October 16, 2014

Today's immigrants are revolutionizing the way we experience disease — again

With ebola in the news, it's worth placing it in the broader context of exotic epidemic diseases cursing status-striving societies, where laissez-faire norms open the floodgates to all manner of vile pollution from outside.

The last peak of status-striving, inequality, and immigration was circa 1920, right when the Spanish flu pandemic struck. During the Great Compression, with immigration nearly ground to a halt, epidemic diseases looked to become a thing of the past. That sunny man-on-the-moon optimism of the 1960s would be undone by the Me Generation of the '70s. Not coincidentally, old diseases began rearing their ugly heads once more.

See this earlier post that examined the rise and fall and rise of epidemic diseases and pests, in tandem with the trends of inequality and immigration. Vaccines, hygiene, public health initiatives, etc., seem to have little or nothing to do with the fall, which in several cases was well underway before the vaccine was even discovered, let alone administered across the population.

It could have boiled down to something simple like the body not being burdened by as much stress as in hyper-competitive times, and keeping the ecosystem of diseases manageable by not allowing in boatload after boatload of new strains. Since ancient times, global migration has spread contagious diseases, but the world became less intertwined during the Great Compression.

Ebola will not become the pandemic of our neo-Gilded Age because it doesn't spread so easily. But ebola is just the tip of the iceberg of what is pouring into our country, and Western countries generally. It is not an isolated curiosity, but part of a larger population of pathogens being trucked and flown into this country every day.

One of those bugs, as of now an unseen up-and-comer, will soon enjoy its glory days just as the Spanish flu did 100 years ago. You can't say that America doesn't encourage the underdogs to give it their all.


  1. Besides diseases, there were a lot of building collapses, construction accidents and fires at the turn of the century. The infrastructure rotted throughout the Victorian era, and when the culture became more active and outgoing, it began collapsing.

  2. The start of mass age of jet travel was in the 1960's, also a period where Western countries had conquered previous infectious diseases due to penicillin and other health initiatives. Because of this governments stopped checking travelers and immigrants for diseases. In the ensuing years, we have become heavily dependent on jet travel for business, and Western politicians want to import new citizens, and there are a host of new diseases due to massive population explosion. This creates the situation where we a re-experiencing both old and new diseases on a renewed scale.

  3. hello from 2020


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."