Discussion about Ebola

During the “Ebola talk” last Monday, Ms Franklin recounted how an infected man had fled from Guinea to Senegal knowing he had the disease; she commented how his actions, although unjustifiable, were understandable: if there was better medical attention elsewhere, wouldn’t anyone try to seek it hoping to get treated? This narrative resembles of the zombie behaviour that we have encountered in several texts such as Defoe and Dream of Ding Village, of people exposing others to the disease with little regret or even amusement.

Both guest speakers mentioned the idea of dying with dignity: Ms Franklin commented on this while showing pictures of some victims, abandoned after passing away; while Ms Moussan from Médecins sans Frontières explained that amongst the aims of their organization were to treat the symptoms, alleviate the pain and ensure that the patient’s last hours were bearable and dignified. This subject invokes the responsibility of the living to look after the sick and provide a respectful burial. In addition, “dying with dignity” can be interpreted as the deceased maintaining his honour at the time of death, thus limiting our intentions of enjoying life at its fullest before dying. In Dream of Ding Village, Ding Liang claimed that because faced quickly and decisively approached them they could indulge in pleasures without caring for other’s opinions, nevertheless he still strived to legitimize his new marriage before passing away, so that , thus demonstrating that the sick still have responsibilities to society.

Finally, another compelling fact shared at the discussion was that the fastest ways that Ebola was spreading was through local funeral rites, and it was suggested that to avoid further spread it was necessary to take precautions that clashed with traditional rites. It thus links to another subject that we’ve discussed before: mass graves and death carts, as seen in Defoe, Camus and Pushkin. This raises a couple of questions. Are mass graves actually helpful in preventing the spread of disease, or they detrimental? And how far are we willing to abandon social norms to prevent the expansion of the disease and the endangerment of those that remain?

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