The more things change

Having been exiled from my customary place of work, and desiring to occupy my newfound hours at home with topics of interest or import that might benefit my mind, I endeavored to read Mr. Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year.  That luminous man of letters, by a great pestilence confined to his London dwelling in the year 1665, penned a history of his confinement, which he generously complemented with observations upon the numerous effects the pestilence visited upon people, government, and society.

For some weeks I had been much plagued by emails and texts from family, friends, and acquaintances regarding the COVID-19 visitation upon the land.  Astrologers explained why and what was to come; a professed angel availed himself of YouTube to guide me through the travail; remedies (homemade and scientific alike, and all for a price) found sanctuary in my inbox and spam folder; a family member provided much needed numerological insight; etc.  But I was far more distressed by the information the local, state, national, and global "authorities" and those reporting upon them were imparting.  In brief, I was confounded and suspicious and trusted almost nothing I heard or read.

After having read but perhaps one fifth of Mr. Defoe's book, I am much impressed, despite 365 years intervening, by the similarities between our confinements.

Mr. Defoe was distressed by the weekly counts of the dead.  Particularly in the early stages of the plague, he averred that the government underreported the demise of those poor afflicted souls in order to quell panic among the people, while the "quacks and mountebanks, wizards and fortune tellers ... of which the town was so full" magnified the doom in numbers in order to better peddle their potions and unguents, or their insights and advice gleaned from occult understanding of planetary conjunctions."

The citizens of London in 1665 endured far-reaching restrictions on their freedoms eerily similar to those being visited upon us today.  Each topic was followed by comprehensive prohibitions, requirements, all severely punishable if ignored.

ORDERS CONCEIVED AND PUBLISHED BY THE LORD MAYOR AND ALDERMEN OF THE CITY OF LONDON CONCERNING THE INFECTION OF THE PLAGUE, 1665.
Examiners to be appointed in every Parish.
The Examiner’s Office.
Watchmen.
Searchers.
Chirurgeons.
Nurse-keepers.

ORDERS CONCERNING INFECTED HOUSES AND PERSONS SICK OF THE PLAGUE.
Notice to be given of the Sickness.
Sequestration of the Sick.
Airing the Stuff.
Shutting up of the House.
None to be removed out of infected Houses, but, &C.
Burial of the Dead.
No infected Stuff to be uttered.
No Person to be conveyed out of any infected House.
Every visited House to be marked.
Every visited House to be watched.
Inmates.
Hackney-Coaches.

ORDERS FOR CLEANSING AND KEEPING OF THE STREETS SWEPT.
The Streets to be kept Clean.
That Rakers take it from out the Houses.
Laystalls to be made far off from the City.
Care to be had of unwholesome Fish or Flesh, and of musty Corn.

ORDERS CONCERNING LOOSE PERSONS AND IDLE ASSEMBLIES.
Beggars.
Plays.
Feasting prohibited.
Tippling-houses.

In one notable regard, Mr. Defoe lived in a more fearsome, unforgiving, and cruel era.  Upwards of 40,000 dogs were slaughtered, and countless more cats, in effort to quell the pestilence.

In one notable regard, Mr. Defoe lived a more prudent era, as today, many tens of thousands of loose persons are allowed to continue swarming on the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities and to be a great cause of the spreading of the infection.  From the "Beggars" orders: "Forasmuch as nothing is more complained of than the multitude of rogues and wandering beggars that swarm in every place about the city, being a great cause of the spreading of the infection[.] ... It is therefore now ordered ... that no wandering beggars be suffered in the streets of this city in any fashion or manner whatsoever[.]"  It is believed that those people removed to the countryside for the duration of the plague.

It appears to me that aside from technology, nothing has much changed in the many ways people and governments survive a plague.

Having been exiled from my customary place of work, and desiring to occupy my newfound hours at home with topics of interest or import that might benefit my mind, I endeavored to read Mr. Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year.  That luminous man of letters, by a great pestilence confined to his London dwelling in the year 1665, penned a history of his confinement, which he generously complemented with observations upon the numerous effects the pestilence visited upon people, government, and society.

For some weeks I had been much plagued by emails and texts from family, friends, and acquaintances regarding the COVID-19 visitation upon the land.  Astrologers explained why and what was to come; a professed angel availed himself of YouTube to guide me through the travail; remedies (homemade and scientific alike, and all for a price) found sanctuary in my inbox and spam folder; a family member provided much needed numerological insight; etc.  But I was far more distressed by the information the local, state, national, and global "authorities" and those reporting upon them were imparting.  In brief, I was confounded and suspicious and trusted almost nothing I heard or read.

After having read but perhaps one fifth of Mr. Defoe's book, I am much impressed, despite 365 years intervening, by the similarities between our confinements.

Mr. Defoe was distressed by the weekly counts of the dead.  Particularly in the early stages of the plague, he averred that the government underreported the demise of those poor afflicted souls in order to quell panic among the people, while the "quacks and mountebanks, wizards and fortune tellers ... of which the town was so full" magnified the doom in numbers in order to better peddle their potions and unguents, or their insights and advice gleaned from occult understanding of planetary conjunctions."

The citizens of London in 1665 endured far-reaching restrictions on their freedoms eerily similar to those being visited upon us today.  Each topic was followed by comprehensive prohibitions, requirements, all severely punishable if ignored.

ORDERS CONCEIVED AND PUBLISHED BY THE LORD MAYOR AND ALDERMEN OF THE CITY OF LONDON CONCERNING THE INFECTION OF THE PLAGUE, 1665.
Examiners to be appointed in every Parish.
The Examiner’s Office.
Watchmen.
Searchers.
Chirurgeons.
Nurse-keepers.

ORDERS CONCERNING INFECTED HOUSES AND PERSONS SICK OF THE PLAGUE.
Notice to be given of the Sickness.
Sequestration of the Sick.
Airing the Stuff.
Shutting up of the House.
None to be removed out of infected Houses, but, &C.
Burial of the Dead.
No infected Stuff to be uttered.
No Person to be conveyed out of any infected House.
Every visited House to be marked.
Every visited House to be watched.
Inmates.
Hackney-Coaches.

ORDERS FOR CLEANSING AND KEEPING OF THE STREETS SWEPT.
The Streets to be kept Clean.
That Rakers take it from out the Houses.
Laystalls to be made far off from the City.
Care to be had of unwholesome Fish or Flesh, and of musty Corn.

ORDERS CONCERNING LOOSE PERSONS AND IDLE ASSEMBLIES.
Beggars.
Plays.
Feasting prohibited.
Tippling-houses.

In one notable regard, Mr. Defoe lived in a more fearsome, unforgiving, and cruel era.  Upwards of 40,000 dogs were slaughtered, and countless more cats, in effort to quell the pestilence.

In one notable regard, Mr. Defoe lived a more prudent era, as today, many tens of thousands of loose persons are allowed to continue swarming on the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities and to be a great cause of the spreading of the infection.  From the "Beggars" orders: "Forasmuch as nothing is more complained of than the multitude of rogues and wandering beggars that swarm in every place about the city, being a great cause of the spreading of the infection[.] ... It is therefore now ordered ... that no wandering beggars be suffered in the streets of this city in any fashion or manner whatsoever[.]"  It is believed that those people removed to the countryside for the duration of the plague.

It appears to me that aside from technology, nothing has much changed in the many ways people and governments survive a plague.