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It’s not a war, folks, it’s a disease.

(51 Posts)
geekesse Fri 03-Apr-20 12:05:17

I’m getting really fed up with the use of language associated with war and fighting when discussing the current virus epidemic - and, indeed, diseases and illnesses generally. Politicians lead the way on this, but many others follow, and it promotes an underlying aggression which plays out in supermarket queues, attitudes towards people moving around outdoors and responses to emergency services. It almost certainly also fuels domestic violence at a time when victims have no hope of escape.

Covid-19 is an illness we are trying to contain and cure, not an enemy to be fought and beaten. If we talked about it in terms of prevention, caring and healing, we’d have a much more positive outlook. I absolutely refuse to ‘fight’ the virus, but I am taking steps to prevent infection, to care for those who are ill and to comfort those who have lost loved ones. AIBU?

GagaJo Fri 03-Apr-20 12:10:45

No, I don’t think you are. As a linguist, I totally agree that the language we use shapes our perception of things.

GracesGranMK3 Fri 03-Apr-20 12:19:28

The phrase "blood and treasure" is often used to describe the loss involved in various attempts to achieve something outside our normal lives. War and exploration come to mind. That other associated language is then used does not seem in the least unreasonable to me but surely we can all use the language that seems appropriate to each one of us.

A fight can be a full-on attack on or sneakily turning the negative characteristics of your opponent against themselves. Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War' is often quoted in business situations as it helps to work out how you can win a better position than others. "Others", in this case, could be a virus whose very characteristics you want to turn against it.

I see nothing wrong in the language you dislike but then, I see nothing wrong in yours either. I would just let people use what comforts them, personally.

annodomini Fri 03-Apr-20 13:24:59

Trump is the arch-exponent of this kind of vocabulary. He does seem to be at war with state governors, so perhaps it's not unexpected coming from him.

Bridgeit Fri 03-Apr-20 14:32:44

Yes the term fight implies win or loose, or can imply a person has not ‘ fought or done enough ‘ to protect or save themselves.
Therefore I agree with you geekesse

M0nica Fri 03-Apr-20 20:29:38

It does not follow that if you lose you have not done enough. I think that is a connection that only fools make.

Did Belgium fail to stop the Germans invading because they did not fight enough? of course that wasn't so, they were faced with a overwhelming enemy.

That is exactly the same as is happening with Covid-19. We are faced by a rolling flood of a disease that we have not seen before, have no immunity to, no vaccines and no treatments. We have had to completely change the way the country works, enlist vast numbers of retired medical professionals, call in the army and appeal for volunteers, which is exactly what a country does when faced by an agressor.

Agressors do not have to be human and have guns. They come in many forms. The Australians fought their forest fires, many people fought to stop their houses being flooded, we fight diseases, we fight against all kinds of things. Do nt narrow the word to just being people killing each other.

I am fighting covid-19. I do not have the illness but I am doping my best to keep it at bay, metaphorically barring my home to anyone wanting to come in, seeing people off who come near me and only shopping when protected by gloves, a mask, and a big coat. If I go down it will be fighting and I hope my family will talk proudly of the fight I put up from the start even though in the end I was defeated by the severity of the illness.

ValerieF Fri 03-Apr-20 21:17:05

Totally agree Monica. Covid-19 IS an enemy that has to be fought. We may not go out with guns. It is an invisible enemy that has to be 'fought' No other words for it really.

Greymar Fri 03-Apr-20 21:23:09

Its so sad. you can't fight this anymore than you could fight IS

How can you fight this?

lemongrove Fri 03-Apr-20 21:29:40

ISIS or IS has been fought, and rather successfully.

Well,said Monica of course we can all fight it, by doing all we can to stop ourselves from getting it, and for the NHS staff to help save lives and all the wonderful volunteers chipping in to help.
It is an aggressor after all, so words like ‘combat’ are suitable ones. There will always be selfish people who push and shove in supermarkets etc, but actually I think there are many more positive stories out there than negative ones.

Hetty58 Fri 03-Apr-20 21:35:40

I think the use of language can influence how we feel about things and our attitudes. I'm not fighting, I'm tolerating. I'm just waiting it out. I have loads of patience.

Having done everything I can (isolation, hand washing, donating, advising, communicating) I can't do much now to change my situation - solitary confinement for most of the day.

I can, and recently did, change my attitude, though. I've thrown myself into cooking, gardening, DIY and planning ahead. I can make believe that I'm having a nice little holiday at home - for a large part of each day.

I don't think now is a good time to add any stress. I won't be dieting, overworking, setting ambitious targets or expecting too much of myself. I have a day off if I want to. I'll choose what I feel like doing. I can be self-indulgent.

The threat can be viewed as a new challenge instead. I've found it difficult, having lost a loved one on the 11th March, to grieve in isolation. Family can't meet, we can't have a funeral, can't even have a hug - but I'll cope.

I'm not overwrought or depressed about it - or the virus. I feel confident that I'll get through it and out the other side. I do feel sad for others but appreciate what remains - the weather, the dog walks, my 'prison', my food, watching the birds etc. that much more than usual.

So really, I'm just calmly waiting for the virus to go away!

Greymar Fri 03-Apr-20 21:36:14

Time for a quick chorus of Land of Hope and Glory.

IS , regroups as we speak.

lemongrove Fri 03-Apr-20 21:42:40

Sounds as if you are in their confidence Grey ? Singing may do you good, it’s supposed to after all.

Grammaretto Fri 03-Apr-20 22:10:55

YANBU I agree about the language being highly provocative and if we can do anything to keep calm it will save more lives than the fighting talk,
The virus isn't selective about who it infects. ISIS or whoever the "enemy" currently is, is as susceptible as anyone else.

Lots of good things are happening too. People are helping each other. I haven't seen any supermarket scrums but I live in a small town where most people are known. Now that DH and I are self-isolating, all sorts of kindnesses are heaped on us. People are sharing everything from music, seeds, information, books

I hope it's over soon but I would rather we didn't get back to normal if normal is the way we treat each other and vie to get the best.

lemongrove Fri 03-Apr-20 22:16:32

‘Highly provocative’ ?! Really? I have heard everything now.

Perhaps talk of fighting the virus leaves some feeling confused....maybe they think they should be patrolling their street carrying a pitchfork because they don’t understand.?

MissAdventure Fri 03-Apr-20 22:23:43

I would think that it's up to the individual how they choose to refer to and think of covid.

The most important part of any fight is to avoid allowing your opponent to get at you, so yes, I think we're fighting it.

Grammaretto Fri 03-Apr-20 22:26:19

Listen up then Lemongrove Gun sales are surging in America and in other countries too. The use of military language provokes aggressive response. It's a fact.

Callistemon Fri 03-Apr-20 22:35:38

Yes, possibly you ABU

We are all fighting a common enemy and this time the world is fighting it.

I don't know how old you are, geekesse but DH remembers WW2 and was explaining to a neighbour's children about the similarities of all joining together to fight a common foe.

I think the NHS staff fighting every day and night to try to defeat this, rescue the victims and save them, may disagree with you.

lemongrove Fri 03-Apr-20 22:35:44

We are not the US....the analogy is not relevant..

lemongrove Fri 03-Apr-20 22:36:36

My above comment was to Gramm

lemongrove Fri 03-Apr-20 22:37:36

Well said Callistemon?

Callistemon Fri 03-Apr-20 22:42:23

Let's face it - the USA is different to the rest of the world!

Pikachu Fri 03-Apr-20 22:44:14

We will fight it in the butchers and on the supermarket floors. We will build a wall of toilet rolls and fight behind that. We will fight them in the aisles and at the tills.

We shall never surrender even though we are locked down and starving. We will applaud our nobles heroes and we will defeat this pestilent virus.

Oh dear. Should have stuck to the Vimto wine

MissAdventure Fri 03-Apr-20 23:12:30


Very rousing.

geekesse Fri 03-Apr-20 23:30:45

Calistemon, I don’t see NHS staff ‘fighting’. I see them administering medical treatments, caring for sick people, comforting the dying. I see scientists exploring ways to test for infection, developing ways to prevent the spread of disease.

The virus isn’t an aggressor. It’s an organism doing exactly what all microorganisms do, reproducing mindlessly in the only way it can. It’s responsible for illness and death in humans, for sure, but no-one is going to stop that by fighting. We need to find a cure, and meanwhile, to care for those who are affected by it. That’s the very opposite of fighting.

I loathe the gung-ho glorification of the wartime ‘spirit’ in these sad times. I’m sorry you feel it was something worth copying.

Callistemon Fri 03-Apr-20 23:46:27

Copying what?

I'm sorry, but I think you are confused about what I was saying.

If you don't think this is a fight against the virus then perhaps you don't have family on the front line. Or researchers in your family trying to understand this virus.
They use the term invade - perhaps you could advise them to change that terminology to something more acceptable to you?

gung ho
No-one used the term gung ho
You misinterpret and twist my words to suit your own agenda.