Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Some More Thoughts On The Only Thing We're All Thinking Of

Since there is literally nothing else to talk about in the world right now,  I'd
like to examine this from what hopefully are some obscure angles.

It has come to my attention that there have been plagues in every year ending in "20" for  six consecutive centuries. Looking at this list, what leaps out at me is the astonishing increase in frequency of epidemics and pandemics. We don't hear about most of them in our comfortable Western existence because hey, they're just brown people, who cares. (I do: our media, clearly, does not.)

It's worth remembering, as you whine that there's nothing to dooooooooo, that the ability to social distance is a privilege. People in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the shantytowns of Mumbai don't have that privilege. Even in the United States, which would be the richest nation in the world if most of its money wasn't being siphoned away by the kleptocracy,  Covid-19 is hitting poor blacks and Hispanics disproportionately hard. And they don't feel safe wearing the homemade masks that are starting to pro-life-rate. As one person of colour said on Facebook, "I'm black. I don't want to die, but I also don't want to die."

I want to talk about Covid-19 and our impatient, anti-intellectual culture. 

There was a time, before the 24 hour news cycle and all those medical procedurals packaged in neat one-hour-less-commercials chunks, when people had a better understanding and appreciation for science. '

Let's remember that this is a novel coronavirus, meaning new. It has not been seen before. Accordingly, at the beginning, there was almost nothing known about it. Even now, we're not entirely sure of something so basic as whether this will be a seasonal affliction, or whether you can only get it once. They are working on learning this, and everything else. They are working fast, as hard as this may be to grasp. The genome has been sequenced. There are numerous leads on vaccines. Nothing on treatments, whatever donald trump might tell you (the only reason he's touting an unproven drug called hydroxychloroquine is the only reason he does anything at all -- he and his supporters stand to make money off it). (That's also why nothing is going directly to states. No money in that! Instead, it all goes to brand new private companies with deep ties to Republican donors and the Trump family itself, and those companies turn around and auction the personal protective equipment to the highest bidder. Got that, Americans? Your President is holding your lives up for ransom.)

Sorry, the evil of Trump never fails to distract me. 

 But for us to have numerous candidates for a vaccine at this point is, quite frankly, amazing. Scientists are working very hard all over the world on solutions to this. 

You can't just snap your fingers, much as we all wish we could. And the fact so much is still unknown does not invalidate science as a whole. 

But people think it does! If a scientist says "we don't know, yet", entirely too many people assume that scientist, and then all scientists, know nothing. And that's how you get a situation such as what's happening in the United States, where people are wilfully disregarding everything the medical establishment is telling them, because it's an establishment and therefore deeply suspect. 

In courtrooms, it's known as the CSI effect. It has a number of toxic tendrils, but perhaps the biggest and most relevant is that jurors tend to dismiss anything that isn't a certainty out of hand. 

When this first broke, the standard advice was not to wear a mask, it didn't help. Even after it was determined masks do largely prevent infected people from transmitting Covid-19, we were all told to save the masks for front-line health care workers. This was done for two extremely important reasons. One, while non-N95 masks offer a measure of protection against  others getting the virus if you have it, they do NOT prevent you from getting it. Masks thus represent a false sense of security. Two, and more critical, there is an acute shortage of masks for the people who desperately need them, the people engaging with this enemy every day.

You can blame Ford or Trudeau for this if you want, but if you do that. you're only exposing how much you hate Ford or Trudeau. I have seen countless people excoriate Justin Trudeau's response to this. There are four main attacks:
  • he didn't close the borders quickly enough or airtight enough or both;
  • he didn't do what relatively successful countries such as Taiwan did, tracking each infected person and their contacts through their cellphones and making masks mandatory
  • his economic package is not enough and not soon enough
  • he's "hiding".
Let's take these one at a time.

The people bitching about the border are the same people who have always bitched about the border, the Canada First, Ontario Proud, If You Ain't White, You Ain't Right brigades. Closing the border worked real well for Trump's America, didn't it? (His supporters crow about that, stating it's proof of what a Great Leader he is, and of course he was called racist for it)...well, duh. And also: I don't know if you've noticed, but this country is entirely dependent on the United States for a great deal of its foodstuffs and other vital supplies. I hate to use a phrase Trump used himself - "the cure is worse than the disease" - but if you close the Canada-U.S. border airtight, you'd have mass starvation here in short order. 

If Trudeau had mandated tracking of people via their cellphones -- which is trivially easy, by the way -- many people would be up in arms over the "surveillance state" and they'd be doing all they could to subvert it. You know this and I know this, so let's not criticize Trudeau for not going down that road, okay? Taiwan is a different culture entirely, they are used to literal government oversight there. And the masks? Even if you could snap your fingers and produce the needed 100 million plus masks instantly--again, Taiwanese citizens have been wearing masks as a matter of course for years now, because of rampant air pollution. This wasn't a stretch for them. It would be for us. Can you imagine the panic? 

The economic package. It's so far left me high and dry, too, and I'm scared about that, but let's be real. This is the largest disbursement of funds in Canadian history. You can't, again, just snap your fingers and make it so. That they've managed to get something up and running this quickly is actually rather impressive. Of course people are going to fall through the cracks, and of course we should be moving to a universal basic income, but  (a) the cracks are being attended to and (b) UBI is something that needs to be debated. Once you open that door, it won't close. 

You say "hiding", I say "putting his money where his mouth is". WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE STAYING HOME. This means no visitors. This means not going outside in groups. Trudeau is setting an example.

And I didn't vote for him and don't like him.

Likewise, Rob Ford. I can't stand him, but even I have to concede he's been pretty good since this crisis began to unfold. He closed schools before anyone else. His briefings have been direct, to the point, and unlike certain Trumpian dirtbags, he yields to educated people to give educated information. Yes, his "essential" list is ridiculous, especially since it included all the construction companies and developers  that donated to the Ford campaign (still does, even now, most of them)...but you can indeed make a case for most of what was on that list of essential businesses. We can complain, rightfully, that Ford ravaged the health care system, and the removal of paid sick days and paid bereavement makes me see red, but the Trudeau-Ford "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" routine has been a damn sight better to watch than the disaster unfolding to our south.

Keep fighting, folks. We will get through this. 

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