“Let
us not forget that the next pandemic is coming” (Coburn). Whether people
decide to face this disturbing reality or ignore it, the outbreak of a pandemic
is inevitable. As soon as it occurs, the
pandemic will stretch like a colossus around the world, killing tens of
millions if not billions. However, spreading knowledge of the annihilating
consequences of such a threatening epidemic will increase humanities chances of
survival. Each individual needs to be prepared and only then will the entire world
be ready to face the pandemic. In order for everyone to truly start preparing
for the next outbreak, they need to be aware of the disastrous consequences of
pandemics. A good way for everyone to be aware of such consequences is by
reading Blindness by José
Saramago. One consequence of a pandemic outbreak
shown in Saramago’s Blindness is that
the government will lose all of its authority over it’s citizens. Moreover, Saramago’s
Blindness realistically depicts the
darkness of human nature that emerges when such conditions arise. Lastly, an
accurate depiction of the frailty of human civilization, and the fragility of people’s
social connections can be seen in Blindness.
For all these reasons, Blindness by José
Saramago should be the recipient of the 2017 United Nations Book Award because
it accurately depicts the devastating consequences of not being prepared for a
pandemic.

            To begin, Saramago’s Blindness would allow the consequences
of a pandemic to become a shocking realization for society because of its depiction
of a government losing its authority over its citizens. First of all, if there
is no government to maintain order in their citizens, then people can be
dictated by a tyrant. This can be seen in Blindness
when after the government completely vanishes, a gang leader with a gun decides
he is in charge. This dictator refuses to give others food and threatens all
the protesters by shouting, “Be quiet everyone and keep your mouths shut, if
anyone dares to raise their voice, I’ll shoot straight out” (Saramago 201). As evidenced by this quotation, if the government deteriorates, then
dictators or oppressors will rise to power. At the end of the day, a lack of a
proper government will result in misery for the country’s citizens. Moreover, another
issue is that people will do whatever their evil minds imagine, without any
hesitation. To explain, some people take advantage of a lack of a proper
government by feeling as if they are not obliged to follow the rules any more. This
is seen in Blindness with the
occurrence of people robbing each other’s belongings. A prime example of this
is when a thief “took advantage of…people’s confusion and distress and robbed
their personal belongings” (Saramago 140). This demonstrates that people
not only stop fearing the law, but they also lose all forms of humanity. The
examples of the government deteriorating in such a fashion are not only limited
to literature, but have also been witnessed in the real world. This can be seen
in the 2009 H1N1 Influenza outbreak, where a majority of people “believed that the government had overreacted” (Tyler),
and that their response was filled with panic and thus they were “doing a poor or very poor job of providing the country
with adequate vaccine supplies” (Tyler). All of this ultimately led to the
citizens “not trusting public health officials and the government to provide
correct information about the vaccine’s safety” (Tyler). As demonstrated,
people’s perspectives of the government response to this pandemic were full of
mistrust and disbelief. This means that if the H1N1 Influenza had
affected nearly every citizen, then the outcome would have been extremely
similar if not identical to that of Blindness.
With all of these terrifying consequences in mind, people would definitely do
everything in their power in order to make sure that a pandemic does not
conquer the globe. Therefore, Blindness
accurately portrays the horrendous outcome of a pandemic, especially in terms
of the government’s fall and the follow up.

            Moreover, not only does a pandemic
deteriorate a nation’s government but it also makes people’s actions completely
inhumane, as depicted in Blindness.
First of all, most of the people infected with a pandemic become self-serving
and ultimately geared towards mere survival. People seem to disregard elementary
things like care for family when they are infected with such an epidemic. Even
though, this is “against all the rules of humanity” (Saramago 197), it is a
horrible reality and such selfishness is precisely illustrated in Blindness. Since the pandemic in the
novel is Blindness, the first problem with caring for loved ones is logistically
not being able to find them. Afterwards, the realization comes that “they may
become a burden upon your personal survival” (Saramago 207). To prove, after the outbreak of the pandemic it was
extremely rare if not non-existent for there to be “feasts where what belongs to one, belongs to
everybody” (Saramago 178). This shows the extreme degree of selfishness that
was brought upon the infected because of the pandemic. Additionally, in Blindness there are times at which Human nature is shown worst then animal nature. The psychopathic ward of
hoodlums crosses all the lines of humanity and their barbaric actions were not
only inhumane, but even worse than animals. This is shown when they come up
with a scheme wherein they have the right to rape the women of the other wards
in exchange for food. While the sexual interactions of animals are certainly
different compared to humans, it would be hard pressed to find a group of
animals that functioned with a similar degree of calculated exploitation. The
worst part is that this situation could not be solved by mere communication,
but only by murdering the leader of the hoodlums. The women being raped were helpless
and no humane methods worked, so the problem was only ironed out when “a woman had stabbed and killed
the leader of the thugs” (Saramago 246). This shows the
unsympathetic attitudes of those diagnosed with a pandemic. Moreover, some
might consider Blindness as an
unrealistic and pessimistic view of human nature, however, the attitude seen in
Blindness is much closer to reality
then one might realize. For example, during the 2009 H1N1 Influenza outbreak there was a “priority of access to healthcare
resources given to Americans with increased global demand” (Palacios). This is an extremely inhumane and selfish action;
however, it is the realty of human nature. At the end of the day, people have
always put them selves first when it comes to survival and will continue to do
so. By reading Blindness people will
be able to truly understand the dark reality of human nature, especially after such
circumstances arise. In fact, after being aware of such heart wrenching
consequences of pandemics, and their authenticity, readers will definitely be
persuaded that everything in their power should be done to ascertain that
society is best prepared for the next pandemic. Therefore, Blindness is a true representation of humanity, and the dark side
of human nature.

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Furthermore,
an realistically frightening representation of the fragility of human society
and the tenuous interpersonal web of interactions in which people live in today
is illustrated in Saramago’s Blindness. First
of all, once infected, people suddenly become
unable to interact as they did before, and this precipitates a change for the
worse. Such failure of proper interaction can be seen in Blindness by the treatment of the infected
by the soldiers who are ostensibly there to guard them. On several occasions,
the infected are killed almost indiscriminately as seen with the killing of one
of the internees who is trying to ask for medicine in order to treat his
infected leg. The soldier guarding the quarantine, refuses to listen to the
internee with the infected leg and responses by saying, “Look here, blind man, let me tell you something, either you
get back to where you came from, or you’ll be shot”
(Saramago 241). As the dying person with the leg infection continues to ask for help he
is shot and killed. As evident, society’s interpersonal web of
interactions is so fragile that the absence of one faculty, sight in this case,
can cause the whole thing to unravel. Moreover, not only do people’s individual
interactions fall apart, but the larger scale of
infrastructure of society also breaks down. This includes media, transportation
networks, and like previously mentioned the government. These are the
infrastructural elements on which the web of interpersonal relationships
depends upon, in order for people to live in a modernized society. However, all
this falls apart as soon as humans are unable to function as they previously
did. Firstly, in terms of government, their inability to maintain order and put
an end to the epidemic, coupled with their patent lies, convinces people that
any hope implanted upon the government is ill-placed. On the other hand,
transportation systems also break down like seen in Blindness. Due to a crushing infection, in this case Blindness, it become increasingly
dangerous to drive or even be near cars. Apart from government and transport, the financial system is also unable to continue flowing as it normally
did due to the extreme confusion, fear,
and rise in mortality. To explain, the rise in illness and mortality brought
upon a fall in the labour force. Such financial crisis led to “people, afraid
of ending up… unprovided for, raced to the banks to withdraw their money”
(Saramago 112). The ultimate “outcome of this precipitous run on the banks was
that within twenty-four hours some of the main banks were facing ruin”
(Saramago 112). This ultimately shows how easily infrastructure systems and
interactions can break apart, conclusively causing the world to tip over the
edge. Moreover, these severe financial breakdowns as follow ups of a pandemic
as seen in Blindness are extremely
practical; similar outcomes have been seen in the real world. A predominate
example of this can be seen when analysing the economic impact of the 2009 H1N1
Influenza outbreak. With a gross attack rate of under 30% the “estimates of the total economic impact in the United
States of this influenza pandemic were around $166.5 billion” (Tyler). This
tremendous impact only resulted from under 30% of the population being
infected. Imagine a pandemic affecting nearly 100% of the populations, the
outcome would simply be beyond limits. By reading Blindness, society will become appreciative of current norms and
they will put forth their best efforts in order for all possible measures be
taken to avoid the terrible events in Blindness
becoming a reality. Therefore, Blindness
meticulously represents the degree of
weakness and fragility in the bond of human society, enlightening the public of
yet another unpleasant consequence of a pandemic outbreak.

            In
conclusion, Saramago’s Blindness
would be the best candidate for the 2017 United Nations Book
Award because it meticulously illustrates the gruesome
follow up of an unprepared pandemic outbreak. Firstly, such an event results in
the government failing, which brings about horrible consequences. Second,
people lose all forms of humanity and are transformed into cold-blooded and
brutal creatures. Lastly, humans are unable to socially interact as they did
before, and the infrastructure of society
breaks down. In Blindness, all of the
institutions that humans regard as pillars of society such as government,
infrastructure, the economy, and religion, come crashing down as soon as there
is an unprepared pandemic outbreak. This signifies the threat that this issue
brings forth. However, with the enlightenment of society, mankind’s likelihood
of survival will be strengthened. Nevertheless, society will only be
enlightened when every single person is aware of the consequences on an
individual basis. With the knowledge of these horrible consequences as
motivation, people will strive to become prepared to the best of their ability.
All in all, pandemics are one of the most dangerous issues brought upon
humanity, and whatever happens “Let us not forget that the next pandemic is
coming” (Coburn).

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