, an economic shift as people lose faith in its typical consumerism, an uptick in the level of general preparedness, but ultimately there is simply no way to contain the virus while attempting to ignore it and live "normally." Instead, there is a show of medical reaction that proves to be completely hollow (malaria medicine and Vitamin C injections, anyone?) and a military stance that only serves to gut the faith that we place in our technology to save us. As the book shifts to describing "total war," the focus of the collection of people contributing to the tale becomes how they manage to live out their daily lives during this crisis. How they go on.

“Ignorance was the enemy. Lies and superstition, misinformation, disinformation. Sometimes, no information at all. Ignorance killed billions of people."

― Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

The tide turns against the zombies, I promise you. But not before a lack of information threatens humanity. You see, the book aims to reflect on the shortcomings that people, in the face of extinction, will simply not know how to defend itself from threat because it either trusts others to do the thinking for them, or does its own thinking free from the contributions of others it refuses to trust. We are our own worst enemy.

I see this in my support groups on Facebook, where people suffering from IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) or people who have had surgery as a result of IBD posit their theories or conclusions without any real facts. Thereby, spreading misunderstandings throughout uninformed populations. Just this morning, a patient with ulcerative colitis admitted to the group that he was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He swears up and down that his doctor told him he can keep going to work because "it's been two days and I have no symptoms." People begin threads that we are at-risk populations simply because we've removed portions of our intestines, thus weakening our immune systems. To be clear, my lack of large intestine does not compromise my immune system. The fact that I use biologics to suppress my immune system from attacking my body does.

We live for information, and it's never been easier to get. However, we rarely vet the information we are told against our common sense. I get it. Our own president does not practice social distancing or even careful contact with others, we are told juxtaposing facts about the availability of tests or protective equipment, and we as Americans simply trust that we have the best system. We may not be facing zombies, and it certainly doesn't create a tangible army we can defeat in battle, but we should make no mistake that a century ago, a third of the world's population died of the Spanish flu while nations scrambled to cover up the extent of the contagion as World War I came to a close. Now that we are informed, let's learn from Max Brooks and our own past. We cannot afford to spread misinformation and simultaneously attempt to hammer down the number of new cases to a manageable capacity. It will cost some of us our lives to do so. Instead, we need to rely on social distancing and a complete freeze of all non-essential travel to stop the spread of COVID-19. All production of non-PPE equipment for hospitals needs to be diverted to the production of equipment we need now. We are responsible to our society to promote general welfare, and to do that we may need to make personal sacrifices. However, the sooner we all do this will complete integrity, the sooner we squash this virus.

Elizabeth Tebb
Elizabeth Tebb
Read next: New Mexico—It's like a State, like All the Others!
Elizabeth Tebb

I'm usually narrating books for Audible or writing romances, but writing in any form is my passion. My hobbies are focused on the written word. I also love to cook and travel. I live with my husband and two kitties in Hoboken, New Jersey.

See all posts by Elizabeth Tebb