1 And I sawe when the Lambe opened one of the seales, and I heard as it were the noise of thunder, one of the foure beastes, saying, Come and see.
2 And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and hee that sate on him had a bowe, and a crowne was giuen vnto him, and hee went foorth conquering, and to conquere.
4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was giuen to him that sate thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was giuen vnto him a great sword.
5 And when hee had opened the third seale, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and loe, a blacke horse: and hee that sate on him had a paire of balances in his hand.
6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the foure beastes say, A measure of wheate for a penie, and three measures of barley for a penie, and see thou hurt not the oyle and the wine.
7 And when hee had opened the fourth seale, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, & his name that sate on him was Death, and hell followed with him: and power was giuen vnto them, ouer the fourth part of the earth to kill with sword, & with hunger, and with death, and with the beastes of the earth.
--Revelation 6:1-8As the Ebola crisis continues to unfold in West Africa we would do well to remember the prophecy of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And no, I'm not foretelling the end of the world; these horsemen have appeared many times throughout history.
The meaning of the white horse has been debated, but in recent years it has commonly been called Pestilence, or disease. The red horse is clearly war.
The black horse is said to symbolize famine and want; but the instruction to spare the oil and wine is a suggestion that the famine's hardship will fall primarily on the poor.
The pale horse is Death, always a traveling companion to Pestilence, War, and Famine.
War and Death had already destroyed the infrastructure of West Africa. The reason there are so few doctors and health care workers in Liberia is because they all left or were killed during that country's brutal civil war. And so following in the footsteps of War has been Pestilence -- the Ebola virus. Ebola is also preventing almost all other diseases from being treated, so the death rate is magnified.
Soon we will have Famine. In Sierra Leone, as many as 40 percent of farmers have abandoned their fields. Presumably a large number have done likewise throughout the region. Trade has come to a standstill and food is already in short supply. These supplies will get shorter still as untended farms produce no crops.
I've made it clear that I'm more than irritated with the fact that our government has repeatedly given the public false information that the Ebola virus poses virtually no risk to any American and is incredibly hard to catch. This isn't true. But with that said I believe the chances of a major Ebola outbreak in the United States are quite low. It may sound like a quibble, but I object to the government claiming "absolutely no risk" in cases when there is "an overwhelming likelihood that there is no risk." There is a difference.
But the real Ebola story is in Africa. Unfortunately, I've concluded that based on current efforts the Ebola virus will not be contained; it eventually will spread throughout the undeveloped world. I don't know what the eventual death toll will be, but unless a vaccine is developed I can't imagine that it will be less than 10 million people and could easily top 100 million or more.
That's a lot of dead people, and even if not a single American dies it will have some major effects on our lives. A recent blog post by Jody Lanard and Peter M. Sandman entitled Ebola: Failure of Imagination sums up my view of the situation quite well. Essentially the authors say that the worst-case scenarios for the Ebola virus are so awful that we are refusing to even contemplate them, and yet by our very refusal to do so are failing to make rational choices that might stave of potential disaster.
The United States has sent 4,000 troops and various countries are expected to send $1 billion in aid to the region. Certainly this is noble, but it's not going to be enough to stop this epidemic. Perhaps 40,000 troops and medics and $20 billion might do the trick, but there is no national or international will to do this.
And so Pestilence will very, very slowly continue its march around the globe, often following the Horseman of War. Soon after will come Famine for the poor amid plenty for the rich. And always with them Death.