A Tale of Two Pandemics

In the history of world literature, stories of pandemics or plagues abound. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex was an early tale of TWO plagues. Ignorant of his troubled birth story in Thebes, Oedipus travels over the mountain from Corinth and finds Thebes ravaged by a plague imposed by a sphinx. On his journey, he had been challenged on the road by a royal traveller whom he fought and killed, his own father. The Thebans beg him to solve the Sphinx’ riddle and save them from the plague. Oedipus solves the simple riddle about the beast that goes on four feet, two feet, and three feet. The answer is MAN. The sphinx is defeated, and Oedipus is rewarded with the hand of the queen in marriage (his own mother). He rules happily for a generation, raising a family of four children with his wife/mother Jocasta. But the plague returns. Note: THE PLAGUE ALWAYS RETURNS. Again the Thebans ask the great riddle solver to deliver them. The riddle he must solve this time is who killed the previous king, his father. A wise man advises Oedipus not to pursue this answer, but he presses on. As we know, he learns the truth, blinds and banishes himself, saving the city. Note: the answer to both riddles is a MAN, but the second answer for Oedipus is YOU. Was Sophocles offering all of us wisdom on where to look for plague causes AND remedies? So it seems.

If you don’t know that plagues always return, if you don’t know enough to prepare, if you don’t read and are simply ignorant, if you keep saying no one could possibly have seen this coming, and if you cancel the NSC’s global health security directorate... the problem is not that there are viruses. The problem is YOU.