Anna Maria Benedetti
We are not immortal and we are not even humble.
There have been numerous epidemics throughout history: typhus, smallpox, plague, cholera. Viruses mutated and reappeared over time. The only defence was respect for simple rules of daily hygiene, frequent hand washing, keeping a safe distance from others, protecting the nose and mouth, while today we say ‘wear a mask’.
In the Bronze Age, the Yamnaya moved from the steppe to Europe and settled in the north. Disease had weakened these organized and prosperous Europeans, which allowed the settlement of the new people who were immune to the bacterium Yersinia Pestis. In 2015, studies conducted on the DNA found in the teeth of skeletons in the steppe dating back to 5000 BCE showed the presence of Yersinia Pestis. It is no coincidence that Europe, which on closer inspection can be considered a peninsula of Asia, speaks Indo-European languages.
In the fifth century BCE cholera was already known to Hippocrates: the name derives from the ancient Greek, meaning gutter, because it seemed ‘as if the intestine poured water from a gutter’. Only in 1849 did Dr John Snow, during an epidemic in England, suspect that the cause of transmission of cholera was putrid water. Cholera from sewer-rat fleas passed to humans, yet another passage of the disease from animal to man.
In the world of nature everything seems connected, as man humbly tries to survive
Art responds to challenges in so many ways, by expressing its anger and disgust at what it does not share or by taking refuge in the spiritual to survive. In the 20th century there are numerous art movements in this sense. Everyone reacts as best they can, we are not immortal and very often we are not humble in the face of disease. Our weakness is the same as that of 500, of 5,000 years ago. The world goes on, some help today comes from technology. With it, during the lockdowns, we have united. There is nothing new under the sun. The message of hope comes in a smile.
Volume 35 no 4 March – April 2021