Tell it to SunStar: Dim

·3 min read

DEAR Mrs. Lim,

I would like to take the liberty of reflecting on your Sunday (January 17) column.

Indiscipline and ignorance are not only a problem of the Philippines, as a glance to the USA and Europe will confirm.

While I absolutely agree with you that wearing a mask, face shield and social distancing must strictly be adhered to, I would like to point out that your column doesn't go deep enough.

Just let me point out one example, as recently reported, around 50 percent of Filipinos have no access to sanitary facilities, then why should we still be surprised about the epidemic?

Aren't the real causes for the epidemic to be found in the intolerable conditions of the political and social circumstances?

I take the liberty of a review of the year 1848 when in a remote part of Prussia (later Germany), within a few weeks, over 80,000 people fell ill with the so-called hunger typhus. The Prussian government sent chief medical officer Rudolf Virchow to the area. Virchow wrote an 180-page report, now considered classics in epidemiology and social science.

Virchow recognized that it was the political and social circumstances that made it possible that the virus spread, and one have to change the political and social circumstances to prevent the spread of devastating epidemics in the future.

Virchow described the desolate hygienic conditions, miserable accommodations, the poor nutritional status of the residents, the apathy of the rag proletariat. Virchow let no doubt that the responsibility for the misery was born by the officials of a State not concerned about the welfare of the people, the feudal lords, and last but not least, the superiors of the Catholic Church, indifferent to the living conditions of the rural population.

That was 173 years ago, but doesn't it sound familiar to the Philippines in 2021?

Virchow concluded: "This is why the existing social conditions need to be overturned. If you want change, you have to be radical."

Virchows social hygienic reports end as a revolutionary pamphlet.

Epidemics, that much is certain, are a maximum stress test for existing structures and, therefore, always accelerated social change.

For instance, the knowledge of epidemiologists like William Farr and John Snow (who documented the thesis that Cholera is spread via contaminated water in London 1854) led to the development of a modern urban infrastructure and, above all, sewer systems in major European cities.

After the Cholera epidemics in Paris 1832 and 1849, Prefect GE Haussmann's ambition was to radically modernize Paris not only on the surface, but also underground with the engineer E. Belgrand, who created a sewer system that cut off Paris from the filthy Seine water and ensured the metropolis drinking water supply from sources of the Dhuys and the Vanne Champagne.

Haussmann's sewer systems were so successful that it became one of the greatest attractions during the "World Exhibition" in 1867 in the new Paris.

The Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev, one of the brightest European thinkers at the moment, suspected in his latest paper on the consequences of the corona crises with the pretty title: "Is this tomorrow already?" Quote: "The world will be different, not because there is a consensus of our societies that want change, but because WE SIMPLY CANNOT GO BACK!"

In the case of the coronavirus, that means: It was able to spread because it fits in with a globalized society we have built.

An overpopulated community of around 7.8 billion people, of which 4.2 billion live in densely populated cities.

It is a human world that due to permanent expansion, is increasingly narrowing the habitat of wild animals!

So Philippines, quo vadis? Now is the time for change! You cannot simply go back!

Peter H. Trankner, German retiree