Article 15—“Débrouillez-vous”

A jaunty passage from Ed Yong’s essay “The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready?” in The Atlantic magazine:

If [the disease outbreak does return], is there any protective equipment at the hospital? “No,” she tells me.

Mikolo laughs. “Article 15,” he says.

Article 15 is something of a Congolese catchphrase, referring to a fictional but universally recognized 15th article of the country’s constitution, “Débrouillez-vous”—“figure it out yourself.” I hear it everywhere. It is simultaneously a testament to the Congolese love for droll humor, a weary acknowledgment of hardship, a screw-you to the establishment, and a motivational mantra. No one’s going to fix your problems. You must make do with what you’ve got.

The sub-headline on that essay says:”The epidemics of the early 21st century revealed a world unprepared, even as the risks continue to multiply. Much worse is coming.”

BONUS (related): Catch-22

The numbers 15 and 22 will be among those explored in the special NUMBERS issue (vol. 24, no. 4) of the Annals of Improbable Research, coming later this year.