Par OLIVIER BECHT – DÉPUTÉ DU HAUT-RHIN
Coronavirus : que nous enseigne l’Histoire ?
Pour ma génération, cette épidémie mondiale est un évènement encore jamais connu, jamais vécu. Pourtant, en discutant avec mes parents, il apparaît que le monde en a déjà connu et pas seulement dans les siècles passés. Nul besoin de remonter à la peste, au choléra ou encore à la grippe espagnole de 1918. D’autres épidémies, ressemblant fortement au Coronavirus ont frappé le monde en 1957 et en 1969. En 1957, le monde connaît une pandémie nommée « grippe asiatique ». Mon père s’en souvient encore, car toute sa famille (père, mère, 5 enfants) va alors rester couchée, presque sans possibilité de se lever, pendant plus de 15 jours. Cette « grippe asiatique » fera 100.000 morts rien qu’en France et plus de 2 millions de morts dans le monde.
En 1969, à nouveau venue d’Asie, la « grippe de Hong Kong » frappe le monde. Elle va faire environ 31.000 morts en France et, 1 million de morts dans le monde. J’ai retrouvé un article du Journal Libération, qui comparait en 2005 le traitement de la canicule de 2003 avec celui de la « grippe de Hong Kong ». Voici ce que l’extrait de cet article disait de la situation en 1969 : « On n’avait pas le temps de sortir les morts. On les entassait dans une salle au fond du service de réanimation. Et on les évacuait quand on pouvait, dans la journée, le soir. »
Aujourd’hui chef du service d’infectiologie du centre hospitalo-universitaire de Nice, le professeur Dellamonica a gardé des images fulgurantes de cette grippe dite «de Hong-Kong » qui a balayé la France au tournant de l’hiver 1969-1970. Âgé alors d’une vingtaine d’années, il travaillait comme externe dans le service de réanimation du professeur Jean Motin, à l’hôpital Edouard-Herriot de Lyon. « Les gens arrivaient sur des brancard, dans un état catastrophique. Ils mouraient d’hémorragie pulmonaire, les lèvres cyanosées, tout gris. Il y en avait de tous les âges, 20, 30, 40 ans et plus. Ça a duré dix à quinze jours, et puis ça s’est calmé. Et étrangement, on a oublié ». Ce n’était pas au douzième siècle, c’était il y a 50 ans !
Étrangement on a oublié. Encore plus étrange furent les traitements politiques et médiatiques qui en furent faits. Alors que l’hôpital fait face à une crise sanitaire majeure : afflux brutal de malades, impossibilité de les soigner, mortalité par dizaine de milliers, nul ou presque n’en parle. La presse parle à l’époque de la mission Apollo sur la Lune, de la guerre du Vietnam, des suites de mai 1968… Mais pas ou peu des dizaines de milliers de personnes qui meurent dans des hôpitaux surchargés.
Pire, le monde continue de tourner, presque comme si de rien n’était.
Alors que nous enseigne l’Histoire ?
D’abord et c’est une bonne nouvelle, que nos sociétés en ont « connu d’autres » et qu’elles se remettent de ces épidémies. Malgré la mortalité de masse provoquée par elles, la vie gardera le dessus. Ensuite, qu’en 50 ans, les progrès techniques ont profondément modifié notre société. En 1969 encore, la mort de millions d’individus semblait une fatalité alors qu’aujourd’hui, elle nous paraît juste inacceptable. Nous attendons de la science qu’elle puisse nous protéger de toutes ces maladies, les vaincre voire peut être un jour vaincre la mort elle-même. Je parle bien sûr pour nos sociétés occidentales, car 100.000 morts nous paraissent un choc majeur et inacceptable en Europe ou en Amérique du Nord, alors que personne ou presque ne semble hélas s’offusquer que le paludisme puisse tuer chaque année un demi-million de personnes en Afrique…
L’Histoire nous enseigne encore que nos exigences vis-à-vis de l’État ont beaucoup changé. Nous sommes désormais, et c’est le prix de l’État providence, dans une société qui « attend tout de l’État ».
En 1969, personne n’attendait de Pompidou qu’il arrête la « grippe de Hong Kong » ou encore organise le confinement de la population pour sauver des vies. Aujourd’hui, le moindre accident est nécessairement de la responsabilité d’une autorité publique, et si l’on n’arrive pas à un résultat immédiat et satisfaisant, c’est forcément que les élites ont failli. Que l’on soit bien clair, je ne cherche à excuser personne, et il est vrai que le niveau des impôts n’est pas le même qu’en 1969, donc le niveau d’exigence peut légitimement être plus élevé. Je pose juste des constats. Enfin, l’Histoire nous enseigne que la sphère médiatique a beaucoup changé et influence terriblement le traitement des évènements. En 1969, les médias étaient encore pour beaucoup sous le contrôle de l’État. Comme on ne pouvait pas arrêter la maladie, on n’en parlait quasiment pas. Et la vie continuait tant bien que mal. A l’ère des chaînes d’info continue et des médias sociaux on ne parle plus que de la maladie, du traitement sanitaire, politique, économique. Tout devient très vite sujet à polémique et à scandale. Pire, on a l’impression que notre vision du monde se limite désormais à ce qui défile sur nos écrans. Et comme il n’y a plus que la maladie sur nos écrans, on oublierait presque que la vie continue avec ce qu’elle a de plus merveilleux (l’amour par exemple, mais aussi la création, l’innovation…) mais aussi de pire (la haine, la violence, la criminalité, la bêtise, surtout la bêtise sous toutes ses formes, même au plus au niveau de notre république…).
Bref la saturation de l’info autour de la maladie fait qu’on a l’impression que le monde s’arrête et comme la conscience crée en partie la réalité, il semble vraiment s’arrêter.
Alors est-ce : « autres temps, autres traitements de la maladie et des évènements ». Oui, quelque part… Ces enseignements de l’Histoire ne nous obligent pas à traiter les choses comme dans le passé. Bien au contraire. Mais ces voix venues du passé nous disent néanmoins :
– que les épidémies ont toujours existé et existeront probablement toujours, car elles ne sont pas issues de l’éprouvette d’un savant fou cassée par inadvertance dans un des labos militaires secrets, mais simplement des virus qui font partie de la nature, au même titre que nous, qui portons chacun un kilo et demi de bactéries dans nos entrailles.
– que l’on pourra déployer toute la science et posséder les meilleurs gouvernements du monde, il y aura toujours un évènement naturel que nul n’avait prévu et que l’on ne pourra pas totalement éviter.
– qu’il faut toujours garder l’esprit positif car l’humanité s’est toujours relevée de ces épidémies. La France s’en relèvera aussi et cela d’autant plus vite que nous saurons faire preuve de résilience et de fraternité dans l’épreuve.
Regarder lucidement le passé, c’est parfois prendre le recul nécessaire qui permet de mieux construire l’avenir.
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