PÚBLICO is 31 years old today. I’ll borrow the director’s place in a year of the arc. Not only because it escapes the decimal system – always the five fingers of each hand … – but because the pandemic spread everywhere a year ago and hit us very hard.
One wonders why the hell did those in charge decide to invite a man like me into this role? I dont know. I am a doctor specializing in diagnosing cancer and I know very little about virology and epidemiology. Perhaps it was because I have a habit of appreciating the quest for understanding from biology. And of course I’ve been “out of the PUBLIC” since day one.
I assume it also contributed to the choice that I got it right. In the first quarter of 2020 I discussed “Nature and Humanity: Genetics, Epigenetics and Longevity” in the context of the Ser e Estar Vivo initiative, the problem of the “thyroid cancer epidemic” in the area of the explosion of the diagnosis of Ribeiro Sanches, a forerunner of the public Health, was born on March 7, 1699 in Penamacor. At this point, in the second week of March 2020, we were already in the full growth of the pandemic and hadn’t anticipated what would happen.
The idea is to discuss the present and future of the changing world in this special edition of PÚBLICO, focusing on what we have called “the other epidemics”. Not just those who came back, but also those who got worse with the Covid.
It’s classic to divide diseases into communicable and non-communicable, meaning that communicable diseases are contagious, like the pests of yesterday and today. We already knew that this separation is oversimplified, but reality has surpassed imagination with the entry of nature into nature. It is the invasion of people by agents coming from others, be it viruses, bacteria, fear or other “things”. These are also contagious and in whatever way. Contagion leads to epidemic manifestations of all kinds, from obesity and diabetes to neoplasia and mental disorders. Nothing takes as much as fear and nothing is as contagious as culture and habits. Just think of the exploration of fashion and the reliance on screens and scratch cards determined by culture and civilization. In the same way, inequality increases with the appalling growth of poverty and the scarcity and precariousness of work. In a world with less and less contact (“without contact”, as D. Tolentino Mendonça would say), despite the permanently connected crowds.
I know the readers are not masochistic enough to develop these aspects with me – there wouldn’t even be a room – and I just encourage them to read the various sections on “other epidemics”. Since I was not the author of the lyrics, I can say that they like it a lot and, above all, will learn a lot. I will keep trying to understand, although it is not always easy.
You will also find (and should) find the positive, hopeful face of the future so we can know how to build it.
First, because we will control the pandemic with immunity, vaccines, and treatment development. Word of honor. The key verbs are control and care (and also healing, but only sometimes). It’s a good starting point. And it is also easy to see that neither the pandemic nor the destructive climate changes are natural disasters. It is true that nature is involved, but nature is not to blame – disasters are the result of our behavior and actions.
Back to the evolution of the human species and to being and life, it should be emphasized that man has been selected over millions of years through a process that goes far beyond pure and harsh genetics. It is necessary to shape the current work of modern man, an unbeatable living being as a predator and consumer. It is all the more important to think about how people and societies can be changed.
We will make progress if we invest in the education of everyone, especially children and young people. Education aims to change behaviors and, above all, is the example, so often contagious. In organizing human communities, which is much more analog than digital, everything is political. It would be an unacceptable waste not to learn from the experiences we have had this year. In the manner of Sérgio Godinho, it would be good if we could say that the 31st year of PÚBLICO “was the first year of the rest of our lives”.