Another Ebola Outbreak Speaks to the Cruel Randomness of Birth

An Ebola outbreak has reported in the Congo, and may be spreading to larger cities where it will become more virulent. The horrific disease, which is sometimes known as the death of a thousand cuts, is endemic to the region; only a few years ago, a similar outbreak, this time in West Africa, claims tens of thousands of lives in across three of some of the world’s poorest countries.

I cannot help but contemplate the sheer randomness of the human condition. By a mere accident of birth, millions of people are at risk of dying in one of the most awful ways imaginable. Hundreds of millions more find themselves born in places rife with disease, natural disasters, poverty, and/or political repression. 

By the same token, I and millions of others are as far removed from such horror as possible. For no reason at all, I won the lottery of creation and found myself born at precisely the right time and place: in the late 20th century ,to a well-to-do family that managed to migrant to one of the richest countries in the world.

This combination of privileges — a middle class family in a well off part of a rich country in the peaceful and advanced 20th century — is as exceptionally fortunate as it is rare; for the vast majority of people who have ever lived, such comfort and wellness would be inconceivable, let alone attainable.

So while I sit here in the aforementioned comfort of my bedroom, typing away about distant horrors I can literally only imagine, I can’t help but wonder if there will come a day where this lottery of birth won’t be so cruel, when far more people — maybe even  all people — can know that no matter where they happen to end up, they have a shot at a long and decent life. Given the cold and uncaring nature of this universe, it would be up to us to make it happen. I wish I knew or could do more.

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