Saturday, June 17, 2023

A Laughing Matter

I got laughed at in the grocery store today. That hasn't happened in a while. Cases of hospitalizations/day are at their lowest since December 2021 right now, which is fantastic, but they're still higher than some of the earlier peaks that once sent us into lockdown and masking everyone everywhere. Our perception of risk has been altered so that we think it's weird to try to prevent the spread of disease. But stopping mitigations because cases are going down is like buying a stock that's at a peak! We're really bad at expecting the trajectory to continue in the same direction despite our behavioural changes. We need to mask in the valleys to prevent the peaks getting so high. 

Aside: What's curious to me about the point-and-laugh types is that, if it is the case that I'm a conspiracy nut, who openly laughs at someone with a mental illness?? And then I came home to mindlessly scroll Twitter during breakfast, and someone posted a lengthy monologue by someone clearly suffering from delusions. I scrolled the comments for a voice of reason that might say something like, "Maybe don't post videos of people at their worst," but hundreds of comments were full of people making fun of the person. Were we always so callous and cruel? Or is it brain damage from Covid mixed with tacit permission - even encouragement - from leaders like Trump to berate any sign of difference? Or is it just that the internet shows us the worst of everyone?

Anyway, Paul Matdowski, mainly a climate science guy from Germany, wrote a great thread explaining why we can't keep ignoring Covid:

"Here's the public health decision every state worldwide now faces, broken down to its essence. Do you want to live with a SARS virus in your much shortened, disease-ridden lives, or would you rather not? That's the only real question here:"

"You'd think whether we want to live with a SARS and smallpox-like virus (monkeypox - variola virus) is at the heart of the German national security policy debate? Cute. In reality, as Rike Franke argued, German millennials are incredibly bad at strategy. Dr. Franke's assessment of the pandemic is wrong. . . . Crash course for political scientists unfamiliar with SARS/MERS-CoV/OPV/hMPXV pathogenesis: Read for example China CDC's analysis of expected future genetic recombination in SARS-CoV-2 [the wolf is coming], and I'd add Monkeypox. . . . Germany offers splendid lessons on what NOT to do in a SARS pandemic. To do any worse than Germany over the past 12 months is hard if one tried."
The U.S. and U.K., in unison: "Hold my beer."

There continue to be excess deaths from Covid, but collectively we've decided - most people have, but I'm still a holdout - that these are acceptable deaths relative to the joy we can find from grocery shopping without a mask on. 

That led me to Adrian Constantin comments on the thread, with this bit of insight on the nature of freedom, some from a thread from October 2022:
"Many people have been duped to think of freedom as an individual right, when it is, in fact, the most fundamental of the collective rights. For me, freedom is a collective right. The best written texts we have define it as a collective right. Take the preamble to the US Constitution: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal'. Or the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 
'Whereas recognition of the inalienable rights of ALL members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, the Assembly proclaims this Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for ALL peoples and ALL nations.' 
Even in the libertarian definition, one is free to do whatever one wants, as long as it does not harm others. My freedom and yours are inextricably linked. The concept of individual freedom makes no sense. It's always OUR freedom. 

Side note: The standard trick of hiding the essential bits is in full view in the libertarian definition: 'as long as it does not harm others' is almost an afterthought. Remember how the libertarian economics treats nature as an externality, while in real life, nature IS the economy. 

Freedom is not an individual right, but a right of ALL individuals. A collective concept doesn't mean that individuals don't matter. On the contrary, freedom makes sense only if we assume that each individual matters and that all human lives have pretty much the same value. Look at the pictures below. In both cases an individual has the legal right to walk or cycle. In which of these situations are individuals free to walk or cycle?  (Arizona vs Paris)

I write a lot about our failure to contain the SARS-2 pandemic. Why? Because I'm worried that this failure will lead to a loss of freedom. . . . Excess deaths are a common statistical measure of untimely death, comparing the count of current deaths to an average of previous years. . . . Living with the virus means dying a bit, prematurely. Post-infection sequelae (Long Covid) is another obvious and severe restriction of freedom caused by the spread of SARS-2. . . . The lack of Long Covid statistics is an indictment in itself, considering the level of tech bragging in our society. . . . The stories of the people affected by Long Covid are heartbreaking. . . . 

Not only does Long Covid ruin human lives, but, by taking people out of the workforce, it also has a negative impact on the economy, the golden idol of today's Western civilization. The economy and work relations have seen a significant collective fight for freedom in the last 200 years. The eight-hour workday, paid medical leave, and paid holidays have brought more freedom to more people than any laissez-faire economic policies. It is concerning that the Covid pandemic is used as an excuse to scale back those freedoms and revert to a time when people were treated like work automatons, with no right to avoid infectious disease and no right to recover from infections. Comments like those below, where a Wizz Air boss apparently asks for ground and air flight personnel to work when sick or fatigued are not acceptable in the 21st century: 

Compared to the climate change challenges that lie ahead of us, the SARS-2 pandemic is significantly less impactful and requires much simpler interventions, by comparison. If the SARS-2 pandemic leads to the sacrifice of the weak and the vulnerable, when the solutions will be hard to come by [like with climate change], the level of sacrifice imposed on the weak is hard to imagine. If my parents' generation is deemed disposable during the SARS-2 pandemic, I have no doubt that my and my children's generations will be deemed disposable when the climate crisis hits us hard. 
Exactly. The pandemic is a trial run for dealing with catastrophe, and we've seen, first hand, that many leaders will throw their citizens under the bus to eke out short term economic benefits, openly lying to them about the dangers and solutions to keep people working, in person, and, most importantly, shopping. We're not useful to the system if we're not constantly producing and consuming.

And Hopeful Cynic added that we really have to change the name of SARS because SARS-CoV-2 isn't a respiratory virus. It operates very differently from a typical lung infection in that it provokes blood clots to form in the blood stream that can affect any and all organs, and it disrupts neural activity, and it affects the immune system, wiping out cells that typically keep other illnesses at bay. He proposes: SAVIS-CoV-2: Severe Acute Vascular & Immune Syndrome. Absolutely! As long as people think it's just a cold, they won't act to protect themselves or others. 

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