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Chance and Making Sense

dfishervan's picture

In our discussion section on Thursday, our group discussed the plague in relation to justice and chance. In an attempt to define justice, we tried to determine whether the plague was just and/or merely a product of chance. Throughout this conversation, I found myself feeling that we kept failing to mention one thing: the plague makes sense. Perhaps we overlooked it because it’s such a simple concept or because when a thing causes such tremendous pain, we don’t want it to make sense. Regardless, I think when you’re trying to determine whether the plague is a product of chance or if it’s acting justly, it’s a relevant concept. Infected citizens of Oran and their family members asked themselves or some higher figure “why me?” Those who belief it is a matter of chance that the plague resurfaced in Oran would answer their questions with chance. The priest in the novel might answer their question with some reference to “an eye for an eye” justice. A scientist on the other hand, would answer the “why me” question with the science behind the plague. The person became sick with plague because he/she came in contact in some way or another with the plague bacteria when he/she was walking about. If you want to explore the reasoning behind “why Oran became infected,” well, there was something, some aspect (whether it be weather, food supply, etc.) that favored the reemergence of the plague. Although we may not know all of the details and minute scientific reasons behind the plague’s emergence in Oran, I believe they exist and that leads me to believe that the plague isn’t a product of chance. It’s sort of like when our computer goes haywire. As non-computer scientists, we may not know why our computer is malfunctioning but, the computer is actually behaving in this way for a reason that makes sense to the computer. There had to be some cause and effect. Thinking about the plague in this light makes me wonder if chance can be a part of the equation when the equation makes sense on its own.



Sarah Schnellbacher's picture

The Plague in Modern Medicine

Right now I am listening to the Surgeon General's speech at Bryn Mawr College. Dr. Benjamin mentioned that being a doctor "it is important to take care of youself." She quoted the stewartess on the airplane "first place your oxygen mask securely on before helping others". In class on Thursday we talked about how the doctors in Camus's "The Plague" act selflessly and to what extent we can be happy in an unhappy world. We also talked about whether it is shameful to be happy alone away from the unhappy world. Some of our discussion group felt that if they were in the position of Rambert (a stranger from out of town trapped in Oran in Camus's "The Plague"), they too would attempt to escape the city. Our discussion evolved into a question of loyalty toward the community. To what circle of kinship are we responsible of giving of ourselves for another? OrganizedKhaos remarked that her parents emmigrated from Haiti, yet they are able to contribute more to their community from afar than if they had remained in Haiti. The surgeon general's words seemed to emmulate this idea. She said, "You can't help others if you die of a heart attack." We mentioned in class that the idea of self preservation is a western concept. America's doctor has just confirmed Professor Dalke's assertion but I agree with the surgeon general. I feel that remaining to be slaughtered in the middle of genocide is not always the best solution and that we do have to think about how we can best help others, whether that is directly or indirectly. At the end of the day we can help more people if we don't die in the process.

Panelist at the health forum on healthcare disparities Dr. D. Fullilove further made me think of Camus's "The Plague" when he described how Gonorrhea had paid for his education (his father was a doctor who dealt with STDs). He said "the pathogen is not the problem...the cure is us" when describing why we still have Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphillus despite having discovered Pennicillin in the 1940s. Although we have a cure biologically for these pathogens, the underlying problem is a social issue and thus these diseases have not been erradicated. In Camus's "The Plague" the Bacillus does not subside until the underlying social problems in Oran are fixed and the community comes together. The plague serum alone can not stop the plague.


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