Although there exist many manifestations of apocalypse in our society, an extensive study of the subject of apocalypse will demonstrate the presence of an inherent trait that runs constant within nearly all forms of apocalypse; despite the fact that the prospect of a destructive apocalypse is undeniably frightening, most forms of apocalypses are simultaneously reassuring in that they offer an aspect of control that allows for humans to alter their own fate through a change in behavior, thusly halting an apocalypse. Perhaps it is for this reason that the prospect of an apocalyptic plague or disease stands alone as a unique and terrifying agent of apocalypse; disease has existed throughout history as an omnipresent form of apocalypse because naturally occurring disease is not onset by the action of man himself, and thusly offers no opportunity for human control or preclusion. Because man does not have any hand in triggering an apocalyptic disease, he similarly has nearly no possible means of preventing or eradicating one.
[...] It could be argued that if disease deems human technology as enough of a threat, it may choose to wipe us out altogether, eliminating the problem. If a disease, biologically unique and never before encountered by modern science, with a high death rate, extreme resilience and an incredible infectiveness were to strike the world population, the world would be doomed in that the human race would be so caught off guard that it would be unable to save itself. Herein lies the terrifying essence of an apocalypse due to disease: we do not, and most likely will never have the ability to halt the ever-changing, ever-strengthening forces of disease. [...]
[...] Perhaps this is why man finds the notion of an impending apocalypse due to disease so frightening; he knows he cannot control or prevent its onset, but only trivially manipulate its behavior. And, as all other forms of apocalypse change due to the influence of man, the prospect of an apocalypse due to disease will forever loom over man as a reminder that he is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent, and that the forces of the earth can strike back at any time without reason, rationality, [...]
[...] This false sense of control is another aspect of disease as an agent of apocalypse that sets it apart from many other sorts of apocalypse; disease divides and conquers, it causes people to lose their compassion and isolate themselves from one another, causing a loss of common information, and then slowly kills those who are exposed but unable to control it. In his book The Hot Zone, Richard Preston describes how the 1976 outbreak of the Ebola disease in Zaire cast a cloud of darkness over part of the nation: Captains of the riverboats had heard about the virus by this time, and they refused to stop their boats anywhere along the length of the river in Bumba, even though people beseeched them from the banks. [...]
[...] Because disease can reach any organism on the planet regardless of status, age, or health, it can be argued that disease is the most magnificent and powerful form of apocalypse in the world, in that it has affected, and will affect our existence more significantly than any other type of apocalypse possibly could. The malaria disease is a fine example of how diseases strike at will with sheer power and without discrimination: Since the beginning of history malaria has killed half of the men, woman and children that have died on the planet. [...]
[...] In a like manner, one could convincingly argue that man does indeed have a control over the prospect of infectious disease as an agent of apocalypse. In his book Virus: Ground Zero, Ed Regis argues that viruses of apocalyptic proportions are a thing of the past. He states that “[e]xcept for influenza and AIDS, the country no longer ha[s] epidemics, it ha[s] outbreaks. But even AIDS, the new scourge, nothing like the major killers of past history” (229). Here, Regis implies that through our medical, technological, and hygienic advancements, we have essentially foiled the possibility of any sort of apocalyptic plague existing long enough or with enough power to destroy our society. [...]
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