28 May 2020

More Random Plague Thoughts (Again, Mostly Non-Political)

—Let's start with a simple premise: This Coronavirus Pandemic is ABSURD
  • What does that mean?
    • "In philosophy, 'the Absurd' refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe." 
  • It has no rational reason for being
  • It has no purpose
  • It has no meaning (other than what we choose to make of it)
  • We all want to believe there is something or someone behind it
    • An enemy, a conspiracy to blame
  • It doesn't make any sense
  • It came on us through no fault of our own
    • For example, it was not a punishment from God
    • (Though it would make just as much sense to say it hit the U.S. so hard to chasten us for electing one of the most evil people ever to occupy the Presidency as to say that Hurricane Katrina was a punishment for debauchery in New Orleans)
  • It will not be "conquered" as in a war or dominated politically
    • It may be mitigated
    • It might eventually disappear
      • But these rely on effective medical and social strategies
—Because it is such an ABSURDITY, when it first hit no one thought it applied to them
  • People dismissed it
  • They called it a hoax
  • They said it was just the common cold
  • They said it wasn't their problem
  • They called it a political hit job on the President
  • They blamed the media (a nebulous, ultimately meaningless concept)
  • Then they said it was no worse than the seasonal flus
    • We don't do anything special about them, so why respond to this?
  • They said it was no worse than automobile accidents
    • They neglected to say that car wrecks, though they sometimes kill people, are not highly contagious and infectious
  • Then they said it was a biological weapon created by Chinese scientists
  • Then, when it became apparent it was widespread and extremely contagious and deadly, they claimed it wouldn't last
    • The President said it would go away magically in a few days and that deaths would decline from fifteen per day to zero before the end of April
—An absurdity leaves us in A STATE OF UNKNOWING
  • It's inconvenient
  • It's incomprehensible
  • It's offensive to our sense of self-worth
  • It's intolerable
  • It's a threat to our self-understanding and our usual way of life
  • We want to understand what's happening to us
  • We want a convenient answer to explain why this is happening
  • It is an unwanted distraction from our fixed ideas and plans; it causes us to lose focus on reality and the actual threat that we are facing
—But there are no easy answers or solutions. And because we don't understand it, we are UNABLE TO CONFRONT IT directly
  • For example, the Trump administration discarded all of the pandemic planning from the previous administration and dismantled the pandemic task force on the National Security Council—and, after the pandemic hit, they were paralyzed, didn't know what to do, and failed to re-institute these measures
  • Trump personally ignored warnings about the threat, and his denials and delay in directly confronting this pandemic has resulted in undue additional deaths and economic disruption
    • And there's more likely to come by virtue of leaders denying the potential for a resurgence of the virus before a vaccine is developed
—There are PROVEN STRATEGIES, developed by experienced professionals who study these things for a living, for dealing with pandemics which could have and should have been implemented as early as January when we first learned the pandemic was on the way
  • Testing
    • For infection
    • For antibodies
  • Isolation and quarantine
  • Other public health social measures
    • Education about washing hands, masks, means of transmission, etc.
    • Social distancing, limiting public gatherings, etc.
  • Contact tracing
    • Locating every one the infected person been in contact with
  • Treatment strategies
  • Vaccine development
    • A lengthy, difficult process which most don't understand
—Our MISDIRECTED REACTIONS to this absurd situation have taken many forms:
  • Fear: This may be the biggest factor.
    • This virus is an existential threat; that means it can kill you and others
    • We worry: What will this unknown scourge do to me and my family and friends? To the country? To the economy? To the world?
  • Denial:
    • We think: Oh, it can't be as bad as all that
      • That's leads us to distractions
      • We try to forget about the omnipresence of this threat
  • Magical Thinking:
    • We think: God will save us
    • Or, it will go away on its own if we ignore it
    • Or, I'm impervious; it can't happen to me
  • Embarrassment:
    • We think: How could this happen to me? to us? I didn't do anything to deserve this
    • Leaders are embarrassed it happened on their watch, don't want to be blamed
    • Victims are embarrassed they got sick
  • Blame:
    • We think: This had to be somebody's fault—but not mine
    • Leaders try to slough off responsibility instead of directly dealing with the problem, so they invent boogeymen
      • Trump blames China, Democrats, Media, States
      • Trump claims he bears no responsibility for the health of the nation
  • Paralysis:
    • We are so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation, we can't act
      • Or, in Trump's case, we refuse to act to relieve suffering
      • The extent to which this is (a) Trump's incompetence and inability to govern or (b) a GOP ideological inflexibility is yet to be determined
      • The long-term Republican strategy of "starving the beast" by depriving the federal government of revenue to reduce its ability to act may be at play here
    • As tax strategist Grover Norquist said: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
      • Well, it's certainly drowning now
      • But it's drowning in deaths of American citizens that are proportionally completely out-of-whack with those of most other countries.
      • We just crossed the 100,000 death threshold
  • Exhaustion:
    • This thing is so big and overwhelming, fighting it just seems endless
      • It's a marathon, not a sprint.
    • Our sympathy, which begins running on adrenalin, takes its toll on first responders and medical facilities are overwhelmed
    • Scientists working tirelessly to develop vaccines and cures burn themselves out
    • We don't know how long we can hold out in isolation without going to restaurants or barber shops and hair salons or movies and bowling alleys
  • Over-reaction:
    • Some cry, "Let's just shut down everything. Let's reboot society! Burn it all down! Let everybody die who's going to die so we can have 'herd immunity'; we'll be stronger as a species for it."
  • Grasping for cures:
    • Snake oil! Miracle bleach! Hydroxychloroquine! Silver oxide!
    • Of course, it is this aspect which brings on charlatans, frauds, snake oil salesmen, and other conmen trying to exploit this feeling of uncertainty and make a quick buck off vulnerable
  • Stress:
    • It is pervasive; it overlays everything from our isolation and daily meal planning to problems with re-opening the larger economy
    • It suffocates us; it weighs down all our thoughts and emotions and actions
  • Nostalgia:
    • We hope we will get back to the good old days; we want the old 'normal
  • Cynicism:
    • Some don't care who or how many die but merely want their political polls or stock portfolios or profits to increase
      • Some politicians are actually polling and making political calculations about how many deaths are acceptable so that a mayor or governor or president can claim to re-open. They've proclaimed this thinking publicly 
    • These are the real "death panels" which some used as a canard—a false charge—against the Affordable Care Act
  • Loneliness:
    • So many people are dying alone, losing loved ones
    • Others are isolating with no social contact with their churches or clubs or groups
  • Anger:
    • We're mad at the virus so we act out, taking it out on the very people who are trying to alleviate or mitigate the disease and those around us
    • Misguided outrage helps us deal with our own feelings of helplessness before this thing which is bigger than us, has no reason, attacked us through no fault of our own
      • But because it is misguided, it causes further societal damage
—These are all reactions to GRIEF
  • And that is what this situation feels like
  • We are all grieving. We are all experiencing grief
    • But our grief feels so small in the face of this overwhelming general pandemic
  • And that is the problem
    • There's nothing we, individually, can do
    • We feel vulnerable and helpless in the face of this massive assault
    • And we don't like that feeling
  • What's more, we can't even be sad—yet. It's too early to mourn
    • People are still getting sick and dying
    • We are still in the throes of this thing
    • We are still experiencing limitations on our freedoms and activities
  • So our grief takes all these other misdirected forms
  • We are impatient for it to be over
  • We all want to live our lives free of this virus and the restrictions it has imposed on us
  • We all want to do anything else than isolate
  • We all want to get back to normal
    • But in this case, normal may cause yet more devastation—economic and social—and greater death tolls as second and possibly third waves hit
  • And we need to be very wary of this
—APPROPRIATE RESPONSES to grief include:
  • It's okay to feel sad, feel helpless, to be angry, to be stressed out, to mourn
    • But it's how we deal with those emotions that matters in society
    • How we act out our emotional turmoil
  • Sympathy: Ask 'What can I do to help someone who is suffering, someone who is in grief?' 
  • Hope: There will be a vaccine perhaps a cure—someday. Some good people are on the job
  • Patience: Don't rush back into unsafe situations. Be wise!
—BOTTOM LINE: The world is grieving, the country is grieving, we are each grieving in our own ways
  • This grieving will not end anytime soon
  • We need to be aware of it, understand it, and somehow learn to accept this as our changed circumstance
  • We can take some comfort in the fact that it is temporary, but must realize it is not going away anytime soon
    • And take precautions as we go forward
The sooner we realize that EVERYONE is experiencing this ABSURD GRIEF (though people are responding to it in different and often inappropriate ways), that everyone is MOURNING, the sooner we can begin to HEAL—individually and as a society and as a species.

15 May 2020

Don't Be a 💩🏊‍♂️!

I’ve been brooding about how this will likely be the first summer in decades I won’t be able to go out and swim a couple of miles every week. I’m not Masters level fast, mind you. But I love swimming. It's a full-body, cardio-vascular workout with no impact. My free-style recreational mile is usually just under 40 minutes—no toys or floaties or fins. And I do try to swim year round though my gym has been closed since February.

This put me in mind of what it was like when my kids were young and we would take them swimming. We wanted them to develop a love of the water at a young age. And we were gratified they all grew up to be on their swim teams, train to become lifeguards, and take up scuba diving—one of my great loves.

Every once in awhile we would get to the pool just as some kid had pooped 💩 in the shallow end. The lifeguards would have to clear everyone out for 24 hours while they shocked the pool with chlorine and ran a full filtration cycle.

This pandemic is actually a lot like that. This country has a big poop 💩 problem. The coronavirus is the poop in the social pool, and the stay-at-home, isolation, quarantining, and social distancing regimes are the 24-hour reboot.

The only problem now is that some people—some wealthy, some armed, some governors, and some presidents—want to reopen the pool before they’ve cleaned out all the poop 💩. And plenty of the loudest mouths are happy to let YOU be the poop 💩 swimmers 🏊‍♂️ so their stock portfolios or poll numbers won’t tank.

So, all I’m saying is don’t be a poop swimmer 💩🏊‍♂️! It's too early to re-open the economy without proper planning and precautions. The folks urging us to go in too early are not lifeguards; our health and safety is not their first concern.

Let’s let the filtration cycle run its full course and get the place cleaned out. This may take months. We may risk a second and third wave of COVID-19 which could be devastating. We all want to get back in the pool as soon as possible, but it’s not worth a mouthful of virus—or poop 💩 for that matter.

09 May 2020

More Plague Thoughts — More Political This Time

I posted the following thread on Twitter a couple of days ago.

Ok. Hold onto your collective hats. It’s time for some (conspiracy) game theory. In a very memorable phrase, Trump’s campaign manager Parscale recently declared that his ‘Death Star’ campaign was about to launch on all platforms. 1/10

The next day, a massive disinformation conspiracy theory video appears on Facebook filled with a mixture of misinformation, disinformation, and partial or slanted truth-or truthiness. Pl@ndemic. Millions of instantaneous views & shares. 2/10

This is a rather obvious piece of propaganda intended to confuse people, poison the dialogue, and create and play on people’s fear and doubt about the authority of using a scientific approach to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 3/10

It was shocking how fast it “went viral.” And of course there was further PR complaining about how the media is attempting to squelch the truth. Which only propagated it more. But that’s not all. 4/10

Today it was announced that Trump’s valet tested positive for coronavirus, and in a memorable phrase Trump was lava level angry. It was this phrasing that jumped out at me. It sounds contrived. What does it matter what Trump is feeling? 5/10

Shouldn’t we be concerned about what he’s NOT been doing to protect the country? This feels like another distraction tactic to take the heat off of him for his negligence and reckless indifference and utter incompetence in dealing with this problem. 6/10

Now the speculation: Let’s say it’s not true, or only partially true—the valet has a common cold. But what if the campaign sequesters Trump for a couple weeks or so (a la Kim Jong-Un)? 7/10

Rumors spread that Trump has the virus. Everybody wants to know. Does he have it? Is he going to die? Nobody says anything. Then all of a sudden, he reappears (again like Kim). And the whisper campaign begins about how he beat the invisible enemy. 8/10

He’s a superman. He’s a God. It’s a miracle. God wants him to rule four more years, otherwise a lesser man would have succumbed. It’s campaign gold, I tell ya. 9/10

So, is this another move in the Death Star campaign. I wouldn’t put it past them. Watch this space! 10/10

PS. Yes, I’ m cynical, but not half as cyncical as this Trump campaign. Also a reminder: I craft narratives (create fiction) daily.