I still can’t decide whether the current coronavirus (CV) scare is a false alarm or not. I have the feeling that, but for the draconian Chinese lockdowns and the deserted streets, this epidemic would have passed largely unreported. There are flu epidemics every year. What’s so special about this one?
On board the Diamond Princess, there have been 632 cases of CV, and 2 deaths, both in 80-year-olds. Is there really anything at all remarkable about that?
I was hearing yesterday that some people think that CV is an escaped bioweapon, and that explains the Chinese response.
Whichever way, it looks like we’re in for a global pandemic, as there are now rapidly growing outbreaks in South Korea, Japan, and Italy. Yesterday the Italian government declared a state of emergency. Most likely the rest of the world will soon follow.
But maybe not. The virus looks like it may be temperature-dependent, for it has spread north from China into a northern hemisphere winter season, and has hardly spread at all into the southern hemisphere summer season. And since the northern hemisphere winter is about to give way to spring and summer, we may well see the epidemic peter out over the next month or so. And it will prove once again to have indeed been another false alarm.
We live in a time of permanent false alarm. There’s a false alarm about tobacco smoke. And a false alarm about climate change. And now very likely we’re seeing yet another false alarm being played out with CV. And there are false alarms about any number of other things.
But even if it proves not to be a medical emergency, it rather looks as if the overreaction by all concerned may result in a deep economic slump, as entire industries close down, so that there will soon be shortages of a wide range of goods, and rising prices.
Why is everyone so alarmed all the time? The world is in a pretty good state right now, and has been for the past 75 years. But perhaps that’s precisely why there is such anxiety: things are all so good that it’s too good to be true, and something is bound to go wrong sooner or later.
We’re living in a golden age. We’re living in an age of accelerating technological innovation and mounting prosperity, unprecedented in human history. In my own lifetime we’ve seen men walking on the Moon. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll see them walking on Mars pretty soon as well. And I’m surrounded by devices that were more or less inconceivable in my childhood: TVs, computers, mobile phones. We ought to be celebrating it all, but instead we’ve got Greta Thunberg. We’re getting more and more anxious and frightened about more or less everything.
Perhaps it’s simply that the more you have, the more you have to lose. And if you’re Michael Bloomberg you’ve got $62 billion to lose, and you’re terrified about absolutely everything, because you’ve got everything to lose. And you’re not only terrified about absolutely everything, but you think that everybody else should be as worried as you are, and you’re going to make damn sure they start worrying, by making your own terror into the law of the land. That’s what he did as mayor of New York City with his smoking ban: he made New Yorkers worry about tobacco smoke in ways they never had before. And that’s what he’d do as President of the United States, which office he’s now running for.
And perhaps it explains why his rival, Bernie Sanders, is an equally anxious socialist. For he’s a multi-millionaire too, if not yet a multi-billionaire like Bloomberg.
In fact it maybe explains why so many rich people are socialists. They’ve all got a lot to lose, and they’re all beset with deep anxiety about losing it all, and want to construct a social order where nobody will ever lose out.
In fact maybe it even explains the rise of socialism over the past few hundred years: as living standards rose, more and more people had more and more to lose, and they more and more wanted to live in a safer and more secure world.
The converse condition, of course, is one of having nothing to lose. And if you’ve got nothing to lose, you’re not going to be worried about losing it. And so you’ll live a carefree life. And perhaps even one in which you’re simply glad to be alive, and will be thankful every day for it. If you expect every day to be your last, every new day is going to look like a bonus.
And, who knows, the current emerging global CV pandemic may yet prove to be as terrible as the Plague or the Black Death, and so may well be one in which people will expect every day to be their last, and will be delighted to live to see a few more new days.