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Pandemic: the reckoning

Sun 2 Aug 2020 by mskala Tags used: , ,

The word "reckoning" came up a lot in discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially early on as the world just started to realize the scale of the problem. I've seen a lot of people grimly commenting that "there will be a reckoning for this" in response to things like media dismissal of early warnings, followed by later media endorsement of exactly the positions they had earlier mocked. I've made such comments myself. It's human nature to hope for a reckoning, but at this point I don't think it's rational to expect one.

Will there be a reckoning for everybody who took to social media to explain that the real problem was their pet political issue, not the virus? The ones who said "the real problem is capitalism"? The ones who said "the real problem is meat consumption, and beef in particular"? The ones who said "the real problem is immigration"? Will there be a reckoning of how by linking the virus to polarizing political issues, they directly killed discussion of facts on either side, and indirectly killed human beings?

Will there be a reckoning of how many people die because they - or their family members, or others in their communities whom they can't avoid contact with - reject necessary safety measures or useful treatments that have become taboo after being endorsed by political enemies? Will we ever really be able to figure out whether hydroxychloroquine helps or not, now that basically all the scientific studies, with conclusions in either direction, are retracted, discredited, or tainted; and no new research can be funded or trusted because of the political implications?

Can we reckon who is really to blame for pushing a large segment of our population into a position where it is socially impossible to wear masks properly, or even to wear them at all?

Will there be a reckoning for community leaders able to set an example, who chose to set the example of not cancelling events, endangering the communities they serve, and announced their decisions with gratuitous added commentary about how "you can stay away if you're afraid" in order to turn up the pressure and help themselves feel smug about decisions that they already knew were wrong? Will anybody remember, if there really is a reckoning, that it was Insane Clown Posse who held the moral high ground in this matter?

Will there be a reckoning of all the rules, and exceptions to rules, that were made out of tribal signalling, not necessity?

Will there be a reckoning for those who thought their mass gathering was too important to be done safely, whether it was a religious congregation, a protest, or a party? Will there be a reckoning for the schools that just had to reopen on schedule come Hell or high water, and the parents and the politicians who mandated that?

Will there be a reckoning for airlines who cancelled flights, but gave refunds only as restricted credits for future tickets? Will there be a reckoning for how they insisted on continuing to pack people into planes in ways that violated distancing? Will there be a reckoning for airlines and airport authorities who simply didn't enforce the masking and other safety rules they promised they were implementing? Will there be a reckoning for travel insurance companies who refused to pay out on claims related to COVID?

Will there be a reckoning for the World Health Organization, who put more emphasis in their communications on telling people not to mention that the virus came from China, than on actually conveying useful and important information? Will anybody reckon the extent to which suppressing mention of the virus's origin fueled conspiracy theories about its origin? Will there be a reckoning for those who dismissed facts as "racist"? Does anyone reckon just how completely and irrevocably you lose someone's cooperation as soon as you have thrown that word at them?

Will there be a reckoning for social media companies and search engines who in the name of "safety" introduced automated censorship of what they termed "misinformation"... that turned out on many points to be more truthful than the official narratives at the time? These information-control systems are not going away if COVID ever goes away; will there be a public reckoning of the purposes to which they're put in the future?

Will there be a reckoning for smartphone "app" vendors who have committed so many horrific privacy violations so routinely, for so long, and with impunity, that now people are justifiably hesitant to use contact-tracing "apps" when we really need those to be deployed widely?

Will there be a reckoning for those on the Left who kept saying "travel restrictions don't work" as a matter of ideology, against evidence, until that claim became partially self-fulfilled because the restrictions were delayed until months too late for them to work well? Will there be a reckoning for those on the Right who, once it was clear restrictions were absolutely necessary, took the opportunity to introduce the selective immigration restrictions they wanted instead of the non-selective travel restrictions we needed?

As with many other forms of disability accommodation, the number of people who really can't wear masks is very small, but also very much nonzero; and the number of people who claim that they can't wear masks and demand to be covered by any exceptions that are made, is much larger. Will there be a reckoning for that?

Will there be a reckoning for public health organizations who for many years have deliberately overstated the number of deaths from influenza, in order to scare people into getting flu shots? Now that we have a respiratory virus that really is killing as many people as they falsely said flu did, we've also got a "boy who cried wolf" situation and an equation between the two diseases that could and should have been avoided.

And in the reckoning if there ever is one, will there be recognition of the sacrifices of those who followed all the rules and did everything right, sometimes with good results but often just to see it all torn down by others' ignorant behaviour? Will we reckon the losses suffered by individuals and businesses who drew down their own savings because they couldn't, or simply didn't, claim bailouts from public funds? Who will sustain the ongoing loss of value of savings as the inflation from the bailouts drives price increases? What about everybody who supported others in big and little ways, personally filling in the gaps where the official institutions failed - will there be a reckoning in their favour?

There's no justice; there's just us. And there won't be this kind of reckoning unless you create it. I don't believe you really will, because you may well end up on the wrong side when all the beans are counted. Few people who call for a reckoning are willing to look closely at the consequences of their own actions.

1 comment

Matthew, this is a thorough examination and your conclusion is correct: There's no justice; there's just us.
From what I see, people's reaction to the pandemic has been influenced mostly by politics and their particular source of information and news and to a lesser extend by personal experience. Some believe that COVID is a hoax while one of my relatives in Montreal lost both of her brothers to COVID in May. Our friend Georgiadis lives at a retirement residence with over 300 residents and no COVID cases. They are still under lock-down.
Most people are just not aware of what action might make a difference.
Good analysis!
Spiros - 2020-08-03 10:14

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