Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Do Covid-like Illnesses Cause Periodic Human Insanity?

There is a lot of talk today about Covid-induced brain fog. Is this going to cause the next cycle of human misery?

I noted before that it seems to me that human beings go crazy about every 50 years or so and start killing each other en mass. If you look throughout the history of humanity, great civilizations were formed, and then were either abandoned or torn down in fits of pique.

Every empire, it seems, has an ascending stage and then is dominant for decades - or even centuries - until it slowly or rapidly falls apart and collapses into a pile of rubble. For every Renaissance there is a Dark Ages.

But why is this? Is this some part of our innate nature to tear apart great accomplishments? It is a relevant question because it seems like we're entering one of these dark ages as we speak. The world is embracing superstition at an increasingly rapid rate. We're having serious discussions about whether the Earth is flat and whether vaccines cause autism. People are willing to believe conspiracy theories but won't trust anything written down in a textbook - a real textbook, that is, not some tome promoted by some religious cult or political hack..

There has been much talk about the long-term effects of Covid. In particular many have complained about a "brain fog" that makes them feel befuddled or goofy. This gets me to thinking that perhaps some illness like or other pandemic or epidemic may have presaged the craziness of previous meltdowns in human history.

When the AIDS epidemic occurred, many scientists theorized that this HIV virus may have ravaged the human population in the distant past. In other words, the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s was just the latest iteration of such an epidemic. Humanity has seen it before - or something very like it.  I suspect the same is true for Covid and its relatives - this is not the first time such a virus has ravaged humanity.

Again, many people foolishly believe in causation. They think they can track down "patient zero" and somehow put a stop to an epidemic. What we have seen with viruses and other forms of illness, is that when you crowd people together closely enough, these sort of things spread. Whether it is in a cruise ship or a prison, when you pile people into a small space they will spread the norovirus. The only real difference between the cruise ship and the prison is the cruise ship has slightly better food.

You pack a small area with a lot of humans and things will spread whether it's a virus or bacteria or just parasites of one form or another. And the more people you have in a smaller and smaller space, the more rapidly these sort of things will spread. Viruses are really just stray strands of DNA. They can be formed, it seems, almost anywhere. So the idea you can somehow put a stop to this by tracking down infected patients and isolating them is kind of foolish. The real solution to epidemics, as we learned with Covid, was social distancing and preventing the spread of the germ.

That, and waiting for the storm to blow over - as it always does.

There have been pandemics and epidemics throughout history, and in some instances, they seem to parallel major tears in our social fabric. The Dark Ages was presaged by the plague, which devastated entire civilizations. While the radical depopulation of Europe was certainly a catastrophic event, it doesn't explain why people reverted to more primitive existence.  Perhaps this mysterious "plague" made them superstitious.  Or maybe craziness was caused by this disease, which caused people to renounce more modern, liberal thought, and revert to primitivism.

In more recent times, the so-called "Spanish flu" influenza epidemic of the early 1900s coincided with the outbreak of World War I. One has to wonder if perhaps there is connection between the madness of an epidemic and the madness of war.

50 years ago, it seemed we were on the brink of a new age of understanding. We were taking steps to put an end to racial discrimination.  We were liberating women and fighting poverty. Our technology was advancing and leaps and bounds - such that we managed to land men on the moon. The future seemed bright and limitless.  We were on the brink of a new age of enlightenment.

A half-century later, we struggle to build a rocket that will take us to our space station - and plans to land on the moon are continually delayed. What's more, our efforts to enact social justice seem to be faltering or even reversing. And in recent years, it seems like people have completely lost their minds.  Racial prejudice, antisemitism, misogyny, conspiracy theories, superstition - all have replaced the progressive, modern thinking of just a decade ago or so.

In the post-Covid world, perhaps "brain fog" is the explanation for why people are believing in bizarre things. There is still a distinct shortage of people with technical skills. Job openings are available everywhere for people who know how to program the computer or repair an automobile. Yet few people want to take these jobs.  Fewer still even have the necessary skills or intelligence to do so. We are morphing from a technological Society into a cargo cult.

Of course, you can argue there are many other explanations for this trend. The disintegration of our public school system, for example, is probably also to blame. Students, particularly in poor districts, are pushed through the grades and graduate, hardly able to read or write much less understand even basic mathematics.

Mental illness may also be to blame - or is it caused by these periodic pandemics?  Whatever the case, it seems that crazy is the new sane, and we are on the brink of re-electing a disgraced former President, who, in any other era, would have been committed to a mental institution just based on the crazy, disjointed things he says.  Driving around in a vehicle with political stickers all over the back, advocating extreme views, was once viewed as "kooky."  Well, my friends, Kooky is out of the closet!  Crazy and proud!  They should have their own parade!  They already do.

Lest  you think I am picking on conservatives, the loonie-left has gone off the rails, too.  People are having serious discussions and running for President on a platform of just giving money away - to everyone.  Even "Student loan forgiveness" which is a mainstream issue with many Democrats, would be seen as insane in an earlier era.  "Wait a minute," a man from 1960 might say, "you mean I can just borrow money and not pay it back?  What madness is this?"

Moderates are viewed as the crazy ones by both ends of the spectrum.  Traditional Republicans are reviled by the MAGA set, and traditional Democrats are mocked by the far-left as being ineffectual and appeasing the far-right.   And neither extreme tolerates discussion or dissent.  Kids should be allowed to have hormone treatments and then compete in athletic events for the opposite gender - right?  Oh, whoops!  I said "opposite gender!"  Off to PC re-education camp with me!

On the other hand, the far right just wants to exterminate the "trans" people in a death camp - along with me as well - and a laundry list of "enemies" and "vermin."

Like I said, crazy is the new sane.

I suppose you can also argue also that demographics are involved. The poor and lesser educated are reproducing it much faster rates than people with higher levels of intelligence and education. We're sending more and more people to college, but many of them are failing to learn anything of value or indeed, anything at all. College, as I noted before, it's the new high school.  And since "everyone" is exhorted to go to college, they've had to dumb down college, accordingly. 

Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe there isn't a correlation - or causation - between epidemics and the breakdown of human society. On the other hand, it seems like the signs are there. Or maybe the signs always seem to be there. Hard to say which.

In any event, welcome to the new dark ages!

Plague, anyone?