May 20, 2020

A New Journal of the Plague Year

It’s been two months now since the lockdown began and people seem to be getting over the shock and starting to settle into the new realities that were difficult to even comprehend when the Coronavirus first came rushing upon us in mid March.

It all came upon us with such a rush, like an invisible tidal wave, that it was hard to get one’s bearings or to even keep track of events. Now that the changes seem to have slowed down a bit, I’ve decided to keep a journal of life during the time of the Coronavirus to mark the changes from here on out.

The speed of the advance in March was breathtaking as the numbers screeched up from zero to thousands and thousands in only a couple of weeks. The whole world was shell shocked to suddenly be forced to recognize the factual existence of this terrifying science fiction threat to humanity. It threatened to decimate our economic system, and maybe even our social cohesion. The way the numbers were skyrocketing in exponential progressions, it seemed as if it might even be the end of humanity.

Our mighty species, dominated by the great economic powers of the world was forced, for once, to bow to nature. To admit that we were overpowered and had to beat a retreat. We had to hole up in our homes until the scourge had passed.

Who could say how bad it could get once the chain reaction of exponential growth was underway? Would our social order collapse into some kind of savage tribal warfare from the pressure put on individuals of a collapsing world order? Was this the lead-up to the social collapse that was the backstory of The Hunger Games? Who could have known then where things were headed? And still now, in late May, who knows where this is headed?

But now after two months of it, to have had New York, which became the tragic global epicenter of the disease, finally prevail over the disaster, the shock is wearing off. The reflex to quickly jump right back to where we were, to pick up exactly where we left off, is strong. It’s a natural reaction whenever one is hit with a shock, to scramble recover one’s bearings as fast as possible and to return to the previous state with minimal disruption. But that reflexive impulse is bound to bump up against some of the same natural barriers that caused the lockdowns to be a necessary survival measure in the first place.

As much as we may wish to return to where we left off, the world is now different, irrevocably so. We want to recover as much of the best of those times as we can, but some aspects need not be dragged into the future.

It is a new world, there is no doubt about it. There is nothing anyone can do about that. The change is already manifest. There is no turning back the clock of history. The prerogative we do have is that it is now up to us to make the new world that we now inhabit as good as we can. We are building this new world now through our actions.

Nature Tames Humanity

Soon after observing the awesome power of nature seize the fate of humankind through the the Coronavirus I came involuntarily to a view of it that many may find offensive, but nonetheless I couldn’t shake it from my head.

If you look at all this from the standpoint of the many animals we humans have driven or are driving close to extinction, all the habitats we are destroying, the way we are ravaging the earth and even disrupting the natural cycles of climate, then it is easy to see us, the human species, as the antigen, and the Coronavirus as the antibody.

From the standpoint of the natural system, human beings had become like a cancer. We were overpopulating, draining our environment of resources, turning beautiful places into garbage dumps. We were making the earth an inhospitable environment for human habitation. And yet we could not stop. We were locked into cycles that fed the big machine. Our legal system, our institutions, our economic system forced us to stay locked into that wild cycle even as we could see that our way of life was leading to an unsurvivable future.

We could see it, but we couldn’t act on our knowledge. The machine had too much momentum. Everything had to keep going to keep everything else going. Even as wildfires ravaged California and Australia, the savage destruction of the Amazon increased in momentum. We were like a species gone mad, ravaging the earth.

Then suddenly nature produced an antidote to that kind of behavior. The virus showed us that if we couldn’t stop ourselves, we could still be stopped. And we were. We will surely pick up again and try to get roughly back to the civilization we left behind. But it will be different. It has to be. And that can be something good.

When Charles Koch, the surviving Koch Brother and shadowy puppet master of the Republican Party, started putting out the word through his Heritage Foundation and his networks of control that the economy had better get churning again, Trump and the Republicans quickly dropped into lockstep to obey his order. When Koch threatens to turn off the money faucet, Republicans get into motion. When he threatened to turn it off if he didn’t get the major tax cut he wanted before the 2018 election, McConnell’s do-nothing Senate and Paul Ryan’s similarly unambitious House of Representatives, suddenly managed to produce some legislation to give the Kochs and the other oligarchs another large chunk of the public’s funds.

So now the marching orders are to open the economy, and since American Way of Life doesn’t allow government assistance to citizens such as European countries are providing, Americans are desperate to get back to work.

And there’s an election coming up. Eric Trump went on Fox News a day or so ago and said the pandemic was nothing more than a hoax to try to unseat Trump and that it will disappear after the election. It’s being used to stop him from doing rallies, Eric said. So now we may see lots of Trump rallies get going again, and they may well spread the virus widely. So we shall see how that develops.

Though the changes may have slowed down for the moment, there is little doubt that we have many wild and turbulent events to look forward to in the coming months. So now I am beginning my Journal of the Year of COVID to mark the events and comment on them. Perhaps some others will follow these markings.

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