There’s a brief aside towards the end of Apollo’s Arrow which was intended as innocuous but in practice is unsettling. Nicholas Christakis draws a comparison between the potential impact of COVID-19 and other crises which have had a long-lasting influence upon social life. From pg 322:
The COVID-19 pandemic awakened Americans to the importance of public health in the same way that 9/ 11 opened our eyes to the sophisticated threats to our national security, the great recession to the fragility of our financial system, and the election of various populist leaders around the world in the twenty-first century to the dangers of political extremism.
Doesn’t this point to something sinister? It’s certainly preferable that there’s not a post-Covid social amnesia about the risk of pandemics, as the accelerating emergence of infectious diseases means not only won’t this be the last pandemic but the next one might be sooner than we imagine. There has been a tendency for past pandemics to fade into obscurity after they have passed, as can be demonstrated by asking those who lived through the 1957 and 1968 pandemics whether they remember them.
However this leaves us with the question of how forgetting is avoided. This framing by Christakis makes it easy to imagine the war on pandemics as a successor to the war on terror: an ideological and institutional apparatus for hyper-securitisation which transforms everyday life, organisations, the state and the legal frameworks which connect them.
I later came across this warning by Mike Davis in the Monster Enters. From loc 504:
it’s inevitable that the rightwing leaders in the White House, Downing Street, Beit Aghion, and elsewhere will seize every opportunity, as they did with 9/11, to appropriate new authoritarian powers, exploiting the consequences of their own inaction and disastrous leadership to set more precedents for closing public spaces, banning assemblies, and even suspending elections.