There is an appeal to insanity, a certain joy in letting go and joining the howling.
The Mass Media which had found they’d lost their power when trying to lead us in the paths they thought rational, have discovered they can still scare us. This makes them very happy, and has convinced them that they will soon have us voting for whom they want us to, by the power of stampeding.
I find myself in the position of an outsider, staring at the madness going on around me, and wondering what the heck everyone is doing and why. And why everyone keeps howling and running around and insisting on being scared, even if they really aren’t. (And yes, I know what I speak of.)
I’ve been accused of being “superior” and of “priding herself on being rational” for not joining the panic fear. I am in fact very afraid, just not of what the rest of the people seem to be afraid of. Also, I don’t think I’m more rational than anyone else, in general. I mean, I do try to arrive at my opinions by thought but I am as much subjected to emotions as the rest of you. Probably more.
So why am I standing aside and staring, round eyed with horror, as everyone runs around as if they were preparing for a hurricane crossed with the black death?
1- I’m a depressive. It goes without saying I’m a natural pessimist. Those of you who are staring at me as if I grew a second hand are not my closest friends. Those are nodding. They’ve talked me out of “the sky is falling” more times than I dare mention. I think Dorothy who comments here often has a script entitled “Get Sarah NOT to kill herself now.”
So, why does this make me step back and stand aloof? Well, I’m used to reality-check myself. If I weren’t, I’d have committed suicide in my twenties. I panicked before you guys had even heard much about this. And then I reality checked: the difference in cultures, (more on that later) the difference in our medical establishments and the way health is handled, the difference in populations (and that too). THE FACT NO ONE KNOWS THE NUMBER OF INFECTED, ONLY THE NUMBER OF AFFLICTED. And even so the deaths in other countries, while worrisomely high are NOT black death and ending civilization numbers. Particularly given the ages it impacts.
2- The fact that the media is obviously, insanely, gleefully trying to stampede us. And that I see the strings.
Look, as a writer I KNOW that the easiest emotion to evoke in your audience is fear/horror. This is why many a beginning writer first finds success in those modes. It is an easy emotion to create, it appeals to the most primitive part of the brain. Mostly it relies on repetition, exaggeration and pushing worst-case-scenarios.
Which is exactly what the media is doing. I have absolutely no idea how many people have died right now, in the US of the Wuhan flu. I can tell you, though that the number is ridiculously small for the panic we are seeing. And most of these people had direct contact with a foreign source of infection.
Note I’m not saying it’s not a bad flu, or that it’s not going to create issues on its own. The very fact that other countries will be much, much harder hit will cause issues in a world with interconnected economies. BUT what we’re doing is making those effects worse, far worse. And “let’s shut down the country” is not anything to stop this flu. Not really. There are rational measures, but none of these are being taken, and instead everything is being done that will make the crisis worse, if it gets bad (and no, I’m not blaming the president. This is a media driven show and he has to conform to the script or be destroyed in the heat of the moment. But dear Lord. NONE of this is rational!)
ALSO I have seen the media encourage panics all my life. NOT ONE OF THEM HAS TURNED OUT TO BE WELL FOUNDED. NOT ONE. Now, even a blind squirrel can find a nut, and maybe they’ll eventually pick up their little “the world is ending sandwich boards” for something that really proves lethal and dangerous. But I doubt it. Knowing how they perceive the world, and what they were indoctrinated with, they routinely think real danger — radical socialism! — is peachy-keen and will bring about paradise and that completely rational things — killing a terrorist in Iran — will bring about the end of the world.
So, I’m not saying when the media goes into one of their frenzies they’re ALWAYS wrong. I’m saying if they told me brushing my teeth was good for my health, I’d spend the next 3 days finding studies on health and tooth brushing.
When evaluating information, minding the source is ALWAYS a good idea.
3- People aren’t treating it as if this were a real threat. No, seriously. The media has got through to the back brain and panicked people, THERE, but the rational ape knows this is not really so. So, while the dino brain runs around screaming and getting into fights over toilet paper — toilet paper is not made in China. How the heck this got crazy all over the world, I don’t know — the ape brain is going about its normal business.
This was illustrated for me by a friend who said her parents are losing their minds with panic…. but are planning to go to brunch with friends on Sunday.
These people are not at all irrational. The panic-suit is needed so the panicked and crazy with fear people don’t turn on you. However, you KNOW it’s not real. YOU KNOW.
Which is in some blog (legal insurrection?) someone mentioned that people are preparing for Wuhan Flu was though it were a hurricane. No, seriously. Yes, I’ve heard it, and you have too “If we all die, who is going to keep the lights on/the gas flowing/etc etc etc.”
Look at the demographics of the people dying. These are not likely to be your linemen, your power-plant operators. They JUST AREN’T. Unless our government goes ape-shit (not out of the possibilities, mind you, with the media going nuts) and decides to start willy nilly welding us into apartment houses as in China (how they’ll manage that, since most of us don’t live in apartment houses, I don’t know!) I don’t see the lights going out. Also, as I understand it, a lot of these are automated now. Lights, water, etc. The reason they fail in storms is being overwhelmed by…. well, the storm. A virus is not going to run around taking down powerlines.
What people are buying is equally crazy, and it’s preparing for weeks (months?) without power. Which is highly unlikely in the circumstances. As is running out of water. As is…. well, running out of bleach wipes, honestly, unless you’re like me and always use quantities of them so you can clean quickly.
None of the things people are panic-buying makes any sense. NONE. They’re acting like they expect a storm, or Godzilla to come through.
This is the sign of a completely irrational panic.
REAL panic would have people holing up at home with enough food for a month or two, after which this will have blown over one way or another.
Oh, and I was highly amused yesterday to find that despite the cancellation of schools, several local associations are offering early summer camps for while your kids are home for spring break “and beyond.” I bet you can find them in your area too.
That’s not REAL panic. That’s cosplaying panic stimulated by the madness of the crowds.
4- Add to that that I’m always a little apart, a little different. No, I take no particularly pride in this, it just is.
This is partly my background, the fact I’ve lived in many countries and realize that they are not in fact “just like us” or “have a first rate medical system” (For EUROPE — snort, giggle.) Or whatever.
And partly the fact that born under national socialism and raised under international socialism I treat the news as a scrying means. They’re not the real truth, though you can find it in their entrails sometimes.
NOW WHY I AM IN FACT GETTING SCARED:
1- This panic reaction is entirely wrong.
I don’t mean just that we’re preparing for the Wuhan-flu-hurricane that will down power lines. I mean something FAR more intrinsic:
We should be concentrating on protecting people AT ACTUAL RISK. You know, the elderly and infirm. (And btw, why is obesity on the list of risk factors, other than the fact the west is obsessed with it as a cardinal sin. Sure, it’s a risk factor for ALL SORTS OF THINGS, but obesity BY ITSELF doesn’t damage your lungs, or put you at a higher risk of flu/colds. That alone tells me this is insanity. Now obesity can be a co-morbidity with things that damage your lungs, such as I gained a ton of weight when my auto-immune/asthma was out of control and I was continuously on prednisone, but trust me on this, living in a village where people died of trifling little colds, being too skinny was more of a risk than being too fat.)
IF we were being rational, all the media and the health services would be saying “If you’re under fifty and in mostly good health, don’t come running to ER or annoy your doctor because you might have this. Come to us only if you are in actual respiratory distress, not before.” The public health people would be saying “If you have a relative in a nursing home, DO NOT VISIT. JUST DON’T till we have a handle on this.” Because, social isolation beats being dead, honestly. They might promote things like facetime to talk to your relatives. Oh, and they would be prioritizing testing AND isolation for anyone — medical personnel, relatives, etc — treating or looking after those people at risk.
THAT would be the rational and sane thing to do. We’re not doing it. This “everyone is going to die screaming” panic is only going to make it harder to look after those at risk.
It’s almost like they WANT those people to die. And yes, that’s paranoia and the idiots are not that savvy.
2- Now Trump is standing astride the economy hitting it with bags of money.
It didn’t work under Obama, and it won’t work under Trump.
I do understand why he’s doing it. But you know what would be better? “If you’re young and healthy, get out of your basement and go the frack to work.”
The country shut down yesterday afternoon. For an illness that impacts MOSTLY those over 65. We closed the schools and colleges. This as I have pointed out might not be entirely bad. Hell, you know, the kids probably learn more at home playing video games. But we also shut down everything else.
It’s find if you can telecommute, but as someone pointed out in the comments, that a fraction of the population. I don’t know. In the US we might be up to 50%. It’s certainly not everyone. And there are a lot of people paid by the hour who are out of work for the duration, and whose places of employment, from restaurants to stores to amusement parks might not recover.
I’m not a sports fan — to be fair, I’m too ADD to sit through games — so to me the shutting down of sports events means nothing but there are small businesses who already took loans to sell food or whatever at parades and sports events, who are staring ruin in the face.
The country is taking a MASSIVE economic hit where it’s real — not the stock market, which will come back — to protect children, the young, and the early middle aged from an illness that as far as anyone can tell has negligible effect on them. Probably less than the annual flu has.
Meanwhile, we’re creating economic situations and social situations which will make caring for the most vulnerable and at risk — to this flu and everything else — almost impossible.
3- The world is going to hurt. The world is going to take a hit like you wouldn’t believe.
I suspect Italy is the “best case scenario” for most Latin countries. The fact that I have elderly relatives in one of them doesn’t fill me with wonder and happiness.
And here is where cultural factors come into effect, things I don’t think even Americans who have traveled are aware of.
Early in this, a friend made some mention of Chinese men peeing in public, and said maybe they learned it from American college students. And I paused and went AHAHAHAHAHAH. No.
Peeing in public might be the default mode for the human male. When I was little I had penis envy because my little male friends didn’t have to go in to pee, and lose their place in the game. (Yes, I know there are implements. Six year old me DIDN’T though.) BUT it’s not just a childhood thing. Always with the caveat that the Portuguese are more socially conscious now and this is reduced (but not stopped. I see at least a couple every time I’m over.) I grew up with males peeing wherever they felt like it. Find a convenient wall, pee against it. Even if the wall is made of glass and someone on the other side is staring at you in horror (it was a phone booth. Dan and I were in it, calling my parents.) I had to explain to my husband not to touch anything from about waist level down, including walls, light poles, etc.
Also public bathrooms in Portugal (and France, when I was there) are generally far less clean than in the US. The closer comparison would be porta-potties in downtowns infested with druggies…. and even then. Even in decent restaurants in Portugal, I warn people going to the bathroom to take toilet paper AND soap (and usually have those in my purse to lend. Too many situations of not having either to hand.) as they’re not refilled nearly as often as they’re here. I’d be shocked if Italy is any different.
BUT there are other seemingly innocuous things that put them at higher risk. Seriously, I’d forgotten about this — I don’t go out and meet strangers much when I visit my family — until my son reminded me: the kissy face.
I’m serious and this is why Latin countries will be at a greater risk: they kiss. They kiss A LOT. Okay, not the guys, at least in Portugal. I mean they don’t kiss each other. Unless they’re related, and then often they do. But if there’s a female involved in any social interaction? She gets kissed by everyone else, male and female, INCLUDING STRANGERS SHE’S MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME. Kisses at leave taking are also not unusual. In church the “kiss of peace”? It’s a kiss if there’s a female involved. If you’re a woman, you just got kissed by ten/twenty strangers.
Now these are face-kisses, but if you think they don’t carry a greater risk than a reluctant hand shake (in times of real danger of infection followed by hand sanitizer) you aren’t thinking. And of course, at least for churches most of the attendance in Europe is over 60.
Then let’s talk social distance. I’ve lived in the US west for close on thirty years. Our social distance is “Ya’ll stay six feet away and shout, okay? That’s great.” Okay, that’s probably exaggerating, but not by much. Three to four feet “distance” between individuals isn’t rare.
When I fly East, like for Liberty con, I feel the closing in as social distance becomes two feet. People are going by way too close to me. I want to sing “don’t stand so close to me.”
AND….. the Eastern US is still “freakishly large social distance” compared to Europe. And I understand Asia (never traveled there) is even closer. I wonder how since I often made my way through Porto by virtue of my left shoulder, at busy times. But there it is.
Social distance. how many strangers do you rub up against or close as makes no difference in the course of your day?
The US is different in this because we were a fairly young culture when the germ theory of disease became known. It informed a lot of our culture. BUT in Europe (and Asia) the rational knowledge of the theory is overlaid on MUCH older structures. It doesn’t percolate so well. You might not want to kiss your brother’s work-colleague, but how will that affect his career? So you do.
Which brings us to another point: transportation. Most Americans — much to the horror of the left — do transportation in GLORIOUS and MAJESTIC solitude. At WORST, if my entire family is going out? There are five people in the car.
In Europe the RULE is public transport. And in cities most public transport is CROWDED. I know this will be hard to believe considering how often I’m very ill, but it was far worse when I used public transport even though I was much younger.
Also their medical systems are mostly government controlled or regulated to such an extent that as in all government-created enterprises keeping appearances is elevated above treating the sick. So they will LOOK like excellent health systems. The reality appalls almost every American who experiences it. (There are always exceptions and some people get lucky.)
So why does this terrify me? Europe was already in an extremely precarious position. I think they’re going to lose people at “youngish” ages from this, say 50 on. Which means they’re going to lose a lot of the highly trained individuals that keep their tech and society going. And yes, this will be affecting us.
What we SHOULD in sanity be doing is figuring out how, and be ready to have other systems to go on line when Europe buckles. Because Europe WILL.
Yes, closing flights from Europe is PROBABLY rational. For one, Chinese were still coming through Europe (duh.)
BUT instead of hitting the economy in the face with bags of money and closing our economy down for the duration, perhaps we should be considering what factories/services/etc we’re going to need here if Europe (and a lot of Asia, though note the panic is far less there) goes dark.
And this is why I’m staring in horror and wonder while the mad hatter pours tea on the mouse’s head. This is not just crazy. This is counter productive. ALL of it pretty much, except for the closing of flights is completely insane and will hurt more than the virus does.
At the back of my mind, too, there is a little voice saying “And what happens when after all this is said and done, there are maybe a hundred thousand people who die, and those from the oldest demographics. What then?”
The press should be aware that the next easy emotion to stimulate after horror is anger.
I know, I know, they think they can pin it all on orangemanbad, and that this will not only prevent the righteous beating they took in Great Britain, but will husher in their zombie-candidate-for-socialism (third term of Obama. Sure we want that, right?) and ruin.
I’m not ready to say they won’t succeed. What I’m going to say is that if they succeed it will be a brief victory. We have all seen them with their masks off, trying to bring about the death and destruction of the west, all in the name of getting power back.
They should consider that when it proves everything they said was a lie, including “the” and “and” and that the panic they stoked was EXACTLY the wrong panic and caused us to do the wrong things, people are going to remember.
May G-d have mercy on their souls.