Back in the late summer, as Ebola was becoming front page news.....someone did up a historical analysis of Ebola's affect on Africa....shining a great deal of light on how the disease would pop up in central Africa for a couple of months.....kill a couple of hundred....then seem to fade off. In this 2013-2014 episode....it had appeared in western Africa instead....gotten past the couple of hundred, and was NOT fading off. The question seemed to linger there.....why?
This week, from the Wall Street Journal, there's a fine article by Peter Wonacott ("Village Healers Complicate Ebola Fight"), that puts some reasons out on why it spread out in western Africa and seems to have no brick wall to run into.
As the article draws upon.....as the disease went into turbo fashion.....health care workers began to appear in the more remote areas of western Africa, and were immediately seen by the local village healers as a threat. If you'd built up your whole life on being the 'witch-doctor' of some village....you really didn't want someone coming in to steal your thunder or business.....or getting the people into modern medicine.
The general accusation? The medical experts arriving were after body organs and helping some process to steal them from innocent villagers.
You can sit and be amused by the accusation, but that's the type of mentality that you are dealing with. Add to the mentality.....that the village healers believe it's necessary to wash down dead bodies before burial. You can guess just how much this aides in Ebola moving quickly through a village and never
All of this puts me to history repeating itself, and a short discussion on Europe. Village healers were a popular thing throughout Europe, and really didn't get challenged until the end of the 1600s. When you look at the various occasions of the plague, rampant abuse of religion, and accusations of witchcraft.....your life hung in the balance every single day.
As the Age of Enlightenment came....it was more of a do-or-die battle between science and healers. You couldn't make a law that would allow new ideas or medical processes to be accepted. It was simply a case of someone trying something different....it works....then trying to get public sentiment to go against the leadership or healer of the local village.
The problem in Africa? Modern society arrived some years ago in central Africa and village healers have been on the downswing in terms of trust. That's not the same deal as in western Africa.....where a healer still has the full trust of the village. But Ebola has not been kind in it's relationship with healers.....they are rapidly dying off. Unless some gifted talker is sitting in the wings....there's going to be this window open where modern science and medicine might enter and gain a threshold.
Europe did not really advance at monumental speeds in the Age of Enlightenment....it walked gracefully like a duck, and sometimes slammed into brick walls. In the case of western Africa, the Age of Enlightenment has finally and gracefully arrived. It may not be pretty.