Monday, March 16, 2020

Lent 2020: The Old World Is Passing Away

The state of Washington is now effectively under martial law. All public gatherings of 50 people or more are banned. (But don't try skirting the law with 49, because the state promises to shut those down, too.) Sit-down restaurants can only offer take-out. Bars, coffee shops, movie theaters, gyms, doughnut and ice cream shops, salons, barber shops, museums, art galleries -- all closed by order of the governor. The citizenry is, for all practical purposes, under house arrest.

We're seeing shelter-in-place orders spreading through Northern California, and curfews being enacted elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the president is recommending that people avoid all gatherings of more than ten people.

What's happening in Washington state will soon be happening nationwide. It's coming. It's just a matter of time.

Societal norms will soon begin to break down as cities go dark, our routines are disrupted, and we're all made de facto prisoners in our own homes. As paranoia sets in, your neighbors will snitch on you for walking out your front door. Censorship of critical views will ratchet up -- heck, for all I know, this blog will vanish. And thefts and lootings will rise as we barrel full-speed toward an almost certain global economic depression.

All this for a virus that around 97% of people will completely recover from. For a virus that won't even come close to killing as many people as the cold or flu. The CDC says that between 20,000 and 40,000 Americans have already died this year from the flu -- compared to 87 deaths nationwide from COVID-19.

Let me say that again: 20,000 to 40,000 have died from the flu, and no one bats an eye -- but 87 have died from COVID-19, and we shut everything down and fly into a panic.

To put the numbers in a worldwide perspective, the WHO estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 people die yearly from the flu. So far in 2020, about 6,000 worldwide have died from COVID-19.

Those numbers mean that the flu is 300 to 500 times more deadly than COVID-19. So where is the equivalent panic about the flu? Where is the common sense? Where is the critical thought?

Amazingly, I've already seen people on social media demanding that Washington's governor do even more. If you're living under an extreme curtailment of your right to free movement and you're begging for even more, you are no longer a rational person. Because a rational person would realize that the virus poses a low risk to most of the population -- far lower than the flu -- and would surely question why we're seeing a reaction out of all proportion to the danger if we don't do the same for far more dangerous scenarios. If we wouldn't capitulate like this during an ordinary flu season, then why are we doing it now?

And the answer appears to be that we're lab rats in some kind of social experiment, to see how easy it will be for people to roll over and sacrifice everything because an authority figure tells them to. What the ultimate goal is, I have no idea. Maybe a massive economic meltdown was already on its way, and getting people to blame it on a virus lets those responsible off the hook. Maybe we're setting the stage for world governments to enact mandatory vaccinations on its citizens. Whatever the case, it's undeniable that the entire planet is being gaslighted. Media and authority figures say boo, and a compliant public dutifully runs around like Chicken Little, literally begging for those same authority figures to take their rights away.

Or consider this viewpoint, from one of the rapidly shrinking voices of reason, about how this virus created its own virus of fear in the first place -- specifically, how social pressure led from "just take sensible precautions" to "we need to lock down the world":

It doesn't even matter at this point if COVID-19 isn't a deadly pandemic worse than the black plague. People think it is, and that's all it takes to do the damage that the panic-peddlers want. Propaganda works, all too well.

These are times I thought I'd never live to see. Unabated panic is turning us into an authoritarian police state on complete lockdown, almost overnight. And if those in power can scare people into doing this over a virus that poses a low risk to most people, then they can do it over anything. The precedent has now been set. There is no going back to the way things were. It's naive to think we ever can.

This is no longer America. This is an irrational people gripped by media-driven fear.

There's not much more to say. We are living in unbelievably dark times.

Notably, a secretary to the pope warned that people will abandon the church if the church abandons them in their time of need. She's right about that. But it's too little, too late, as that damage has already been done, with so many churches having rushed to close their doors when people needed them the most.

I don't think the Western church will recover from that massive misstep. Nor do I think our society will recover. We'll bounce back just fine from the virus. But the damage done from the virus of fear and panic will leave a deep and lasting scar that will change the way we live forever.

And we have no one to blame but ourselves, for letting fear control us.

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