Putting the I in Covid

I sit here with Covid, nearly 3 years in, 3 boosters on board, obviously not as vigilant with mask use as I should’ve been, and I want to send out a big ol’ thanks to all you anti-vaxx, anti-mandate freedom fighting motherfuckers, you great perpetuators of this pandemic, oh valiant variant progenitors. Well done. Mission Accomplished. The Sick (which I barely am), the Dead and the Dying salute you.

And to the various levels of government that caved as expediently as possible to the loudest and most ill-informed and malignant amongst us, those who weren’t blatantly complicit in the pedaling of pseudo-science and outright medical malpractice, a hacking shout out to you too, giving in as you have to minority misrule. Numbers and statistics no longer matter. It’s all about perception and optics. See no virus. Hear no virus. Speak no virus.

Our public health compromised, shouted down into a cowering dose of helpful hints by the vacuous cheerleading of sociopathy. A precedent set or just another point on a long term trend? A threat assessed. A plan of action proposed. Met with a great whine of resistance. I don’t want to! Covid. Climate crisis. Income inequality. Housing shortage. Here’s what needs to be done. A great wall of M’eh. I don’t want to! Do we have to? Is it really as bad as all that?

I joked sometime early on during the pandemic about the resistance that arose to the various measures brought in to ward off the spread of the virus, the lockdowns etc., that it was hard to believe we were descendants of those who stood up and beat back the threat of fascism and Nazis in the 1930s and 40s. While I know that fight wasn’t as universal and sure-footed as the legend has grown in generations of telling, there seems to have been an ultimate resolve totally lacking toward the battles that need to be fought currently. We who have so much seem so patently unwilling to sacrifice even a fraction of that to help others.

We’ve created a zero-sum game that we exist in. Anyone else’s gain is a loss for us. We’re suspicious of the collective. An onerous ‘we’ versus the unbound ‘I’.

Is this particularly new? I’m no historian or sociologist, and if I played one of those on TV, it’d be a short-lived series. Competition, or the theory of it, at least, in the story of our evolution as a species, plays a central role. Our whole economic model over the past 300 hundred years or so is based on a competitive foundational model. What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is mine for a price. Scarcity still haunts us in age of overwhelming plenty.

A one-sided history, of course. Scarcity bred competition which, if you continue reading, lead to co-operation. Us slow-footed, earth-bound species of the human family would never have prospered on our own, individually, contending with the lions & tigers & bears, oh my! With cooperation, it is hypothesized, our brains grew through increased socialization, language developed, we evolved. Prospered. Thrived. Gained ‘dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’, we claimed for ourselves a few thousand years back.

Cooperation, though, has largely fallen out of favour. Cooperation = communism in the modern vernacular. It’s shown itself not to work. (See: Stalin. See: Mao. See: Cuba.) What’s good for the ‘me’ is ultimately good for the ‘us’ through trickledown magic. Adam Smith said so. In so many words. Hayek agreed. No, not Selma, although I don’t know that for a fact.

To keep the tale propped up, the triumphant individualism of Ayn Rand, this I-before-EvErybodEE, the stories become increasingly complex, convoluted even, to the point of outrageous inconsistency, hallucinatory almost in its detachment to the reality on the ground. The basic riff goes something like: governments are incapable of solving problems x, y and z because governments are too busy successfully implanting microchips so that they can surveille all our comings and goings. Governments are bad at doing good but are good at doing bad. Ditto the cops. Teachers and nurses are monsters. I earned everything I got. Everybody else just steals what they want.

Or maybe it’s just the Covid writing. I do feel a previously unaccounted for layer of lost thought in my head at the moment.

But there can be little argument, I think, that this was an utterly manageable crisis event. We saw it coming early. While not entirely familiar with its pathology, we’d seen a strain of it nearly 20 years earlier and successfully wrestled it into submission before it could inflict too much death and destruction. We knew what we had to do to contain this early and chose not to, or waited too long to do the right thing, the barn door left wide open. We made a political choice. We’re still making political choices, letting the chips fall where they may, the vulnerable be damned.

This was an easy one.

That we’ve failed miserably, not through a justified lack of knowledge or a particular novelty of the threat, but actively, consciously by a sheer lack of political will and negligent inaction, should cause us great concern when an untested, unknown emergency arises. A scenario that should scare us to death.


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