I invariantly jog along the same old path. The spot, winding abeam the sea front, is just perfect to let one's mind wander : marvelous landscape - the giant ramparts of the ancient volcano on the right, the furious flows of the Indian Ocean on the left - surrounded by the sunny bright sky and the muffled clatter of the shiny peebles rolling under the waves. I should change sometime... But, you know, those daily habits, which become more pervasive with the age, while the lookout for some novelties becomes less appealing... I sometimes wonder if I'm not turning into one of those decrepit-minded conservative guys... But I digress.
The old pathway leads to a weird place called Cimetière La Peste. There's something in the air around that old marine graveyard, some people even certify that lost souls are still haunting the place, and it's not unusual to find the remains of some sacrificed chicken or local mystic rites. In fact, the spirit of the cemetery rather stands in its tragic history : in March 1919, the Madonna's ship, sailing from Europe to Reunion, brought the Spanish Influenza to the island, 10.000 people passed away in a few weeks and hundreds of poor damned ones were quickly and discreetly buried there together in mass graves *.
But whatever might think a few gullible believers, some feelings can't be missed around there: recollection, sorrow, always followed by a deep terror, thinking of the fact that it would obviously happen again someday.
One century after the disaster, the catastrophe scenario obviously didn't occur again, and the comparaison of two similar pandemic events leads to a clear conclusion : the victorious battles in the war against the present virus must be counted among the biggest achievements of scientific studies and medical progress.
A team of genetics' researchers has recently sequenced, for the first time, the whole lineage of the variants of the Spanish Influenza. They proved that its very first mutation - the same one as the one embedded on the Madonna's boat - was the most fatal, and all the following ones, popping up every year, became the basic viral strains of our seasonal flu, which quickly lost their damaging mass effects, thanks to global immunization, and later on, to some targeted campaigns of vaccination. The kind of fascinating basic research, full of hope for the upcoming months, that manages to make me still believe in the future and humankind, at least for a little while.
And as I heard that the current period is proper for rejoicing again, here comes another positive news ! Humanist ideas, mostly carried by the democratic societies which decided to take care of their weakest citizens, seem to be the great winners of the current crisis. Isn't that thrilling to see all those worldwide alt-right populist governments (Trump, Modi, Bolsonero...) sinking down, because of their criminal management of the sanitary crisis ? Nature seems to offer us a welcome break in the irresistible rebirth of the nationalist filthy beast.
* The local story of the disaster was admirably documented by Huo-Chao-Si & Appollo in the best-seller comix book La Grippe Coloniale (Vent d'Ouest Editions - 2003))