The history of the world, for a long time, was the history of great people. Mostly great men. It focused on singular individuals and seldom mentioned common people. Preferring to recount historical events from the perspective of leaders.
Arguably, the First World War was the catalyst for change. Monuments sprung up to memorialise the dead, be they the lowliest soldier or greatest general. In other words, common people became more than just a statistic.
Fast forward 100 years and it feels as thought we have taken a step backward. To the extent that ‘common people’ don’t even seem to make it into the statistics. It is with alarm, but not much surprise, that I see India surging up the Covid league table. 56,000 new cases per day for the last seven days. Total cases now top 1.9 million.
What is even more alarming, is that when Mumbai authorities took blood tests from 7,000 randomly selected individuals, they found 57% of slum dwellers had coronavirus antibodies in their systems. If those numbers hold for the total population of the city, it could mean 4.56 million people have the virus in one city alone.
In Delhi, a sample of 20,000 people found 23.4% had contracted Covid. If those results are indicative of the total population, that would equate to 6.8 million infections in the city.
Extrapolate those figures across the entire Indian population, and there is a an undocumented humanitarian disaster happening.
When Lucien Febvre first used the phrase ‘history seen from below and not from above’ (histoire vue d’en bas et non d’en haut) he was extolling the need to write the history of the masses. I hope for the history of Covid, my reasoning on the potential of untold numbers is very, very wrong.
Good night, and good luck.