Everything seems to be real dicey right now, doesn’t it? Terrible things are being done to innocents, to people who just want to live their lives and raise their families. They’ve done nothing bad to anyone, just led peaceful lives. And then, out of nowhere, everything they took for granted has been torn from them and their families are dead or missing. And then while War gallops through Ukraine and the Middle East, Pestilence in the form of ebola invades our consciousness and offers another form of terror in the form of death that rots you from the inside out.
I’ve been distracted just like everyone else, by events that are literally beyond my control. The hideous slaughter of innocents in the Middle East and the rebellion in Ukraine were suddenly overshadowed by a lethal, horrifying disease caused by an organism which has no other purpose than its own survival, at any cost whatsoever.
We are all distracted by this, but there are so many parallels to these things in history that I spent some time researching them, just to set my own mind at ease.
In the Middle Ages, great armies formed at the behest of Pope Urban II, after a potboiler speech on an auspicious day, armies whose sole purpose was to take control of lands in the Middle East, wresting that control away from the Moors and other Middle Eastern tribes and clans that held it. This was the start of the Crusades, land wars which lasted for several centuries of continuous warfare. Kingdoms and empires rose and fell during this time, and over those many, many centuries the wars continued in one way or another.
Once the Crusades were underway, trade began with the Far East and the unknown country Cathay, which we now call China. The known world began to expand. With foreign trade came the trading ships in the Black Sea loading goods from caravans crossing the Gobi Desert, following the oldest trading route in the world, the Old Silk Road. One item gave that road its name: silk, cloth made from fiber spun by silkworms into cocoons in which they would gestate while they became silk moths. With those trading ships, loaded to the gunwales with cargo, came rats infested with fleas that carried the Plague. The Plague did not kill everyone who got it, but it did empty entire villages in many places. They became ghost towns. It did not differentiate between peasant and potentate. It did not care about anything but finding a host and expanding. Yet other villages and cities survived unscathed.
What do we face now? War in the Middle East which started when some of you reading this were barely in the first grade and are now reaching adulthood, warfare that looks as though it may follow the same pattern as the Crusades as it runs its course; and the ebola virus, a pestilence in the form of an aggressive, lethal disease that has no cure and lives on after its host has died, or is defeated only by the robust immune system of its host.
While it’s easy enough to slip into the mindset of dystopia, which is the setting in which everything has gone bad and survival is chancy at best, as in the “Mad Max’ movies, “The Hunger Games” and “The Children Of Men”, among many, many other stories, books and movies that have followed this ‘end of days’ theme, somehow humans have managed to survive, rebuild and prosper, and then move onward, despite Plagues and apocalyptic events.
We have survived, regrouped, prospered and moved on.
The future is always uncertain. There is no way to avoid surprises like this, but rather to try to be prepared for them. And with this, rather than take the view that we are all doomed to extinction, something I do not believe to be true, I have chosen to use these events as historic parallels in my stories, and to allow us mere humans to find ways to overcome those kinds of threats that say ‘doom on you, doom on you’.
This is partly because, as I said, we mere mortals have somehow survived, rebuilt and moved on over many thousands of years. We aren’t dead yet. A thousand years from now, we will be looking back at this time and wondering how anyone survived it. And we will still look at the stars and wonder if there is someone else out there looking back at us.
Perhaps some day, we’ll find that we are looking back at ourselves.