A very long-lasting lingering memory of having spent time in a full-blown Rabies virus outbreak, is how fear of an ‘invisible enemy’ manifests itself within the human population. When you learn to observe what a microscopic pathogen is capable of, its impersonal objective aim to survive and thrive, respect becomes an addition to fear. Terror is only a short sneeze cough or bite away.
A viral outbreak/epidemic/pandemic has an observational physical manifestation with very visible impacts. But under that grosser reality resides a more subtle emotional level.
Zoonotic pathogens that jump/leap from animal to human are particularly scary. But given our baseless and arrogant belief that we are better or separate from what inhabits that other world we tend not to think about the consequences until the threat directly confronts us. It is in this psychological realm where real long-lasting damage and hopefully reflective learning is done. The dead are dead, but will the living learn from the shock experience and commit to adaptation and heed the message to change, in order to survive.
When Rabies impacted Bali, the island was totally unprepared. Prevention is better than cure, is of course wonderful in hindsight. The result unfortunately, given our historical reality of national and global reactive forces/measures to crisis response, has continuously led us to wage war from a defensive position. Bali was certainly not alone in how it responded. It was to witness that their human population had no immunity against a deadly viral bloom that was successfully using their own indigenous canine as its transportation vector. What lessons the small Island would learn, given their economic dependence on tourism and unique version of Hinduism dictating their daily existence, is still unfolding 10 years on.
Bali dogs were blamed for bringing a harbinger of death onto Bali and they suffered horribly from an outbreak that was not their fault. Their physical/emotional wellbeing and survival was decimated and the refusal to acknowledge their sentience was intolerably sad. Predictably we must use othering to blame for and cover our own shortcomings.
Ten years later and another Zoonosis is spreading terror in the minds of humans. Suspicion and mistrust of each other and hypervigilance is now our constant reality. We are isolated physically and mentally, with literally nowhere to go.
Undoubtedly Bali dogs will suffer on an Island in lockdown. Freedom of movement will not feed their dependence on us for most of their nutrition. They cannot be blamed for this Pandemic, although I am sure many would like nothing better. This falls completely in the collective human lap.
Herd immunity, 70-80% population vaccination, has always been a standard by which a species can reach resistance against the spread of a contagious disease, usually in the form of a deadly threat. This was what saved more dog and human lives on Bali.
After a decade ‘studying’ the Bali dog and the relationship it has with its environment we can confidently say that humans have not made their existence better. Their gross environment, air water landmass, has been depleted and squeezed. Their ability to free roam, as is their innate nature/instinct, has been curtailed massively. Their ability to reach herd immunity against their most deadly threat is impossible when faced with the globes most lethal virus.
Nothing to date has been successful in resisting the most virulent destructive virus known to nature. Herd immunity has not saved many/any species from us. We have been waging an ongoing war, systematically exterminating everything around us, with no regard for the simple reality of interdependence.
We have lived by a banal, selfish, self-serving, and infantile insecure logic of ‘kill or be killed.’
A virus is a virus is a virus….
Not a thing compares to us.