Subject: happy long weekend; The World Is Cancelled
Subject: happy long weekend; The World Is Cancelled
“IS IT A CRISIS, OR A BORING CHANGE?”
Well, this is fun, isn’t it?
The entire world has been cancelled due to a novel strain of a virus that just can’t seem to get enough of us. A global pandemic with casualties nearing 200,000, and climbing. Chaos in supermarkets. Market volatility, trading halts, and threats of recession. *Not* government bailouts. Festival cancellations and quarantine playlists. Even if it’s just for the ratings, this is bad. Really bad. And just in time for spring break, St. Patricks Day, AND allergy season!!
I’m no doctor, or scientist, but it seems that we’re in it for the long haul, which is to say the least. It’s only been about a hundred years since we had a global pandemic, and the best part is that this thing snuck up on us. Well, not me… I’ve kept my at-least-two-weeks-worth of apocalypse rations close to me since I could vote. Actually, I’m in the middle of a move and had started getting rid of extra food-stuffs – Perfect timing, right?
Anyway, history has been made. All over the world, the streets have that prelude-to-apocalypse vibe – government warnings everywhere, yet people are out in the streets like it’s a holiday. Official warnings against mass gatherings and your general vicinity to other humans, yet the bars remain open [update, the bars are now CLOSED]. I don’t have anything against small business having bills to pay, but wanting to stay open for opportunities’ sake is perhaps a little irresponsible, given the circumstances. Although, that’s not strictly their fault – who blames them for wanting to stay open, when the threat is as vague as the messaging? Also, I suppose there’s no real way to distinguish how bad this gets without that control group…. kidding! Jokes aside, things have been feeling a little “band keep playing” around here lately, if you catch my drift…. 😉
That’s not to say it’s anyone’s fault, whether scared or nonchalant. I just don’t understand how we let ourselves experience denial like this. On an official/government level, we really do take for granted things like disease prevention, education, and training that saves us time, money, and precious life. The word “protocol” has never been so important, yet meant so little. In these early stages, no one seems to have one worth its salt, and if they do, they don’t have the resources required to execute. During this pandemic, I’ve come across so many different outlooks, but the one constant is that ‘element of surprise’ – not at the virus’ existence, but at how our societies are handling it – and it seems that everyone’s palms are up and pants way, way down. Very few friends, colleagues, and acquaintances seem to have heard any clear message of protocol from an “official” aspect, from their employers, or the government. And by “clear”, I mean ’not-ambiguous’, ’not-vague’, ‘expedient’ and generally characterized by appearing as though what is going on, and needs to be done, is known. I’m of the opinion that this culture of “being caught off-guard” has progressed to the point where we can’t even understand how we’re doing it; we just do, with our fingers crossed. Real hard.
KEEP CALM AND WASH YOUR HANDS, DESU
As I watch all of this develop, it’s not surprising to me that the level of panic coincides with the level of official ignorance. Pardon my candor, but we know how to do this. Ever notice while driving how there’s a sharp decrease in human intelligence that coincides directly with precipitation, of any kind? It drizzles, someone gets creamed on the highway. To me, this COVID-19 debacle is a lot like that – yes, it’s hail, but you know what to do. You are prepared for this. Remember your lessons. Slow down, get off the road, perhaps find somewhere to park, get out of the car and wait safely while you watch your car get pummeled to pieces (and hope insurance will cover it).
Yes, this global pandemic mess is a little scary. But it’s only scary because we seem, on the whole, a little ill-prepared. Not sure if it’s the media blowing it out of proportion, or all the disgusting distractions, from overly-opportunistic hackers, to questioning whether or not our own president was tested, but across the board, no one seems to be handling this well. There are a few nations that seemed to have learned from past mistakes, but many, many more are paying a heavy price for being caught off-guard, when there could have been more infrastructure in place.
Blame isn’t the issue here, so much as is prevention and containment culture. I don’t think there’s any need to go full-fascist with wrangling this bug, rather I simply think a lot of what has now become a full-blown crisis could have been averted. The “authorities” in the US, at least, missed, and then misused an opportunity to band together and send a unified message to their citizens. Because the political atmosphere has been so badly fractured lately, that unified message was perhaps drafted, but never sent. Actually, the closest thing was a text, initially thought to have originated from the State Department, which turned out to be just a hoax. So, we were all just left fend for ourselves for a few weeks, in confusion and reserved caution, continuing to go to work while the virus continued to spread country-to-country, then state-to-state, while the official response was, “Don’t Worry.” Not, “Don’t worry, and here’s some tips”… just “Don’t Worry.” So, naturally, we worried.
This isn’t to say that effort wasn’t made – plenty of officials touted reasonable and clear warnings about the dangers, and the responses of local government around the land was surprisingly efficacious as it was, in some cases, downright Puritan. I’m proud of people, in general, for caring so much about their communities, taking matters into their own hands, and promoting healthy (not paranoid!) hygiene culture in healthy, effective ways. It’s the official responses that irk me… and I’m not necessarily talking about the White House – theres nothing official about grown-ups playing President.
I remember just days after the virus was identified as a possible threat to the global community, seeing articles about the World Health Organization playing down the severity of the outbreak, so as to not create a fear-based reaction. This is a difficult sell, when the CDC was doing its very best to trumpet the warning at the same time. I simply think that, as far as ‘authoritative’ public health organizations go, that was quite the responsibility to shirk. Then, all of a sudden, just days later WHO invoked the “P” word, despite their earlier, strange reluctance – I can understand not wanting people to panic, and even not wanting to jump to conclusions prematurely, but I expected at least a little more effort; more immediate/urgent advisories, signs and notifications, requests to redirect funds and resources in preparation, calls for the community to donate, as well as prepare themselves in a more civilized manner for the mere possibility. Come on, it’s your job. What about that creepy thing they do when they text your phone about emergencies?? I didn’t get a single one, which is strange, given the obvious opportunity to creep.
Here we set the stage for an unmatchable drama: with circumstance set thus, we got the predictable media firestorm, mire of poilitics, and the spirit of casual denial toward any real threat followed by immediate, preternatural panic, as usual. This time, however, it was a little different – the threat was very real, novel, and taking lives. For each day in February, then March, there were more than a hundred new cases, with more than that mis-or-undereported. Soon, globally, cases numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and mortality – well, no insignificant portion of that, was growing too. What began with a few isolated cases in China, continued on with quarantined cruise ships (a whole dystopian novella in its own right), then eventually whole countries on lockdown, some building massive trenches for which to bury their dead. The Great Global Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 is a real page turner, complete with silent streets and people on house arrest singing solidarity from their balconies. This is real opera. You literally don’t have to make any of it up, because it’s all non-fiction. In what some argue is still the beginning, we are actually afraid, and just now doing all the things we should have been doing when this virus surfaced – from washing our hands, to cleansing our souls.
‘CAUSE YOU’RE EMPTY, AND I’M EMPTY, AND YOU CAN NEVER QUARANTINE THE PAST’
That said, there’s very little we can do these days to protect ourselves from bad culture, especially when we trust our faulty, dysfunctional governments to lead by example. Right now, despite the warnings, people are continuing on with business as usual, and I mean that quite literally. There are, and were, a lot of opportunities to understand this virus, but a lot of our attitudes are on a “La-Di-Da” while we allow a poorly understood disease to threaten and destroy a significant portion of the population, all due to a poor effort given by official channels to educate and tranquilize. Again, I’m not saying there has been no response. I’m saying the response has been that of a child who has been told not to go out after dark, and hears this advice, clearly and distinctly in his mother’s voice, as he’s being beaten and mugged. Sometimes rules are a good thing, because they aren’t rules, they’re consequences, and knowing about them can save you from yourself.
On a biological and geological level, I do think these things need to happen to the species, you know? But the response on this one has been terrible. The psychological environment for something like a pandemic are terrible. We, as a species, have gotten way too comfortable with, well… everything, really. More specifically, we got comfortable with the gravity of the concept of a pandemic, merely considering it, as though it could never happen to us, or that if it did, we’d all be simply doomed to die some romanticized version of your favorite zombie film. Through tv, movies, video games, music, and also the news, we got used to a conceptualized trope of a pandemic, without actually talking about it or learning anything from past mistakes. Having nothing real to go on, we allowed our defenses and infrastructures to weaken. This attitude bled into our politics, our protocols, our knowledge, and training. This fictionalized, arms-length take on reality infected the very way we handle things. Well, now we have something real to go on, and it’s better than most pandemic fictions currently available. And if that’s only because we weren’t prepared, well…. let’s use what time we have left to redeem ourselves, so we don’t go down as that species.
It seems that every few years there’s a scare, and we, as a species, drum it up to be something fierce, threatening in not only a physical, but also morbidly existential way, when it really isn’t, with the right knowledge and preparation. The flu was once ‘incurable’ too, but perhaps we need this experience, like we needed that one. Perhaps this will be a teaching moment, if the victories aren’t too Pyrrhic. Or perhaps we’ll learn nothing more than that we like to be afraid, even more than we like to be in control. Remember when Ebola came back? Yeah, we handled that great.