Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

It’s not well known today, but Rome once suffered a plague much greater than the Moo Goo Gai Panic:  Smallpox.  Excerpt:

In the face of smallpox’s sustained assault, the resilience of the empire amazes. Romans first responded to plagues by calling on the gods. Like Hierapolis, many cities across the Roman world sent delegations to Apollo, asking for the god’s advice about how to survive. Towns dispatched the delegates collectively, an affirmation of the power of community to stand together amidst personal horror.

And when communities began to buckle, Romans reinforced them. Emperor Marcus Aurelius responded to the deaths of so many soldiers by recruiting slaves and gladiators to the legions. He filled the abandoned farmsteads and depopulated cities by inviting migrants from outside the empire to settle within its boundaries. Cities that lost large numbers of aristocrats replaced them by various means, even filling vacancies in their councils with the sons of freed slaves. The empire kept going, despite death and terror on a scale no one had ever seen.

Roman society rebounded so well from smallpox that, more than 1,600 years later, the historian Edward Gibbon began his monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire not with the plague under Marcus Aurelius but with the events after that emperor’s death. The reign of Marcus was, to Gibbon, “the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous.” This historical verdict would have astounded Romans if they’d heard it back when they suffered through what came to be called the Antonine Plague. But Gibbon did not invent these sentiments. Writing after the turn of the 3rd century, the Roman senator and historian Cassius Dio called the empire under Marcus “a kingdom of Gold” that persevered admirably “amidst extraordinary difficulties.”

Given the time past since Gibbon’s day, I’d take issue with his description of the Roman Empire under Marcus Aurelius as “…most happy and prosperous.”  While Marcus Aurelius may have been the best of a bad lot, he was nevertheless a dictator with literal power of life and death, which no man, anywhere, ever, should have.

But leave that for the moment.

Think about the implications of this bit of history for a moment.  The Romans were struck by a virulent plague, with a fatality rate far higher than the Kung Flu; they had no modern medicine, the “physicians” of the time little better than witch doctors.  They had little if any idea what caused the disease.  They had little if any idea what to do to treat it.  And even those who recovered were scarred, inside and out, for the rest of their lives.

And yet Roman society quickly picked up and moved on.

Granted the Romans of 165CE, even the wealthy and ruling classes, led a life much more rigorous than the pampered urban Eloi of the modern West.  And maybe that’s the key; there’s an old saying that goes:

  • Hard times make tough people.
  • Tough people make good times.
  • Good times make soft people.
  • Soft people make hard times.

I think there’s a key point to be found in that.  Our soft, pampered urban Eloi, in the U.S. as well as in Canada, Europe and most of the developed world, seem determined to stamp out any trace of self-reliance in the rest of the populace, of which agenda these seemingly-endless (and unconstitutional) Kung Flu lockdowns are just the latest act.

That’s going to make for hard times.