As far as the First World goes, this Pandemic is the first major challenge it has faced since the end of the Second World War 75 years ago.
It would have been different, if the Cold War had turned Hot, and Thermonuclear, as I feared in my teenage years, before the Berlin Wall suddenly collapsed in late 1989.
But you look at what we faced in the generation before the Cold War started. The First World War in 1914, the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919-20, the Great Depression from 1929 until the Second World War broke out in 1939. And if you were in Europe, the period between the wars saw the rise of Fascism in Italy, Germany and Spain (which had an awful civil war to boot), plus the tyrannic excesses of Soviet Russia.
The outbreak of peace in 1945, and the economic prosperity which swept Western Europe, North America, and the rest of the Anglosphere (ie us here in Australia) caused us to live privileged and prosperous lives, with the Cold War as the only shadow of fear.
So, when I reflect on the coronavirus pandemic, I need to think about what my parents (born in Italy in the 1930s) and grandparents have lived through, and remember that it is important to be cautious, but not fearful.
My grandfathers had it far worse. They both fought in the First World War in the Italian army (one was a machine gunner and the other a corporal and POW), and then lived through the fighting around their villages (with their families) in the Second World War, as well as living out their lives in the Cold War. They participated in extreme violence, and then in their middle and old age lived through the threat of extreme and even ultimate (ie nuclear violence). And they lived through the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression, and Fascist Italy.
What we face now is nothing compared to all that.
It is important to self-isolate, and to be cautious, and to avoid behaving recklessly such as to become a victim of the pandemic, or to spread the disease. This is civic duty that everyone needs to take seriously at this time. But it is also important to not be fearful. There are worse things than a pandemic with a disease which has a 5% fatality rate (when you add in the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions) to fear.
At the moment, we have voluntarily and without dissent surrendered many of the liberties that we take for granted normally for the duration of the pandemic – things such as routine economic activity, the right to social contact, the right to peaceful protest. These matters effectively add up to a suspension of the economy and civil society. Such suspensions cannot endure for long without resulting in a significant decline in the long term freedoms of the people.
We need our small businesses, our political parties, our sporting clubs (especially the small ones who play on the local oval and do not appear on TV), our cultural groups and associations. These things, the micro-economy and civil society, are what keep us fed and free. These need to be immediately restored as soon as the pandemic is over.
Otherwise, we will just remain prisoners in our homes, like the denizens (I do not consider them to be citizens) of the Peoples Republic of China.