Saturday, March 28, 2020

Let The Damning And Shaming Begin!

This virus thing is bringing all the kooks out of the woodwork!

I made the mistake of looking at Facebook the other day.  One of our friends is on it, and they said there was some kind of Jekyll Island group.  There are actually several.  The Island Authority has a page, the Club Hotel has a page, the "Citizens Association" has a page, and the "Coalition to Hate Jekyll Island" has a page (which basically criticizes everything).   There are also phantom blank pages which Facebook created for Jekyll Island, just as they created the bogus page created for my former law practice.

Facebook is creepy, let's face it.  And so many "business" sites these days will set up a page for your business and then ask you to "claim" it.  They now do this for people, too.  I don't suggest you claim any of them - it is a scam.  Shame on Facebook for getting into that.

Anyway, there is at least one other Facebook page for our island, created by "residents".  It is listed as a private page for residents only, and lists over 1300 members, which is a neat trick for an island with only 600 homes on it.

I was on one of these pages, which has a "public" wall, and the craziness I mentioned previously - restroom vigilantes going around checking to see the restrooms were locked - was in full bloom.  They have "closed" the beaches and even the picnic pavilions, even though there are no people "congregating" on either.   The few people on the beached were 40 yards apart from one another.  There was zero risk of spreading any kind of infection.

(Like I said before, politicians want to be seen as "doing something" even if the something they are doing is pointless.  Mrs. Kravitz no doubt called and complained that people weren't taking things seriously enough, so the poor government servant on the other end of the line sighed and said, "Clem, go close something.  Mrs. Kravitz called again!")

On this Facebook page, the response to the beach closing were two disturbing comments.   The first opined that the whole island should be closed to everyone except residents, "So we can enjoy the beaches by ourselves".   Once again, the "private club" aspect of life rears its ugly head.  One reason the Coalition to Hate Jekyll Island hates Jekyll Island (but won't move away) is that ten years ago, the place was largely abandoned, and it was kind of nice to have the place to ourselves.  But, you can't expect that to be the rule forever - plans were afoot to rebuild the old hotels, conference center, and shopping district.  And they are plans that are working out just fine, thank you, despite the actions of the "concerned citizens" who shout into the wind.

The second comment was more disturbing.  IN ALL CAPS someone shouted, "THIS VIRUS IS AIRBORNE, PEOPLE!  STAY OFF THE BEACHES!!!!"   Emergency Mouse is on the job.

Thankfully, someone calmly noted that no, it is not airborne, and you can't catch it from the beach, unless there is someone there, two feet away, sneezing in your face - which could occur anywhere. But for some reason, the videos played over and over again on Fox News, of "irresponsible millenials" congregating on the beach has conflated into "beaches are dangerous".  Superstition trumps science.  And I say trumps in both senses of the word.

Like I said before, the real virus is Facebook.   This virus is not a threat to humanity - humanity's reaction to it is, however.

Take for example, the run on gun sales.  People are apparently buying guns and ammunition so they can hunker down in their bunkers and defend their hoard of toilet paper.   This is nothing short of sick behavior - assuming that civilization itself is on the verge of breakdown because of a pandemic.

And perhaps it is - not because of the virus, but because of our reaction to it.  President Trump (throw up in mouth a little bit) got a lot of flack for suggesting that the low mortality rate of this virus isn't worth destroying our economy over.   More damning and shaming - "How can you put a dollar value on human life?"   Well, as I noted in a previous posting, you can, quite easily, and down to the last penny - we do it every day.

Somewhere along the line, someone is going to have to make that call - exactly how many lives is it worth wrecking the economy over.  And more to the point - when it reaches a point where people can't get food or basic supplies, are we saving lives or risking more?   I did the math on this before, and if we assume each person is "worth" about 9 million dollars (the amount governments and trial attorneys use in the USA) then we can tank the economy for years.   But eventually, the survivors will find their lives in jeopardy if everything is shut down for too long.

While it isn't worth anyone's life to preserve Trump's faltering real estate empire, perhaps it is worthwhile to preserve civilization itself.   The real risk to us isn't this virus, nor a plunge in the Dow, or even huge unemployment claims.  The real risk is the breakdown of society itself, if we quarantine an entire planet because of a virus with a fatality rate of less than 3%  - which may actually be closer to 0.5% or less, despite what we are seeing in Italy.

But let the damning and shaming begin!   "Oh you say that now, buddy!  Wait until you or a loved one is on a ventilator!"   But the reality is, we all die eventually, and accepting this is part of life - or should be.   Our ancestors knew this - death was quite familiar to them.  Our generation shuffles death off to retirement communities and old folks' homes.  We are not as intimate with our own mortality, and thus are far more scared of death.  Your death is awaiting you, down the road, or maybe next week - maybe in the next ten minutes.  It isn't fair, of course - life never was, death even more so.

You could keel over from an undiagnosed aneurysm in your brain. A sudden blinding headache, and you fall unconscious and are dead in minutes.  It's happened to friends of ours, here on old people island - more than once. Or cold and flu season comes around and your weakened body can't withstand the stress and finally gives up - that kills an awful lot of people as well, and it is what is killing the majority of those who die from this new virus - which is a more deadly version of the common cold, which is also a corona virus.

People act all shocked that Grandma, aged 86, succumbs to the virus, as if otherwise, she would have lived forever.  Odds are, that simply isn't true.  The media, wanting to crank up the scare factor, is having a field day touting deaths by "otherwise healthy" younger people. And while that does happen - after all, death like so much else in life, is distributed along a bell curve (no relation).  But those are anomalies, not the norm.

Yes, people dying is tragic, but what we are seeing is hardly the major cause of death in the world for 2020.  Over 50 million die every year from various causes.  Over 50,000 die during cold and flu season from complications of those illnesses (and again, the cold is a corona virus as well).  To date, there are over a half-million cases diagnosed worldwide and about 27,000 deaths.  This will no doubt rise in the coming weeks, but to date, it hasn't even surpassed the death rate from our normal flu season.

This is not to trivialize this virus, only to put it in perspective.   Damning and shaming might make some self-righteous people feel good about themselves, but that behavior is not constructive or helpful - in fact, quite the opposite.

The reason governments and health officials are freaking out over this new Corona Virus is that it is far more lethal than ordinary cold viruses or the flu.  A 3% mortality rate (which may be closer to 1.5% or even less - we may never know for sure) seems very low in the abstract, but it is far higher than the mortality rate of traditional colds and the flu.   50,0000 people dying from ordinary cold and flue sounds like a lot, but not in terms of a planet of billions and a nation of hundreds of millions - where tens, if not hundreds of millions catch cold at least once a year - if not more.

The fatality rate of the flu, for example, is about 0.1%.  So even assuming a low-end figure for mortality with the new virus, it is at least five to ten times as deadly as the flu - perhaps thirty times.  It is something to be taken seriously.

But to what extent?   If it gets to the point where people run out of food and civilization itself starts to break down, do we continue to quarantine or figure out ways to let people get back to work, at least in some limited capacity?

China seems to be doing this already, with quarantine restrictions being lifted, at least in part, in the Wuhan district.  Factories in China are reopening and production starting again.  The problem they have now, is who is going to buy all these products?   Other than bored, quarantined Americans ordering junk online (mea culpa, I've been doing it), will commerce continue as it did before?

If China's timeline is any indication or forecast of what is to come here, then in a month or so - perhaps less - things will start to get back to "normal" in the USA as well.

If we let it.

That's the problem - some people are enjoying this a little too much.  They are getting off on being restroom vigilantes or being in "emergency mode" all the time.  Again, it is like the government drones in Washington DC, who freak out every time there is a snowstorm - finally, a chance to chuck it all and revert to feral living!  No more commuting to work!  We'll just build an igloo in the back yard and hunt baby seals!    No need for some stinking "job" - right?

Wrong.  And no, it isn't "irresponsible" to suggest that this isn't the end of the world as we know it.  Even if this virus spread like wildfire and killed off as much as 3% of the population, the world would continue to spin on its axis.  Humanity has survived pandemics and epidemics before - far deadlier ones.   The "Spanish Flu" or influenza epidemic of the early 1900's had a mortality rate of 2% or more.  50 million dead, worldwide.  Then again, the trench warfare of World War I had a mortality rate even higher - 20 million dead - but not as many were "infected" by that virus.

Mankind still has a leg up on viruses, when it comes to killing mankind, it seems.

So what's the point of all of this?   Only that fear is not an emotion to be trusted, and a lot of people are succumbing to fear.   Everything is going to be OK, trust me.  By this time next year, we will be looking back and thinking, "2020 was a shitty year, but we've moved on!"   We said the same thing after 9/11, and after every other natural or man-made disaster in the past.  Even the Queen moved on from her "annus horribilous".

Stay at home and follow the CDC recommendations.  There ain't much else you can do.   Running around monitoring restrooms or making paranoid pronouncements on Facebook isn't accomplishing anything, other than to add the general feeling of angst that is sweeping the nation.

Maybe this is a good time to get off Facebook, close that account, and while you're at it, cut the cord from Cable TeeVee.   That shit is just bad for your brain - and the reason people are freaking out, too.