In the modern world today people are able to take many things for granted. How people get their food, how peoples houses stay warm, and how the masses get from place to place are all examples of things everyone takes for granted. In Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel the world is a place portrayed as a haven for blissful ignorance. People go about their daily lives without the knowledge of their impending doom until its right on top of them. They also don’t realize that since their whole world is interrelated that if one thing stops working then lots of other things wont work because of it. People in Station Eleven’s world live in blissful ignorance before becoming aware of impending doom after its too late, which is then mimicked in the current world that we live in.
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After Jeevan Receives a call from Hua explaining that the Georgia Flu has hit his hospital and that its out of control. He goes on to say that it is likely that this will get out into the general public and it will run unchecked due to both the lack of medical services and the lack of things that those medical services could provide. Jeevan decides to then call up his wife to warn her to get out of the city because of the concerns Hua raised.
“Are you watching the news?’
‘Should I be?’
‘There’s a flu epidemic, Laura. It’s serious.’
‘That thing in Russia or wherever? I knew about that.’…
‘It’s here now. It’s worse than anyone thought. I’ve just been talking to Hua. You have to leave the city.’.
‘Have to? What? Where are you, Jeevan?’…
‘Just turn on the news, Laura.’
‘You know I don’t like to watch the news before bed. Are you having a panic attack?’
‘What? No. I’m going to my brother’s place to make sure he’s okay.’
‘Why wouldn’t he be?’
‘You’re not even listening.”1
When Jeevan presents significant evidence to suggest that Laura should turn on the news and to watch it she decided not to because she doesn’t “like to watch the news before bed.” If she had known that it actually was a massive epidemic where most of the worlds population would be wiped out, then she may have taken it more seriously, Because of the ignorant bliss that people are allowed to live in they then think any apocalyptic level disaster that they hear about is just a joke or don’t take it seriously. These are the circumstances many people that are characters of the story live in. these are the same circumstances that many of today humans live in.
One example of how in the current modern world people can overlook the prospect of a large scale disaster is the build up to 9/11 and the inability for the United States Intelligence Service to prevent an “imminent” disaster caused by Al-Qaida. Al-Qaida had made it clear in the years and months leading up to the attack that they wanted to attack America and kill as many Americans as possible.
“During the spring and summer of 2001, U.S. intelligence agencies received a stream of warnings that al Qaeda planned, as one report put it, ‘something very, very, very big.’ Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet told us, ‘The system was blinking red."2
When its this easy to prevent a disaster then why wouldn’t it be prevented? Because people don’t take it seriously and they think that some cave dwelling terrorist isn’t going to be able to kill lots of Americans. Once 9/11 happened people “woke up” from being blind to the fact that danger to our country exists. Since then the has government has moved away from its Cold War era ignorant bliss onto extreme vigilance towards unknown threats. This is the same awaking that happened to Europeans when the black death ravage their populations as written by Dr.Dameron over 200+ years.
Dr.Dameron equivocates the Black Death to the Georgia Flu. Although the Black death is known to have killed many people its isn’t the same kind of “slate wipe” as the Georgia Flu portrayed in Mandel’s book. The Black Death killed close to half the population of Europe, whereas the Georgia Flu killed 99% of people world wide if not more. Sure the plague brought on the dark ages for Europe but it didn’t stop it dead in its tracks. During the time of the black death society was not eroded enough to where the people needed to set up a museum, when the Georgia flu hit, a new era in human existence was started whereas when the black death hit, human existence started anew.
“Clark placed his useless iPhone on the top shelf. What else? Max had left on the last flight to Los Angeles, but his Amex card was still gathering dust on the counter of the Concourse B Mexican restaurant. Beside it, Lily Patterson’s driver’s license. Clark took these artifacts back to the Skymiles Lounge and laid them side by side under the glass. They looked insubstantial there, so he added his laptop, and this was the beginning of the Museum of Civilization.”3
In Europe during the black death they didn’t take the books and chess sets and put them in a museum because the old world had passed, they also didn’t restart time from when the major life loss was present. They kept using those things even as they normally would and they realized life goes on despite great tragedy. After the black death started hitting they started to be aware of the disease and they tried to avoid it. They became aware and then started to keep life going. They were able to keep going because there wasn’t a large enough life lost to erode the fabric of society. The characters in Station Eleven didn’t have that opportunity because some many more people died that there was no way for the current world to stay around.
The general populous of Station Eleven lived their lives before the onslaught of the Georgia Flu ignorant of it’s power and it’s sharpened skills of killing unchecked. Once most people heard about it, it was already too late for them to do anything. When a serious threat presented itself they didn’t take it seriously and then paid the price for it. In our modern world we saw that same type of thinking being embraced by the people who’s job it is to think that the most remote chances of a significant loss of life are the most important. When life is lost it depends on the scale of life lost to justify whether or not its time to start civilization anew or those people are able to push on through whatever hardships are presented.