First, on a personal note, an apology to regular readers that things have been a little slow and irregular around here recently; for the last week or so I’ve been fighting off a dose of some inconsiderate virus whose symptoms appear to include bitter sinus headaches and sleeping eighteen-plus hours a day, neither of which is exactly conducive to getting much in the way of writing done…
Hopefully I’m on the mend now. And today, my plan is to hand out some chunks of worldbuilding that I have been able to work on while plague-ridden, by way of sharing what I have got. So, to begin with the thematically appropriate…
Coincidentally, thinking of plague, I happened this morning across a Seanan McGuire interview, and specifically, this section of it:
You’ve said that the modern lack of respect for basic health and quarantine procedures makes you want to scream.
No one respects quarantine anymore! Nobody comprehends quarantine, and absolutely nobody comprehends the fact that sometimes your “rights” and “liberties” do not have any place in this conversation. We have totally drug-resistant tuberculosis! And what do people with totally drug-resistant tuberculosis do? Do they lock themselves in their houses for the rest of their lives? Do they eat a bullet? No! They get on airplanes. And then they get pissed off when the CDC yells at them. Quarantine exists so that we can continue as a species to exist. And yes, it sucks if I say to you, “Dude, really sorry, had to shoot your wife. Had the totally drug-resistant tuberculosis, yo.” But you know what sucks more? Killing an elementary school because you went outside with your totally drug-resistant tuberculosis.
And, well, that’s obviously a question they’ve had to resolve in the Eldraeverse, which equally obviously is somewhere where your rights and liberties absolutely definitely have a place in the conversation, and woe betide anyone who might suggest otherwise…
But, that being said, it’s not something they find particularly hard to reconcile. After all, it says it pretty clearly in the Fundamental Contract:
“A person’s property and domicile may not be moved, destroyed, occupied, damaged, altered, or made use of without his informed consent. A person’s body is considered his own property, and so are his work and his services.”
…which is already the basis for why assaulting someone with, say, your fist, is considered unethical and unlawful. As is using a weapon of conventional construction. As is doing so negligently, so you can’t simply shoot randomly and assign the responsibility to whoever happens to walk in front of your bullet.
So, therefore, is negligently assaulting someone with your parasite, bacterium, virus, prion, etc. The difference here is quantitative, not qualitative.
Application, of course, varies. If you’re just that jackass who insists on going to work, or out to shop, say, with your streaming cold, or whatever, then your tort insurer is not going to be very happy with you at all, because your litigation losses in the microtort system are going to add up pretty damn fast.
Go walking around the town with a more serious but still not uncommon and treatable disease, the sort of thing we used to think of as common childhood ailments – well, then, someone’s getting sued, and someone’s going to court, and someone’s getting smacked down very thoroughly (heavy restitutive and punitive fines, meme rehab, etc.) for negligent battery of some class or another if they managed to actually infect anyone, because that shit? That shit is not acceptable.
Now, when it comes to the really serious things, the things the CDC *here* does not hesitate to impose quarantines for, like the local equivalent of said utterly drug-resistant tuberculosis, or ebola, and other such things of that class…
Technically, in theory, the Office of Disease and Toxin Control, Prevention, and Elimination can only post “quarantine advisories”.
But in practice, anyone who goes around breathing utterly drug-resistant tuberculosis over people is committing acts negligently equivalent to biological warfare with every glob of sputum they cough up, and that, right there, invokes that other fundamental sophont right, the Right of Defense and Common Defense.
So they can’t force you to stay either inside your home or, should you need to travel outside it, inside an IOSS 21347-compliant bionano containment suit.
They can, however, shoot you in the head, incinerate your corpse, and apologize afterwards if you don’t. (As can anyone else, of course, but the professionals like to get there first.)