Lessons from history

Hello again, readers. Do you remember how excited we were to be back in print? Back on Dec. 4, when we released our special Uniter 30 issue, we were thrilled to be back in print after a long pandemic’s worth of online-exclusive publishing.

Well, that didn’t last very long.

Omicron clearly had other plans, and the University of Winnipeg has moved back to remote classes in light of the massive surge in cases. It is, of course, the right move to protect the safety of students, staff and faculty. But it does feel like a disheartening step backwards after a few months of feeling like this pandemic was perhaps starting to finally wind down.

Things aren’t all bad. I am glad that I was able to have a small, mostly masked Christmas get-together with my family, a year after spending the 2020 holiday apart and attempting to Zoom with relatives (success was varied, mostly along generational lines).

Prematurely believing the pandemic is over is a mistake that history has taught us not to make. I’ve been reading historian Dan Jones’ newest book, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages, which describes in some detail the first plague pandemic, which began in the year 541 during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian. When Justinian himself caught, and subsequently recovered from, the illness, he declared in March of 543 that the pandemic (or as he called it, “God’s education”) was over.

Jones points out that Justinian was wrong, and the pandemic raged around the world for another 206 years. So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, folks.

Published in Volume 76, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 13, 2022)

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