Sorry, guys, we’re not all going to die of Ebola. I know, I know, we’ve been hoping for so long for the Sweet Meteor of Death that the Sweet Pandemic of Death would do, right?
But life is full of these little disappointments, and we’re going to have to live and – being us – rebuild the republic.
Which is a problem, because while we’re not all going to die of Ebola, Ebola has revealed how far gone we are in lack of civic trust.
No, I’m not accusing you of being untrusting. I trust you to be untrusting. I count on it.
The poor creatures who “trust government” much less those who think they “belong to the government” can only be kept alive, let alone safe, when surrounded by a lot of us jaundiced creatures who examine every statement of the government and who, if the government tells us our mother loves us, verify it.
But truth be told, even we trust the government, or at least the structure of society in a hundred different ways every day, unless our antenna go up at the indication of duplicity.
Things for which we used to trust the government, if not exactly to at least be in the right ballpark: Unemployment, inflation, the state of the economy, the state of the population, disease statistics, warnings about what was safe and unsafe (yes, sometimes we got the alar scare, but the truth is, it usually erred on the side of two much caution), the state of the world, the state of our enemies’ forces, the state of our forces.
There are more things I’m not calling to mind now, a myriad points that informed us that civilization was in fact still working, that statistics were still being gathered, and that we could – through them – know the state of the world that we couldn’t verify on our own.
This is not – ah – to say that we, we particularly who tend to hang out in this blog, believe in these things in whole or even implicitly. No, but we did believe in them more or less, and kind of. We would say things like “Of course, the census overestimates the uncounted in the big cities, but—” or “They’re having a panic fit over the disinfectant in smokeless cigarettes, ignore that.”
However, for the big things, important things, we trusted government. You know, weather alerts, forewarning the economy was about to take a dive, election results, that sort of “big thing.”
What Ebola has shown is that this trust has eroded to the point it’s practically non existent. It’s also revealed why.
The clown show that has been the CDC handling of it, and then Obama appointing yet another czar – a position not provided for in our constitution – and one who is JUST a political operative, shouldn’t feel anyone with confidence. And it won’t.
It doesn’t mean we will die screaming, but only because we are – relatively – lucky. As Rand Paul (who is a doctor) said the disease is highly infectious (by which I mean that you can catch it from a relative low volume of virus) but not highly contagious (by which I mean that you have to be pretty close to someone and that they’re only contagious in a small window.)
Also our hospitals are among the best in the world (still) even if under pressure from Obamacare.
I don’t mean to say that more people won’t catch this, or that we won’t be made very uncomfortable. I also don’t mean to say it’s a good idea not to institute quarantines for people coming from the affected countries and not to delay visas for those not on urgent business.
Other countries in Africa are completely closing their doors to people from those countries, and there is absolutely no reason we shouldn’t at least ensure those coming in are healthy.
Yes, it would be a bit of trouble/expense, but not as much as the stupid questions at airports and the taking of temperature (which I live in fear will keep me from coming back from Portugal, because one thing I can guarantee, after two weeks in an unheated house, where the temperature hovers between the thirties and the forties I’m going to be ill. I plan for recovery after my return.) And certainly not as much as ending up with 800 people being monitored. Which is part of the problem because we didn’t monitor/restrict the movements of the relatively few originally.
And I’m not saying we’re not going to see more cases. We are. Probably a couple hundred, or I’ll be very surprised. And those couple hundred cases will be cases that could have been avoided.
What I’m saying is that, because of the nature of the illness and the fact we have sanitation and hygiene practices, as much as because our hospitals do still function in some manner, we’re NOT going to have a pandemic.
That’s not to say things can’t get bad enough. A couple hundred cases, if they come close enough together could be enough to ignite a panic. And if you’re thinking of a panic in terms of riots and fits – oh, there will be those too, likely – you’re missing the most important point. First person – first – who catches it through traveling with an infected person, and our airlines face a crisis that will make the post-9-11 one seem like child’s play. And if you think “well people can just drive” you’re missing how much we depend on air transport for business. Yeah, true, business meetings can go virtual and so can other such things, but deliveries can’t.
But as bad as that could get, it’s not TEOTWAWKI and it will pass.
What won’t pass is the reason we’re at risk for it. And that’s the symptom of a far greater disease.
After Summer of Recovery six; after the best unemployment statistics ever, which in fact aren’t, because no one is reporting on the fact our work force participation is smallest since women joined the work force in droves; after ISIS as a JV team; after Benghazi; after the IRS scandals, which even if not fully reported have made it through, like a trickle under the door, to pollute public trust; after Fast and Furious; after journalists joining in presidential debates AND LYING in favor of the administration; after the purposely inflated stock bubble; after global warming; after the press has finally reversed itself on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (after spending years telling us Bush lied); after the secrecy and rumors about the current president’s past; after, after, after…
Even the sheep are restless. Trust in our institutions let alone our leaders is at a minimum.
Of course the leaders’ think if we, the goats, just stop showing where they lied, then everything would be hunky dory. But it’s not like that.
Even sheep realize when you tell them the economy is booming and everyone they know, even the relatively well off are struggling. They’re not stupid. The only people doing well have been those riding the stock market and that might be coming to an end.
So—Why is that a problem?
It’s a problem because in modern life we can’t gather information by ourselves about everything, and because we have to trust two things: the media, and the government.
The government mostly as a collector of facts, something it has done since ancient times. And the media to tell us the truth, no matter how unpalatable.
If we can’t trust them, where will we go? How will we gather true info?
Even I can’t. And I have more experience than most, both of research and of living under untrustworthy governments. But I see movements, like the recent one in real estate in this area and I wonder what is going on and precisely what it means. Is it because more people have better paying jobs? But that doesn’t accord with any statistics. Is our good neighborhood receiving the run off of neighborhoods that crashed? And why is Denver real estate running hot and as a seller’s market?
I read at an economic blog that the government is reinflating the real estate bubble, but I don’t even GET the reasons they say that. And economics is my hobby.
And meanwhile I see what I saw at the beginning of the crisis: Top and bottom restaurants closing (the middle holding fast.) Rents climbing (because so many people can’t buy.) And, because I have a kids in their early twenties, a multitude of young people with high debt, locked out of our economy.
None of this accords with “the economy is getting better.” I lived through the eighties. I know what that looks like.
So what the heck is going on? I don’t know, and neither do you. The government won’t tell the truth and the press won’t report anything that hurts this government. (One reason to vote Republican is that while they can be just as corrupt and venal, the press doesn’t protect them. And after this administration that’s reason enough. Though the fact the press outright lied about WMDs doesn’t help either way.)
And that’s a problem. In a country as complex as ours, in a world as complex as ours, the individual needs to be able to trust signals and facts he can’t gather himself.
When those are corrupt, you end up with an entire society in an hallucinatory state, and behaving like people who hallucinate will: we’ll respond to things that aren’t there, and fail to see the ones that aren’t.
And some of those might kill us, if not now not very far off, if not physically then as a society.
Ebola might cost us as many as a hundred lives (a pessimistic prognosis on my part, btw) and it might throw our economy into greater chaos.
But the lack of trust in anything our government, our media, our institutions say? The DESERVED lack of trust I might add?
That could cost us everything we still have of the republic and send us to third world status in a decade.
And all we can do about it is strive to elect trustworthy people, call the press on their lies and omissions and try to build a network of information composed of individuals.
It’s time we did the job our institutions won’t do.
Until we can supersede them.
In the end, we win, they lose, but let’s shorten our time in the wilderness.
They’ve lost our trust. Let’s rebuild parallel networks of trust.