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Posts Tagged ‘DISEASE’

WELCOME TO SAN FRANCISCO: WHERE BUMS ARE KINGS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2019 at 12:17 am

In 2010, San Francisco voters passed the “No Sit/No Lie” ordinance, which “makes it unlawful, with certain exceptions, to sit or lie on a public sidewalk, or on an object placed on a public sidewalk, between 7AM and 11PM.”

It also prohibits sleeping in public parks at night and building encampments.

The number of sit-lie infractions peaked at 1,011 in 2013 before steadily declining to just 114 in 2017, according to San Francisco Superior Court records. 

Meanwhile, the number of misdemeanors tracked by the SFPD spiked at 195 in 2016 and then declined sharply by almost half the next year.

This does not mean that San Francisco’s Untermenschen problem has abated.

It simply means that the city has essentially given up on trying to protect its contributing, tax-paying citizens from the thousands of tax-draining drug-abusers, alcoholics, mentally ill and bums who infest its streets.

Walk down almost any street in the downtown part of the city and you’ll find sidewalks crowded with stinking,

  • disease-ridden,
  • lice infested,
  • drug-addicted,
  • alcohol-soaked,
  • often psychotic men and women

whom city officials politely refer to as “the homeless.” 

Related image

Among the trappings that go with this population:

  • Tents
  • Mattresses
  • Piles of belongings
  • Stolen shopping carts
  • Trash
  • Half-eaten food
  • Empty cans/bottles of alcohol
  • Feces
  • Pools of urine
  • Hypodermic needles

Related image

What you’ll almost never see: Police actually enforcing the “No Sit/No Lie” ordinance.

So much for the will of the voters.

San Francisco officials have effectively washed their hands—if not the streets—of the problem. If local residents must put up with repeated violations of the most basic sanitation laws, that’s their tough luck.

What matters to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors is this: The “rights” of those whose filth and behavior pose an immediate threat to public health and safety take precedence over those of tax-paying, law-abiding San Franciscans.

San Francisco residents can be fined $25 to $1,000 for feeding pigeons—but not for giving money to street bums.

Often those asking for money to “buy food” refuse offers to buy them food—no doubt because they intend to use the money on drugs or alcohol.

During the Mayorship of Willie Brown (1996 – 2004), Hizzonor proposed what he thought was a brilliant way for residents to “contribute” to “street people.”

Those who were somehow certified as “homeless” would be issued special electronic “cash cards.” When someone wanted to make a “donation,” s/he would swipe a credit card against the one owned by the street bum, for whatever amount s/he wanted to donate.

But before the program started, someone at City Hall realized a blunt truth: Residents—especially women—weren’t likely to whip out their credit cards in front of a ranting, foul-smelling, probably disease-ridden street bum.

Mercifully, the program died before it ever got started.

It’s long past time for San Francisco—and other cities—to stop catering to its population of DDMBs: Druggies, Drunks, Mental cases and Bums—who prey on the guilt or fear of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. 

The same laws that protect citizens against patients with highly communicable diseases like typhoid and cholera should be vigorously applied to those whose filthy habits threaten similar public contagion.

Among such reforms:

  • The city should launch a “Please Do Not Feed the Bums” publicity campaign—as it has against feeding pigeons. And those caught doing so should be heavily fined. 
  • Trash cans should be equipped with locked doors, to prevent bums from using them as food dispensers.
  • Those living on the street should be given a choice: Go to a local shelter or face arrest and the immediate confiscation of their possessions.
  • For those who refuse shelter and insist on living on the streets, a special “Untermenschen City” should be set up near the city dump. There they can live in their tents and/or sleeping bags while being unable to daily confront or assault others to obtain free money.
  • San Francisco’s rent control laws should be strengthened, to prevent future evictions owing to the unchecked greed of landlords. Tenants on fixed incomes should be given special protections against extortionate rent increases.
  • Bus drivers should have the right to refuse passengers who stink of urine/feces, as they present a potential health-hazard to others.
  • The owners of restaurants, theaters and grocery stores should likewise be allowed to refuse service on the same basis.
  • Those applying for welfare benefits should be required to provide proof of residence. Too many people come to San Francisco because, upon arrival, they can immediately apply for such benefits.
  • The city should set up a special unit to deal entirely with removing “street people” and their possessions from city sidewalks. This could be a division of the Sanitation Department, since its personnel are used to removing filth and debris of all types.

San Francisco officials need to:

  • Forcefully tell alcoholics and drug addicts: “Your anti-social behavior is not welcome here. Take your self-destructive lifestyles elsewhere.  We won’t subsidize them.”
  • Take the mentally unstable off the street and place them in institutions where their needs can be met. 
  • Tell those who are just plain bums: Don’t expect us to support you.

Only then will San Francisco rightly reclaim its former glory as “the city by the Bay.”

WELCOME TO SAN FRANCISCO: WHERE BUMS ARE KINGS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 28, 2019 at 12:06 am

Huge areas of San Francisco are covered in feces, urine, trash and needles. Hospitals overflow with patients that have fallen ill due to the contamination.

And what has been the reaction of successive mayors and members of the Board of Supervisors?

A disgraceful combination of tolerance and indifference: Tolerance toward those who create such  dangers—and indifference toward those who are their potential victims.

And yet those officials remain in office for years. 

In February, 2018, NBC News surveyed 153 blocks of the city—an area more than 20 miles. That area includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and the cable car turnaround. It’s bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue. And it’s also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds, and a police station. 

A typical San Francisco scene

Most of the trash found consisted of heaps of garbage, food, and discarded junk—including 100 drug needles and more than 300 piles of feces throughout downtown. If you step on one of these needles, you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B or a variety of other viral diseases. 

But you don’t have to actually get stuck by a needle to become a victim. Once fecal matter dries, it can become airborne and release deadly viruses, such as the rotavirus.

“If you happen to inhale that, it can also go into your intestine,” says Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Berkeley. The results can prove fatal, especially in children.

As the news unit filmed a typical day’s activity in San Francisco, a group of preschool students, enjoying a field trip, walked to City Hall.  

Responding to a reporter’s question, Adelita Orellana said: “We see poop, we see pee, we see needles, and we see trash.

“Sometimes they ask what is it, and that’s a conversation that’s a little difficult to have with a two-year old, but we just let them know that those things are full of germs, that they are dangerous, and they should never be touched.” 

San Francisco’s political elite see this blight as well as everyone else. They can’t avoid seeing it, since the city covers only 47 square miles. 

Image result for Official images of San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall

Cabe6403 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

One of those who sees the disgrace up-front is Supervisor Hillary Ronen: “Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable.  We’re losing tourists.  We’re losing conventions in San Francisco.” 

Yet what does she propose as the solution? “We need more temporary beds for street homelessness.” 

This is on a par with a “pest control expert” recommending: “We need more sugar to clear up our roach problem.” 

Thanks to its mild climate and social programs that dole out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement, San Francisco is often considered the “homeless capital” of the United States.

According to a 2016 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, there are about 13,000 “homeless” people in San Francisco. Of these, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

In 2016, San Francisco spent $275 million on homelessness—up from $241 million in 2015. Public Works cleanup crews picked up more than 679 tons of trash from homeless tent camps—and collected more than 100,000 used syringes from the camps.  

In 2016, San Francisco residents made 22,608 complaints about encampments—a five-fold increase from 2015.

City officials euphemistically call this population “the homeless.”  That’s because they don’t want to use words that accurately describe those who comprise the overwhelming majority of this population:

  • Druggies
  • Drunks
  • Mentally ill
  • Bums.

Or, as even many police, social workers and paramedics who wrestle with this population privately refer to them: DDMBs.

Yet the mere citing of statistics—how many “homeless,” how much money is spent on how many people, how much filth they produce—doesn’t capture the true intensity of the problem.

To do that, you must confront its realities at the street level. Imagine:

  • You’re elderly, and walking with a cane—and must often try to negotiate your way around big tents that take up most of a sidewalk.
  • You’re riding in a wheelchair along a sidewalk until you come to a large mattress lying directly in your path, with a potentially psychotic “homeless” man lying upon it. 
  • You find a street teeming with rats—eating the food scraps left by “homeless” people.
  • You walk into an underground Municipal Railway bus station—and find it littered with derelicts passed out or shooting up heroin in plain sight. Naturally, they don’t worry about picking up their used hypodermic needles. They leave those out for others to step on or pick up at their own risk.

Related image

  • You’re standing at a bus stop or eating in a restaurant—when a large, filthy, possibly disease-carrying man or woman demands a “handout” from you.
  • You board a local bus and are forced to sit near a man stinking of feces and/or urine. Naturally, the driver doesn’t put him off—giving you the choice of surviving the stench or getting off to catch another bus.
  • You can’t use the elevator at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station because “homeless” derelicts have ruined its mechanism with urine and feces.

BRING ON THE ROACHES–INSECT AND HUMAN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2018 at 12:05 am

To capture the true intensity of the “homeless” problem in San Francisco, you must confront its realities at the street level.  Imagine:

  • You’re elderly, and walking with a cane—and must often try to negotiate your way around big tents that take up most of a sidewalk.
  • You’re riding in a wheelchair along a sidewalk until you come to a large mattress lying directly in your path, with a potentially psychotic “homeless” man lying upon it. 
  • You find a street teeming with rats—eating the food scraps left by “homeless” people.
  • You board a local bus and are forced to sit near a man stinking of feces and/or urine. Naturally, the driver doesn’t put him off—giving you the choice of surviving the stench or getting off to catch another bus.
  • You walk into an underground Municipal Railway bus station—and find it littered with derelicts passed out or shooting up heroin in plain sight. Naturally, they don’t worry about picking up their used hypodermic needles. They leave those out for others to step on or pick up at their own risk.

Related image

  • You’re standing at a bus stop or eating in a restaurant—when a large, filthy, possibly disease-carrying man or woman demands a “handout” from you.
  • You can’t use the elevator at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station because “homeless” derelicts have ruined its mechanism with urine and feces.

In 2010, San Francisco voters passed the “No Sit/No Lie” ordinance, which “makes it unlawful, with certain exceptions, to sit or lie on a public sidewalk, or on an object placed on a public sidewalk, between 7AM and 11PM.” 

But walk down almost any street in the downtown part of the city and you’ll find sidewalks crowded with stinking, disease-ridden, lice/bedbug-infested, drug-addicted, alcohol-soaked, often psychotic men and women whom city officials politely refer to as “the homeless.” 

Related image

Among the trappings that go with this population:

  • Tents
  • Mattresses
  • Piles of belongings
  • Stolen shopping cards
  • Trash
  • Half-eaten food
  • Empty cans/bottles of alcohol
  • Feces
  • Hypodermic needles

Related image

What you’ll almost never see: Police actually enforcing the “No Sit/No Lie” ordinance.

So much for the will of the voters.

San Francisco officials have effectively washed their hands of the problem. If local residents must put up with repeated violations of the most basic sanitation laws, that’s their tough luck.

What matters to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors is this: The “rights” of those whose filth and behavior pose an immediate threat to public health and safety take precedence over those of tax-paying, law-abiding San Franciscans.

San Francisco residents can be fined $25 to $1,000 for feeding pigeons—but not for feeding street bums.

During the Mayorship of Willie Brown (1996 – 2004), Hizzonor proposed what he thought was a brilliant way for residents to “contribute” to “street people.”

Those who were somehow certified as “homeless” would be issued special electronic “cash cards.” When someone wanted to make a “donation,” s/he would swipe a credit card against the one owned by the street bum, for whatever amount s/he wanted to donate.

But before the program started, someone at City Hall realized a blunt truth: Residents—especially women—weren’t likely to whip out their credit cards in front of a ranting, foul-smelling, probably disease-ridden street bum. 

It’s long past time for San Francisco—and other cities—to stop catering to the druggies, alcoholics, mental cases and bums who prey on the guilt or fear of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. 

The same laws that protect citizens against patients with highly communicable diseases like typhoid and cholera should be vigorously applied to those whose filthy habits threaten similar public contagion.

Among such reforms:

  • The city should launch a “Please Do Not Feed the Bums” publicity campaign—as it has against feeding pigeons. And it should be backed up with stiff fines for those caught doing so.  
  • Those living on the street should be given a choice: Go to a local shelter or face arrest and the immediate confiscation of their possessions.
  • Bus drivers should have the right to refuse passengers who stink of urine/feces, as they present a potential health-hazard to others.
  • The owners of restaurants should likewise be allowed to refuse service on the same basis.
  • Those applying for welfare benefits should be required to provide proof of residence. Too many people come to San Francisco because, upon arrival, they can immediately apply for such benefits.
  • The city should set up a special unit to deal entirely with removing “street people” and their possessions from city sidewalks. This could be a division of the Sanitation Department, since its personnel are used to removing filth and debris of all types. 

San Francisco officials need to:

  • Forcefully tell alcoholics and drug addicts: “Your anti-social behavior is not welcome here. Take your self-destructive lifestyles elsewhere.  We won’t subsidize them.”
  • Take the mentally unstable off the street and place them in institutions where their needs can be met. 
  • Tell those who are just plain bums: Don’t expect us to support you.

Only then will San Francisco rightly reclaim its former glory as “the city by the Bay.”

BRING ON THE ROACHES–INSECT AND HUMAN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2018 at 1:45 am

Imagine that, late one night, you wake up and decide to go to the kitchen for a drink of water. You turn on the light—and suddenly find a virtual army of cockroaches hurriedly scurrying across the floor.  

In the morning, you call an exterminator, and a “pest control specialist” soon knocks at your door. 

“What you need to do,” he says, “is to put out big packets of sugar for the roaches.” 

“Wait a minute—don’t roaches love sugar?  How is this going to make them go away?” 

“It won’t.”  

“Then what’s the point?”

“The point is that roaches are God’s creatures, and they need to eat, too.”

Related image

A typical cockroach scene

“But they’ve taken over my kitchen. They’re filthy, they leave droppings everywhere and they contaminate the food I’m supposed to eat.” 

“You must learn to have compassion for all of God’s creatures, and learn to get along with them.” 

“So if I hire you, you’re not going to get rid of them for me?”

“No.” 

“So what are you going to do?”

“Help you to accept that they have a right to be a part of your community.” 

If a pest control company actually operated like that, how long would they be in business? 

Not long

Yet, in San Francisco, successive mayors and members of the Board of Supervisors operate in exactly that manner toward succeeding waves of human pestilence. And they remain in office for years.  

Huge areas of the city are covered in feces, urine, trash and needles. Hospitals overflow with patients that have fallen ill due to the contamination.

NBC News surveyed 153 blocks of the city—an area more than 20 miles. That area includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and the cable car turnaround. It’s bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue. And it’s also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds, and a police station. 

A typical San Francisco scene

Most of the trash found consisted of heaps of garbage, food, and discarded junk—including 100 drug needles and more than 300 piles of feces throughout downtown. If you step on one of these needles, you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B or a variety of other viral diseases. 

But you don’t have to actually get stuck by a needle to become a victim. Once fecal matter dries, it can become airborne and release deadly viruses, such as the rotavirus.

“If you happen to inhale that, it can also go into your intestine,” says Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Berkeley. The results can prove fatal, especially in children.

As the news unit filmed a typical day’s activity in San Francisco, a group of preschool students, enjoying a field trip, walked to City Hall.  

Responding to a reporter’s question, Adelita Orellana said: “We see poop, we see pee, we see needles, and we see trash.

“Sometimes they ask what is it, and that’s a conversation that’s a little difficult to have with a two-year old, but we just let them know that those things are full of germs, that they are dangerous, and they should never be touched.” 

San Francisco’s political elite see this blight as well as everyone else. They can’t avoid seeing it, since the city covers 47 square miles. 

Image result for Official images of San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall

Cabe6403 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

One of those who sees the disgrace up-front is Supervisor Hillary Ronen: “Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable We’re losing tourists. We’re losing conventions in San Francisco.” 

Yet what does she propose as the solution? “We need more temporary beds for street homelessness.” 

This is on a par with a “pest control expert” recommending: “We need more sugar to clear up our roach problem.” 

Thanks to its mild climate and social programs that dole out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement, San Francisco is often considered the “homeless capital” of the United States.

According to a 2016 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, there are about 13,000 “homeless” people in San Francisco. Of these, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

In 2016, San Francisco spent $275 million on homelessness—up from $241 million in 2015. Public Works cleanup crews picked up more than 679 tons of trash from homeless tent camps—and collected more than 100,000 used syringes from the camps.  

In 2016, San Francisco residents made 22,608 complaints about encampments—a five-fold increase from 2015.

City officials euphemistically call this population “the homeless.”  That’s because they don’t want to use words that accurately describe those who comprise the overwhelming majority of this population:

  • Druggies
  • Drunks
  • Mentals
  • Bums.

Or, as even many police, social workers and paramedics who wrestle with this population privately refer to them: DDMBs.

Yet the mere citing of statistics—how many “homeless,” how much money is spent on how many people, how much filth they produce—doesn’t capture the true intensity of the problem.

To do that, you must confront its realities at the street level.  Which is what we’ll do in Part Two of this series.

I LEFT MY BUM IN SAN FRANCISCO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 28, 2015 at 12:14 am

Yes, welcome to San Francisco–home of cable cars, Ghiradelli Square and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Oh, and thousands of stinking, disease-ridden, lice/bedbug-infested, drug-addicted, alcohol-soaked, often psychotic men and women whom Politically Correct city officials refer to as “the homeless.”

Privately, many of the police, social workers and paramedics who wrestle with this population have another term for them–DDMBs: Druggies, Drunks, Mentals and Bums.

Thanks to its mild climate and social programs that dole out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement, San Francisco is often considered the homeless capital of the United States.

Although the city spends $200 million a year on “honeless” services, the population surges between 7,000 and 10,000.  Of these, 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

Yet mere statistics don’t capture the true intensity of the problem.  To do that, you must confront its realities at the street level.

One of those realities can be seen every Sunday, when many stores on Market Street close for lack of workday traffic.  Stroll along the street and you’ll find it crowded with passed-out drunks/druggies, ranting psychotics and aggressive panhandlers.

Another such reality is Suzie Wong, 66, who goes by the name Ling Ling.  A resident of the Nob Hill District, Wong daily gives residents and tourists a sight to remember her by.

She alights from the 27 Bryant bus from the Mission and halts at the nearby bus stop.  Then she drops her drawers to leave a yellow or brown deposit on the sidewalk.

Related image

Finally, she crosses the street, and catches the 1 California bus for Chinatown.

When she doesn’t relieve herself on Nob Hill, she often does so on Stockton Street in Chinatown.  Then she heads to her usual spot to panhandle.

Children and pets often step in her feces.  So do adults, who are preoccupied with their cell phones.  Parents vainly try to shield their kids from the disgusting sight.

Residents have lodged scores of complaints about Wong’s repeated defecations.  The Department of Public Works sent crews to clean up her messes at least 44 times in a six-month period.

Druggies Drunks Mentals Bums

Police have repeatedly scooped up Wong for a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold at San Francisco General Hospital.  But doctors usually release her before the cops even get back to the station.

Under a 5150 designation, people can be held at the hospital for up to 72 hours to determine:

  • Are they gravely disabled?
  • Are they mentally ill?
  • If they are mentally ill, do they pose a danger to others or themselves?

But authorities have repeatedly determined that Wong doesn’t fit any of these criteria.  The reasons:

  • She has a mental health case worker at a North Beach clinic.
  • She’s arranged housing and food services through the city.
  • She can use public transit.

Chalk up another win for the DDMBs.

San Francisco officials have effectively washed their hands of the problem. If local residents must put up with repeated violations of the most basic sanitation laws, that’s their tough luck.

What matters to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors is this:

The “rights” of those whose filth poses an immediate threat to public health take precedence over those of tax-paying, law-abiding San Franciscans.

San Francisco residents can be fined for feeding pigeons–but not for feeding street bums.

During the Mayorship of Willie Brown (1996 – 2004), Hizzonor proposed what he thought was a brilliannt way for residents to “contribute” to street people. Those who were somehow certified as “homeless” would be issued special electronic “cash cards.”

When someone wanted to make a “donation,” s/he would swipe a credit card against the one owned by the street bum, for whatever amount s/he wanted to donate.

But before the program started, someone at City Hall realized a blunt truth: Residents–especially women–weren’t likely to whip out their credis cards in front of a ranting, foul-smelling, probably disease-ridden street bum.

* * * * *

It’s long past time for San Francisco–and other cities–to stop catering to the druggies, alcoholics, mental cases and bums who prey on the guilt or fear of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

The same laws that protect citizens against patients with highly communicable diseases like typhoid and cholera should be vigorously applied to those whose filthy habits threaten similar public contagion.

PLAGUE AS PROPHECY

In Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary on October 16, 2014 at 12:32 am

“It was virulent beyond anything in anyone’s memory, and the most terrifying effect of this mysterious virulence was not only that it killed so many people but that it turned them against one another.”

So opens “The Black Death,” the third chapter of Otto Friedrich’s brilliant 1986 book, The End of the World: A History.

The narrative examines “the monumental, often inexplicable catastrophes that have at various times swept over humankind–moments when, for numerous people, the world did come to an end.”

Among the catastrophes vividly depicted by Friedrich:

  • The Sack of Rome
  • The Birth of the [Spanish] Inquisition
  • The Black Death
  • The Coming of [the Russian] Revolution
  • The Kingdom of Auschwitz

As America comes face-to-face with the terrors of Ebola, the pages Friedrich devotes to the original plague may turn out to be as much prophecy as history.

Bubonic plague originated in Central Asia, killing 25 million people.  Upon reaching Constantinople in 1347, it spread to Naples and Venice.  Trade ships from these ports spread the plague to southern France and Italy.

It reached Paris in June, 1348, and London several months later.  By 1350, all Europe was ravaged by the plague.

Within four years it destroyed a quarter to half of the population of Europe.

The plague was caused by the bacillus Pasteurella pestis, which lives in rats and other rodents.  The fleas living in these animals transmitted the plague to people by biting them.  Within five days, the victims had died.

By the time the plague had run its course, it had killed 75 to 200 million people.

The signs of infection became unmistakable: Growths in the thighs, about the size of apples, then dark blotches and bruises on the thighs, arms and other parts of the body.

As a result of these dark blotches, the plague quickly became known as the Black Death.

“O happy posterity,” wrote the Italian poet Petrarch, “who will look upon our testimony as a fable.  Will posterity believe that there was a time when, with no deluge from heaven, no worldwide conflagration, no wars or other visible devastation…but almost the whole earth was depopulated?”

The plague destroyed not only the lives of its victims but the fragile bonds that hold society together.

“As the number of deaths increased in Messina,” wrote the Franciscan monk Michael, “many desired to confess their sins to the priests and to draw up their last will and testament.  But priests and lawyers refused to enter the houses of the deceased….

“Soon men hated each other so much that, if a son was attacked by the disease, his father would not tend him.  If, in spite of all, he dared to approach him, he was immediately infected….

“Soon the corpses were lying forsaken in the houses.  No priest, no son, no father and no relation dared to enter, but they paid hired servants with high wages to bury the dead.  Soon there was a shortage of servants and finally none at all.”

Bones of plague victims stacked by a monk at the Sedlec Ossuary.

No one knew what caused it.  Many–especially members of the Catholic clergy–believed the plague was God’s judgment on a sinful world.

Philip VI, the king of France, fearing this might be true, issued a proclamation against blasphemy. For a first offense, a blasphemer’s lip would be cut off; for a second, the other lip.  And for a third offense, the tongue.

Medical professors at the University of Paris believed that a disturbance in the skies had caused the sun to overheat the oceans near India.  As a result, the waters were giving off toxic vapors.

Guy de Chauliac, the physician to Pope Clement VI, believed that the plague had been caused by a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, in the sign of Aquarius.  This, he believed, had corrupted the earth’s atmosphere.

Just as no one knew what had caused the plague, no one knew how to protect oneself against it.

Among the remedies prescribed: Bleeding, purging, bathing in vinegar to purify the body and the burning of odiferous wood to purify the air.

Others trusted to faith, praying for deliverance.  Some went on pilgrimages or subjected themselves to self-flagellation to expiate their sins.  The Brotherhood of the Flagellants appeared in Dresden, Hamburg and Magdeburg, then spread throughout Europe.

For others, debauchery seemed to be the road to salvation–or at least temporary happiness while they waited for the plague to claim them.

“People behaved as if their days were numbered,” wrote Giovanni Boccaccio, “and treated their belongings and their own persons with equal abandon.  Hence most houses had become common property and any passing stranger could make himself at home.”

Yet none of the prescribed medical cures brought relief.  And no amount of religious devotion brought salvation.

As Friedrich notes: “One of the most baffling and terrifying aspects of the plague [was] its indiscriminate slaughter of the devout as well as the sinful.  If this was God’s anger, how could it be understood, much less appeased?”

The plague ravaged France, Germany, England, Spain, Norway, Poland, Hungary, Russia.  After devastating London in 1665 and Marseille in 1720, the disease mysteriously disappeared.

Some believe the common black rat was destroyed by the larger brown rat, which lived outdoors, away from people.  Others believe a milder, mutant form of the disease caused its victims to build up immunities.

No one knows for certain.

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