It is rather odd that there is not more written about the influenza pandemic of 1918 or what came to be known as the “Spanish Flu.” No one really knows the death totals but it is safe to say that over 50 million people died worldwide and over 600,000 people died in the United States of America. Like most bad things that happen in life, humans seem to be better off just forgetting these tragedies, but then again perhaps that is why we keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again.
What is different about our current 2020 Covid-19 pandemic is that technology has made it so we can connect with other people in ways probably not even thought possible in 1918. In fact, many are living lives that are more in keeping with the technological imaginations of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Like the spaceship Enterprise on Star Trek we have technology to connect to our alien relatives even if we find them irritating and obnoxious. Like Captain Kirk we have our trusty cellphones even more advanced than his silly flip-phone. We can view and speak with aliens like our strange brother-in-laws on large screens as though they are Klingons from another planet. Perhaps like 1918 our times are often full of solitary activities and our “bubbles” are where we practice our daily and weekly rituals, and many people continue on with their lives working over the internet. That the video conferencing application ZOOM finally figured it out just in the nick of time was serendipitous. Like the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise, people are often found living for days on end wearing what look like pajamas. Instead of getting beamed over to the Covid-19 testing area we get in our spaceships with wheels and are tested without leaving our seats.
Just like Star Trek, sometimes the video connection fizzles out or people just leave like a band-aid torn off with a sudden pull. I am not sure if on Star Trek they had video drinking parties and happy hours but those can be great fun. Rarely does the the narrative get aggressive – “Scotty: we will need more tonic Jim. I don’t think the party will survive without it!!”- as during Covid-19 you are so starved for attention, just seeing another face is often a welcome and novel event. And of course, never mentioned in space travel science fiction, and one thing they always seem leave out, is that to get to Mars, let alone another solar system, is going to take a lot of travel time. Surviving the Covid-19 pandemic is perhaps like training for space travel to Mars.
In 1918 we were just coming to the end of The Great War which eventually gave rise to Hitler and fascist Germany. In 2020 we dodged a bullet as Donald Trump was barely defeated at the polls. Fascism is indeed alive and well and humans are just barely intelligent enough (a little over 50%) to choose between burning up the planet or at least attempting to save what is left of this marvelous place we call Earth.