Panic, Fear, and Disgust on the Margins of Interesting Times
It does feel like we're on the cusp of something, doesn't it?
The verge. The edge.
The stock market's having an epileptic fit. Italy is closing its borders. Universities are telling their students not to come back from spring break.
Are we really going to have a pandemic? This whole thing just feels so... engineered. Like we're going through a social experiment in panic. We survived the swine flu and the bird flu and SARS, and I'll bet nobody here even knows anyone who got sick with those. Do you?
It doesn't help that the media has spent the last 20 years poisoning their own credibility. So when something truly global starts going down, the first reaction isn't "what's the news?" but "what's the agenda?"
Between writing and revising this post, Angela Merkel has told Germany to expect 70% infection rates. But I'm still riding the train to work. Because tobacco smoke keeps down airborne pathogens, and people need their cigars.
Maybe this is too glib. Maybe I'm one of these guys who refuses to flatten the curve--a literal example of "Toxic Masculinity."
Wash your hands. It'll make you feel better.
The bigger question is why?
And why now? And why this virus, which sources were (up until yesterday) reporting as less deadly than the regular flu, if more contagious?
Either it's a real threat, and a lot of very smart people just want us to stay healthy and happy; or it's a manufactured panic, and a lot of very powerful people want to see how effectively societal dynamics can be shifted, and with how small a force, in the age of social media.
Either way, you can be sure a lot of data is being collected.
There's a lot of financial bubbles that need popping. Real estate values, college tuition, healthcare costs. People can only work so hard and you can only pay off so much debt in one human lifespan. I always figured they'd find some goofy politician to pin the blame on when it happened. Maybe a virus is easier?
If you want to seize power at a global level, things like state sovereignty tend to get in the way. Nothing crosses borders (and demands multi-national response) quite like disease.
Actually, Italy closing their borders makes an interesting test case. They're surrounded on three sides by ocean and on the other by mountains. I don't think you could run the same sort of experiment with, say, Poland.
Is this apocalypse?
Or am I just tingling to the thrill of incipient doom?
The culture's been getting off on the idea of disaster for so long now that it's become institutionalized. For example: my friend has three kids in three different high schools. (Two private, one public.) All of them have been required to read The Hunger Games.
It's an odd choice, this story of teenagers bowing to the mandates of an all-powerful super-state and murdering each other for sport. I have nothing against The Hunger Games as popular entertainment, but when it becomes required reading at prestigious private prep schools, I think it signals that something's shifting in our culture.
Even stranger, this assignment is part of an official course, called "Dystopian Literature."
Schools used to be able to teach 1984 and Lord of the Flies without making in into an entire semester of bleak despair. (Meanwhile, where are the classes that teach optimism, resiliency, and growth-minded investing?)
In any case, we're ripe for panic.
It's almost like we want the zombies to climb out of our video games so we can board up the windows for real.
We've been preparing for this since the Playstation 2.
I'd say the train ridership on my commutes is down about 30% today. Parking spaces are plentiful and the quiet car is (for the most part) quiet. People seem more somber and reserved than normal.
People keep posting to Facebook that you can sneeze in a coffee shop or a grocery store and people will jump, stare, or run away. This is over-dramatic. A woman just coughed on my train and nobody even looked up from their phones.
But the thing about "a mood" is, you can pretty much feel any one you want if you go out looking for it.
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