On Thursday morning, 26 March 2020, a remarkable 1,910,000 entries can be found in 0.38 seconds on Google for the German search term “Weltuntergang” (end of the world). For the English “Armageddon” there are 31.4 million entries, for “doomsday” 29.8 million in 0.60 seconds.
The fear of the end of the world
I owe this tip to the renowned historian Johannes Fried. For it was with such a count that he began his great essay “Dies irae – A History of the End of the World” in 2016.
#Coronavirus, asked in German, scores 7.3 billion hits in 0.60 seconds at the same moment.
The search for reliable answers
In addition to the fear of the end of the world, there is the concern and search for answers – on the part of science as well as conspiracy theorists. For the search engine makes no distinction.
In his essay, Fried beautifully illustrates that the fear of the end of the world has been prevalent for centuries, especially in the Christian occidental West.
According to Fried, Buddhism and Hinduism, Confucianism and even Islam, which is closely intertwined with the West, have little tendency to fear the end of the world.
This virus infects every corner of the globe
So those 7.3 billion hits speak a different, global language. For here, information and certainty are sought in the West as well as in the Near and Far East. The virus can and does affect every culture, every nation, every corner of the globe.
What was it like back in the Middle Ages with the plague?
There is no script for the Corona pandemic and certainly no book of consolation. When the Black Death in Europe claimed an estimated 25 million lives between 1346 and 1353, a third of the population at the time, and in some areas even more, the plague revealed “in the most cruel way the limits of human resilience and tolerance”.
This is what the medical historian Klaus Bergdolt writes in his book “Der Schwarze Tod in Europa” (“The Black Death in Europe”, available only in German). Only from a safe distance and in retrospect of the historical analysis can the subtitle be formulated, ” Die Große Pest und das Ende des Mittelalters” (“The Great Plague and the End of the Middle Ages”).
The end of a world we are used to
Many people, including myself, now have an inkling that the Corona pandemic is not the end of the world. But possibly the end of a world to which we had just unsuspectingly or carelessly become accustomed.