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Pandemics and Collective Grief

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"Yet what do we see when we unravel the scroll of the twentieth century? Two world wars, the rise and fall of communism, perhaps some of the more spectacular episodes of decolonisation. We do not see the most dramatic event of them all...There are very few cemeteries in the world that, assuming they are older than a century, don't contain a cluster of graves from the autumn of 1918 - when the second and worst wave of the pandemic struck - and people's memories reflect that. But there is no cenotaph, no monument in London, Moscow or Washington DC. The Spanish flu is remembered personally, not collectively. Not as a historical disaster, but as millions of discrete, private tragedies." (Laura Spinney, Pale Rider, 2018) People die all the time. Lots of them. According to recent statistics, about 60 million people die every year across the globe. Right now, lots of people are dying in concentrated waves in different countries as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. On the day that I started writing this introduction, 919 people died in Italy and 773 died in Spain from the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That comes on top of days of similar figures. That's a lot of death to contend with in a short space of time.How should we respond to this? Ordinarily we process death through grief. This is something I discussed in my recent conversation with Michael Cholbi about the philosophy of grief. In this post, I want to bring some order to my thoughts on the nature of grief in the time of a pandemic. I'll do this in two parts. First, I will talk about the general nature and value of grief. Second, I will discuss how grief might be impacted by the current pandemic. What I will suggest is that, ordinarily, grief tends to be highly individualised. In the midst of a pandemic, the ordinarily individualised nature of grief can become unavoidably blurred and added to a collectivised form of grief. Maintaining the right balance between respect for the individuals who died. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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