great pandemic

Giant: Ch. 18

Don’t let them take you down
Take your heart away
 And when the world comes crashing down
You gotta hold your ground

It was absolute hell. Outside, out in the world, it was an ongoing battle and it was a never ending war. People yelled on television. People yelled on street corners. People yelled at marches and protests and parades and pretty much everywhere, actually. Everyone was very sad and mad and generally so very humanly worried about their place in the world, that it turned into defensive posturing only seen during times of the greats rashes of pandemics and war.

But not in the bed.

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The Chinese Labor Corps of World War I,

“While the sun does not set on the British Empire, neither does it set on Chinese workers abroad.”

Chen Duxiu

During World War I one major problem faced by both sides of the conflict was a shortage of labor, as most working age men either volunteered or were drafted into the military. Many labor roles would be taken up by women. Many more would be taken up by foreign laborers hired or conscripted from different countries. During World War I, China was in the throws of a bloody and complex civil war. The government of the Manchu Emperor had been overthrown by a new Nationalist Government, however the country quickly collapsed into a series of realms and factions controlled by warlords of the former Imperial Army. As a result of the war, China faced hard economic times, and many Chinese looked abroad for opportunities. 

In 1916, the French and British Government contracted 50,000 Chinese to serve as laborers in the Western Front. Over the next two years, another 100,000 would eventually be hired, 100,000 of which would serve under the British, 40,000 under the French, and 10,000 under the Americans. They were used for a wide variety of purposes, including unloading equipment at docks, digging trenches and building fortifications, working in munitions factories, repairing tanks, transporting supplies, cleaning up battlefields after a large battle, and other rear echelon duties. While the vast majority of Chinese Labor Corps were workers, a few hundred were students, contracted to work with the British and French Army as translators.

Life as a Chinese Labor Corps member was not easy.  Living standards were very low, and workers were issued the cheapest clothing, the simplest food, and were paid a mere few francs a day. In order to travel to Europe, the workers were packed onto crowded transports, then packed onto crowded cattle cars once they arrived. Living quarters and barracks were also crowded and very spartan.

 Most importantly, life as a Chinese Labor Corps workers was very dangerous.  While they were non-combatants, it was not uncommon for the Chinese to get caught in the middle of fire fights and artillery barrages.  Such was the case for First Class Ganger Liu Dien Chen who was awarded the British Meritorious Service Medal for bravery when his work crew came under artillery fire while repairing tanks.  

Five Chinese would be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, and all would be awarded the British War Medal at the end of the war. In addition to pitched combat there were other hazards.  Chinese laborers were often used to clean up battlefields after combat had concluded. This involved burying trenches, recovering corpses, and removing damaged and destroyed equipment.  Accidents involving un-exploded bombs and artillery shells were common.  When the Great Flu Pandemic spread across the world in 1917-1918, around 2,000 Chinese laborers would fall victim.  Altogether, 20,000 would die of various causes, their bodies interred in 40 military graveyards across France and Belgium.

After the war ended, most Chinese workers remained in France, contracted by the French Government to conduct rebuilding efforts.  The first large groups were transported back to China in 1919, the last in 1920. All Chinese Labor Corps members were awarded medals and pay bonuses, while those who were injured, disabled, or who had family members killed were awarded government pensions. Around 5,000 chose to stay in France, in particular the Parisian Region, becoming one of  the first large Chinese communities in Europe. 

In addition to the the Chinese Labor Corps in the Western Front, a similar program was conducted by the Russian Government on the Eastern Front, recruiting around 200,000 - 500,000 workers.

just another history nerd

Hi there! My nick in the Hetalia fandom is “Kate Marley” and I love nerding about history in relation to Hetalia! Since I’d also love to help people learn more about pre-WWI Europe, @hetaliafandomhub kindly accepted me as a nerd an expert for High Medieval, Late Medieval, Early Modern and „long“ 19th century (c. 1001-1914) Western and Central European history. This focus doesn’t mean I’d be unable to say anything about other areas of Europe/the world, about pre-millennial history, and about the world after 1914. It means that the areas and the time period I applied for are what I focused on in my studies so far. I study History at a German university, so I’d also be happy to reply to any questions about the history of the Holy Roman Empire, including the history of individual HRE states!

I’d love to work as a consultant with people who create historically themed Hetalia fanworks, but I also intend to make the occasional informative post about historical topics and trivia. What I’m not too knowledgable about is details of historical clothing, and while I know some about historical armoury, that has never been a special interest of mine. Historical music and musical instruments, however … I love talking about them!

Just two basic guidelines:

  • Please respect I’m doing this in my spare time and for fun. That means it may take a few days until I get round to replying to your question, in particular if it involves some research on my part. Please be patient! If I take longer than a week to reply to you without giving a reason, feel free to ask (in a polite way) if I received your ask/submission at all. Chances are tumblr just ate it.
  • The time periods I cover involve some sensitive issues, such as the Age of Discoveries (European slave trade!) and nationalism (in the 19th century in particular). Also, of course the Americas have always been there; they were only “discovered” from the perspective of the Europeans. If I formulate something in a way you consider unfortunate, please bring this to my attention (again, in a polite way) so I can reformulate it.

Now I’d like to explain to you what I understand by “Western” and “Central Europe” and what terms such as “High Medieval” and “Late Medieval” (roughly) entail!

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Stuff in my Office

Dr Warhol’s Periodic Table of Microbes

1923 color lithograph. Not a lot of genus and species names, but you can recognize the microbes by the disease. Except for #10, which  is probably Haemophilus influenzae. Way back then, they cultured a lot of B (or H) influenzae from patients with the flu, and the Great Influenzae Pandemic was only about 5 years prior.

It’s All About Me

Though of course none of us can clearly remember our infancy, there was a period of innocent selfishness in each of our lives when the world was indeed all about me.  I’m hungry, tired, afraid, this rash is annoying, something hurts, I need to be changed, etc.  I need was the only reality, and one of those gigantic, fuzzy, out of focus “comforters” had better come over quickly or they’re going to receive a serious dose of displeased lung action.  Inevitably they came and fixed whatever was wrong.  Life was indeed good, selfish and clueless, yet good nevertheless.  However, as we grew a little older we became aware of the concept of us and them.  Buddhists often refer to this as discursive mind, a sword which slices reality into separate pieces to accommodate the intellect.  It also became painfully obvious that this heretofore idyllic adventure was no longer going to be all about us.  While again I posses no vivid recollection of the time, one can only imagine what a joy kill that must have been.  We would actually have to share with siblings, classmates, even our parents, and we quickly learned that perhaps ultimate horror of horrors, that sometimes at least we would even lose.  Wow, life sure got hard in a hurry.   Our lives were totally dominated by those oversized creatures known as adults, and part of their job it seemed was to teach us not to be selfish.  I can’t say for sure, but usually being less than perfect themselves their teaching methods may have been possibly imperfect as well. It may also have been how we interpreted their messages, yet whatever the reason I fear that far too many may have learned these lessons too well or taken them too literally, and regrettably in some cases at least, we went past it’s not all about me, and straight into it’s not about me at all.  Even our western religions though probably with the finest of intentions perpetuated this potentially unhealthy view of the world and self.  We were always taught to put others needs ahead of our own, and as a christian our teacher/role model certainly exemplified such virtuous behavior.  While this concept is undoubtedly noble and sage advice for anyone who happens to be at least reasonably spiritually and emotionally healthy, it no doubt must seem sheer madness to a typically selfish and needful 5 year old.  Though I can’t explain or even claim to understand the whys, far too many of us seem to see ourselves as somehow less than or less important than others.  Those of us who live within this false reality tend to suffer greatly and often hurt others as a consequence of perhaps life’s greatest irony, when we fail to love ourselves life does indeed become all about us, not necessarily because we wish it to be, but rather because it has to be.  Lack of self love is certainly a sorrowful way to live and may be the great pandemic of our age, but perhaps the greater tragedy of not loving one’s self is that each time the entire world has once again been cheated out of knowing the perfection and beauty that is uniquely us.  Please love yourself. You deserve it and the world will indeed be a better place for it.

The American Chronic Disease Crises

When the Great Flu Pandemic struck the United States in 1918 and 1919, it caused the deaths of around 700,000 people. According to the CDC, around 900,000 Americans die every year of preventable chronic diseases. Here’s a breakdown of the top ten causes of death in America,

It’s interesting to note that the most common causes of death are preventable chronic diseases.  Whereas back in the day the leading cause of death was by virulent disease, today we are making a conscious choice to kill ourselves through bad health and lifestyle decisions. By far heart disease is the biggest killer, in fact today it is the most common cause of death in the world.  More than 60 million Americans suffer from it, and 90% of heart disease is preventable. After heart disease is cancer. 30% of cancer cases are preventable. Then there are chronic respiratory diseases, such as COPD, emphysema, and pulmonary fibrosis. This is the one cause of death that is rapidly increasing, soon to overtake all others, with 6.8 million Americans diagnosed with COPD alone. As a respiratory therapist I can tell you that the vast majority of chronic respiratory diseases are preventable. After accidents are stroke, of which 90% are preventable. Finally, listed at number 7 is diabetes.  There are two type of diabetes, Type I and Type II.  Type I is insulin dependent, where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels.  Type II diabetes is called “insulin resistant” diabetes, typically caused by a diet with too much sugar and too much processed carbohydrates. This results in more and more insulin being secreted to control blood sugar levels, eventually causing the body to become resistant to it’s own insulin. Type I diabetes is relatively rare, accounting for 1.25 million people, and only 10% of cases are preventable.  Type II diabetes is more prevalent, accounting for 26 million Americans. 90% of Type II diabetes cases are preventable.

We are living in amazing times. At no other time in history have people had the option to make conscious choices to lead a healthy life. Even today in impoverished countries many people still don’t have that option. We are literally killing ourselves. It’s not just America, in most wealthy nations this is a growing trend.  But just as we can make a choice to kill ourselves, we can choose life as well. The vast majority of my patients, I would say 90%, are people who are very sick or dying of chronic diseases directly caused by bad health decisions and bad lifestyle decisions, whether it be smoking, obesity, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse. 90% of those people are readmitted on a monthly basis because despite their health problems, they still won’t take care of themselves. The quality of life of these people is often terrible.  Many are already dead, they’re just waiting for someone to bury them.

In the past 8 years healthcare has been a hot button political issue, what with Obamacare and all.  Many agree that our healthcare system is broken.  The reason is obvious, our healthcare system is overwhelmed by the tens of millions of people suffering from preventable chronic diseases, people who require multiple readmissions. I will be honest, no government program or healthcare system is going to fix it. NONE. No insurance system, whether its the private market, Obamacare, or universal healthcare is going to be able to handle it in the long term.  But there is a solution, and it begins with the individual, it begins with you and me. We all must take responsibility for our own health. We need to all step up and start taking care of ourselves. We all have our addictions and vices without exception. No matter what your addiction is, food, alcohol, drugs, smoking, even things like sex addiction or gambling addiction, etc., we can either kick these addictions, or they will kick us.

There are three arguments I often hear against what I and others who propose the same often get. People who make these arguments are either in denial or are fools. The first is the “well I have a 95 year old grandpa” argument.  The old argument cites some claim that the person knows some person or relative who smoked and drank heavily but lived to a rife old age.  Well I can dispel this bullshit easily. For every “95 year old grandpa” example, there are hospitals and nursing homes across the country filled with people who were not so lucky.  The second argument is the “well you’re gonna die of something”, which often goes hand and hand with the third argument, the “I don’t wanna live to be old anyway” argument.  Well that’s all fine and well that you want to die young. But consider this, what if you don’t? Because after all, most people aren’t dying young, they’re living to be old, even the smokers, drinkers, druggies, and fried food eaters. The difference is that those who take care of themselves have a good quality of life and die well, whereas those that don’t have a terrible quality of life, often dying a horrible death. It’s very rare now a days that smokers die young of cancer, or alcoholics die young of liver failure, or obese people die young of heart disease.  With most people with preventable chronic diseases it’s a long downhill slide of illness that spans the course of years, even decades.  Of course, you could do everything right and still lose, still contract a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinsons, or you could get hit by a truck tomorrow. Who knows? Tempus Fugit, Moment Mori. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that as an American, chances are that you are going to die of a preventable illness. So the question is, how do you want to die? Do you want to ride off into the sunset, go out with a bang, or do you want a slow, painful death?  What kind of quality of life do you want to have before you die?  Do you want to spend years, maybe a decade or more having your rotting limbs amputated due to diabetes, barely able to breathe, choking on your own bronchial secretions while waiting for someone to suction you and change your diaper? Or do you want to be like fitness guru Jack Lelane, who was a human beast all his life up to the very day he died at age 96?

So make a commitment today that from here on out you will strive to better yourself, to take charge of your health, to kick your bad habits and become the healthiest person you can be, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Eat healthy foods, stop smoking, stop drinking in excess, exercise, take care of yourself.  You will feel so much better, and you will have the pride all your life that you accomplished something great through hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and character. The solution is simple.  I didn’t say it was easy, I said it was simple. There’s a big difference.

Never Again 360