Assume a new version of flu came about with a high virulence and kills 300 million people on earth over the course of a year, but the other 95% of the human race survives. How would it change global culture or politics after the virus died out? Five percent of the human race dying wouldn’t collapse civilization, but it would change it.
9/11 had a pretty big impact on US culture and politics, would surviving a pandemic do something similar for the entire global civilization? Would it be good or bad?
Would we be more united and work together more towards a functioning health care system for all? Would nations invest more in medical R&D?
Or would it create a nihilist attitude that would lead to more wars? Or would people start blaming various scapegoats (religious, nationalistic, cultural, ethnic) for the virus and see an increase in pogroms and repression?
Depending on the nature of the pandemic the answer might be surprisingly little, if the 1918 flu pandemic is anything to go by. It killed around 675,000 Americans, double the casualties that the U.S. suffered in WWII. Despite this it’s been called the “forgotten pandemic”.
So back to the population number we had in 2006? The world was so different then…
During the plague we may see more travel restrictions and crazy overreactions. Within two years of the end of the virulent phase we will be complaining about the mandatory “surgical mask and gloves” requirements for air travel and the internet will be full of stories from concerned mothers who believe hand sanitizer is causing ADHD in their kids.
So, I don’t believe there will be any long-term cultural changes.
I’ll side with those who say “not much”, except maybe for changes in medical practices like hospital procedures. The 1918 flu pandemic is probably a good illustration of that. 9/11 was quite different as it evoked deeply emotional issues of blame and retribution and, even more importantly, it was an enabler for political opportunism.
There was an overlap of about a year, but the pandemic raged on long after the end of the war and is often regarded as largely a post-war event. And the war itself is a good counterexample: the war had major political and cultural impacts while the pandemic had practically none.
It would depend on just how that 5% was distributed. If you’re talking about basically wiping out the entire population of the US in some sort of disease event, the economic consequences of that would be staggering to the rest of the world.
If it’s 300 million senior citizens distributed evenly all over the world, not so much.
300 million children under the age of 3? Much bigger deal.
I realize the number of deaths isn’t too high, that is why I picked 5% of humanity as an arbitrary number. But if some superflu infects 25% of humanity and kills 20% of them, isn’t that going to change the culture? Those are roughly the stats from the 1918 flu pandemic.
I’m going to assume life is less cheap than it was in 1918 for various reasons (they were in a 4 year long global war, medicine wasn’t nearly as good, living standards were lower). Wouldn’t almost everyone losing a friend, family member or their own life to the disease affect the culture somehow, affect it in ways that are different than would happen in the past? At the very least people would have to watch several of their friends and family members play Russian roulette with the flu. I think we take our mortality for granted far more than people did in the past when other pandemics arose.
Right, but the question wasn’t about how well reported the events were at the time, but how well remembered they were in the culture fifty, sixty, or seventy years later. I suspect there was a lot of reporting on the epidemic in 1918. How many books, or movies, or plays, or songs were written *after *1918 that dealt with the subject of the epidemic? Some, I’m sure, but not a lot, and not many that stuck around in the popular consciousness for an appreciable amount of time.