Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Things are weird

I've said this, in different ways, to many people in recent days. And it's true: this is an unprecedentedly bizarre time.

I'm watching most everything unfold from some distance, tucked away in Singapore, whose authoritarianism is problematic in every circumstance except, it seems, a viral pandemic. Things are mostly normal here! Very few masks, very few disruptions, very few cases of SARS-CoV-2. And that makes it even more bizarre to see everything unravel back home.

It's all so worrying. By now, enough scientists have studied the virus that they can confidently project its effects on the global population. There's nothing good about what they found. Doing nothing is catastrophic. Mitigation will still lead to great loss of life. Suppression will have wide-ranging societal and economic effects. No easy answers. You can read it here.

The fact that so much of the catastrophe is occurring in slow motion makes it all the more surreal. This isn't a meteor impact or a nuclear war. And, tragically, if governments--I'm looking at you, "it's a hoax" White House--had taken it seriously sooner (and not dismantled key elements of government that deal with situations like this) we might not be facing such stark choices. But here we are, facing stark choices.

In America, at least, the social safety net is made out of tissue paper. People who lose their jobs will fall back on almost nothing. They will have no access to free health care. That suffering was also avoidable.

Staying home, washing hands, not touching our faces--these things will all help limit the damage. If you aren't sick (with anything), please don't waste a mask that someone on the front lines could actually use. Be kind. Don't be racist. Don't say "I'm an American, I can do what I want." Definitely don't assume that because you're young, you're going to be fine. There are millions of people older than you with perfectly good lives who want to continue living them; walking around with an "I'm bulletproof" attitude will help get them killed.

Until there is a vaccine, this is just going to be how it is. Eventually the dust will settle. I don't think life will get back to normal, not in any real sense. But even though the other side of this looks far away, it will come.

See you there.