The ramifications of coronavirus for D&I

‘Columbus sailed for India
‘Found Salvador instead
‘He shook hands with some Indians and soon they all were dead
‘They got TB and typhoid and athlete’s foot
‘Diphtheria and the flu
‘Excuse me, great nations coming through’

The caustic lyrics of Randy Newman’s song The Great Nations of Europe shows the devastation that can be caused by pathogens being introduced into a culture that has no resistance to them. Despite the Aztecs in the 16th century possessing numerical superiority, this proved no defence against the smallpox virus the Spaniards brought with them to their continent. As the Aztecs had no exposure to the virus, they had no defences against it either, which meant their population was devastated.

Evolutionary psychologists have long recognised the impact of people in groups trying to avoid diseases. When our long-distant ancestors came across tribes they were unfamiliar with, they tended to treat them with suspicion and wariness. In some respects, we carry those tendencies within us even today, and they are particularly noticeable when a public health risk is posed, such as that occurring at the moment with coronavirus.

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