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Noted: Morley: Thucydides & Plague

I try to think about ancient Greece, its economy and its political economy, and I am led back to… COVID-19: Neville Morley: People Are Strange ‘We need history, whether the detailed records of the influenza pandemic of the early 20th century or the careful account of Thucydides of the Athenian plague or the imaginative reconstruction of Camus: as a means of understanding how people may behave under unprecedented conditions of stress and uncertainty.... They don’t behave ‘normally’; the traditional institutions, values and social expectations all buckle and collapse, time horizons shrink—live for the moment’s pleasure, because wealth and life are transitory, and the path of honour takes too long—and emotional states are dramatically heightened, from absolute despair to unshakable confidence.... It’s not normative social science, establishing clear principles on the basis of a fixed idea of human nature. On the contrary, Thucydides’ ‘human thing’ is fuzzy, inconsistent, and somewhat unpredictable; just as no single remedy for the plague works for everybody, so not everyone responds in the same way. Some shun the sick, even their own families, while others risk their lives to keep looking after them; and reducing this to a quantified estimate of self-sacrifice probability rather misses the point.... Thucydides’ juxtaposition of the noble, in retrospect entirely unrealistic generalisations of Pericles’ Funeral Oration and the horrors of the plague—which of course also carried off Pericles... #coronavirus #history #noted #plague #publichealth #2020-05-18