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I think that the Black Death did much to undermine the human faith in existing structures that were perceived to provide meaning to people. The force of the plague swept through Europe with unprecedented potency and swiftness. "Horror" and "fear" were the primary results in those who survived. Medical science, the clergy, government, and social structuring could not provide explanation as to why what happened happened. People reverted to the worst of behaviors. Scapegoating took place on a wide scale. Jewish people, beggars, foreigners, and nearly anyone perceived to be "different" were scapegoated and burned at the stake. The absolute sense of fear and panic that governed individuals' behavior became the response to the plague. Few displayed a sense of rational understanding, calm acceptance, and faith in existing institutions to provide guidance. Panic swept through as death did, and with it, an embrace of the worst of human nature. This lack of faith in existing social structures was transformative. As society had progressed, clinging belief to these forces to show "civilization," the reaction to the plague served to undermine faith in it. In this, one can say that the part of society that felt the greatest amount of change as a result of the plague was the element that professed faith in social institutions as representative of progress.
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