St Helena island defied inclusion in that tragic event. Pestilence in the air. It knew no age, social standing or boundaries. Devastating ailment that gradually wears down the body and taking over 50 million persons beneath, earth wide. Yet, dwellers of this tiny island of the south Atlantic Ocean stood still, untouched by the evil of the day and night. They escaped gory statistics of 1918/19 Spanish influenza.
St Helena was Louis Bonaparte forced isolation home at the tails of the French Revolution. In this island he died.
Will there be another St Helena?
The world is unsure.
Spanish influenza happened over a hundred years ago. Now, one can only get a handful of living centenarians to tell the story as told by their parents?
Simply use the index finger. It is not to identify the index case of the current plague but for a count of those who witnessed the flu. It is known that index case has embarrassed scientifically unprepared world. One man’s unattended headache is now worldwide headache.
Odimbu’s attention to this preamble is unmistakable. He volunteers to educate those known as the millennials.
This is not exactly a question and answer session. But to draw a word of two and connect with today’s happenings.
“Really you were not born at the beginning of the twentieth century. But you were of age to reasonably understand things exactly as it happened at the tail end of the second decade?
“Of course you are right. A wise King says: “one who has met his father, has seen almost all ancestors of the village”. Well, Odimbu says, an old man experienced this event – Spanish flu, first hand. His narratives are corroborated and authentic.”
“Then, are you surprised at the reaction of people today.”
- “The plague has made a lot of men to be acting unwisely. It is more than a tremor. Following odd, old tradition we are afraid to mention the real name as it was the case during the influenza. They only address it by a sobriquet to reduce fear and tension. The current one is mentioned openly. it is a virus, Covid-19, “the dread”.
“It is advisable the world move from the craze of churning dreary figures of victims. These figures heal no soul. They run no solutions. They give no history. Mankind needs succor to replace rumours. Care should douse anxiety. True information to compensate long isolation from reason.”
“It seems new development, new words are coming from it”
“Yes. Many get fascinated by the word quarantine, social isolation and social distancing as if these words are new in healthcare lexicon. The so called primitive societies had practiced this strategy during the influenza, long before dualism mixed up the world’s nightmare. You hear the chorus: this virus is going to change the world! This is a casual talk, an understatement. Is there any time epochal events fail to change the way things are done?”
“The present world appears not to be teaching great, new things”,
” Well, a poor learner assumes his father orchards and farms are the beginning and end of the world.”
“During the Spanish flu otherwise known as Otutu – “Feller” – it was something that instigates a strike and fall. Otutu is small pox at a scale unknown in local history. Residents caught by the disease went into isolation. Those affected were made to live outside the city in a small huts built in a day by anxious relatives. Isolation was the first medical step as if one got exposed to leprosy in those days. It is age long wisdom. It should be applied by those with ears”
“Initially, death toll was minimal. Later, the number rose steeply in small communities. More than two to three burials had to take place in contradiction of tradition. But people survived the flu despite its devastation.”
“Let us go through memory lane. “Two friends had farms in a location sharing boundaries as friends – Agbogo. For three months, none was able to get to their farms because of the flu. Their farms were covered by weeds as the flu was in the rainy season.”
” At the end of the plague, one of the friends got to the farm. He looked over his farm and cried loudly. A lot of damage has been caused by the flu as no one tended their plants. As he was crying loud, his other friend – Agbogo 11 raised his voice and asked him to be consoled by his survival not his loses. He asked him why? Agbogo 11 responded. “You survived the flu” but I did not”. Immediately, Agbogo 1 slumped. But he did not die. Truly, dead men don’t speak.”
“The thrust of the story. Many will survive this current virus. The man who slumped heard his corrective inner voice. In the face of crises and lose every man ought to listen to this corrective voice. Survival is more important. Loses can be redeemed.”
“There are lessons learned during the flu spread. It was like warfare. They were just getting out of Anglo-Ekwumeku Wars (1893 – 1912). Loved ones were opened to attack by unseen flu. Family heads had to preserve the family by being decisive in their actions. Like war, it was not time for frivolities. Men of those days were serious minded. They drank medicine to keep strong. Men abstained from fleshly (moral or immoral) activities that compromise immunity. Perhaps, it provides a lesson for those who care enough to think through action and inaction that can lead to unwarranted exposure today. History is always on a long walk for those who can see its incomplete image.”
“The story has not ended. I hear people say that the flu has affected the world and that it will mark a new phase in human and international relations. Of course, that is true. Do you need to enter a lab to ascertain this? The Spanish flu brought changes in what our people ate. Cassava that was not touched with a long spoon, gradually entered the menu list of our people. You may read a complete PhD dissertation on this if you are interested. Do you have to read Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy to understand how historical events twist minds and hands of state actors. Even before the current flu, niceties of diplomacy had left the world. The flu only sounded the death knell to descent diplomatic behavior that are found in text books and practiced by idealist. The fact to be faced in the post flu era is diminished consensus building diplomacy. Unless the devastation is arrested quickly, arbitrariness is going to be the long road many nations will work. Think about it. What consensus was reached banning airlines and non citizens with visa entry to countries with normal diplomatic relations? You can guess the spin-off after the arrest of this flu. Well, friends, Odimbu clears his throat, “this piece is not any expose on international relations.”
Odimbu gears up to another phase! “The world is at a “reset – multi-dimensionally”. Odiegwu. From 4 letter word “reset” to 18 letter word! The word reset has a lot of meaning. Yes, and rightly so. Has the general thought on hygiene not changed in a few months? What about traveling and movement within and outside geo-political confines. What of the atmosphere in world industrial centers? Air in these areas gets fresher. “Even at war, there are opportunities” Before, the next economic war is understood or fought by the big actors, many things are on reset for now.”
Odimbu shades light on fear and panic that has gripped the world. “It is normal. Fear and panic are Siamese in times of crises. Uniquely, in this case it is not “they” and “us”. It is “everyone”. Who is next is very uncertain. Everybody is looking for shelter, regardless of where you live in the world. Also, note too that fear and panic are enablers of adverse decision making. In a tense atmosphere, decisions hardly follow a comprehensive model. Being on siege is not the best time to produce best ideas. The lesson is clear. Build scenarios before the event. In reality, preparation not invincibility is mark of a good strategist.”
“But will the world come out of this not deeply bruised?
“The deep wounds are already visible. But there will be survivors and recovery. Some bitter lessons that would increasingly affect everyone including idealist, positivist and negativist are hanging out there. Every day is a new day, in the same way the world will alter in many ways. This is the story of Covid-19 plague of our time. We can draw from the past to understand the present. We call it history.”
Inner corrective voice.
Isolation as old useful strategy.
Heal rather than sicken by dreary statistics
Covid-19 the new plague