We Are in This Together

The past week has been difficult. I feel, every morning, like I’m waking up into a nightmare. Things that I’ve known intellectually and in the abstract since my college days in the late 1980s have become suddenly and horrifying clear.

  • Most people don’t understand the danger of non-linear change in complex systems.
  • The political elite and intelligentsia in this country don’t care about the needs of working people.
  • The mainstream press does not report it manufactures consent.

On the first point I spent part of yesterday attempting to convince people close to me to take COVID-19 seriously with mixed results. People who read this blog, I’m sure, are taking measures to keep their family and communities safe. But we all know people who think COVID-19 is just another flu or, worse, a hoax. I found the video above helpful for understanding the math behind some of the counter-intuitive aspects of a pandemic. Please share if you’ve found a way to communicate the danger and not be seen as a raving lunatic (I’m ashamed to say that I’ve let loose the words “sheeple” and “normies” more than a few times in the past few days).

How to make points two and three less marginal will be the challenge of coming years. Unfortunately, people will die in a country where you have to launch a GoFundMe campaign to pay for your COVID-19 treatment. As Senator Sanders said regarding this crisis, “Now is the time for solidarity. Now is the time to come together with love and compassion for all, including the most vulnerable people in our society.”

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  1. The DNC & RNC have always sold out its base to the rich. Sadly the Democratic voters were always the most blind to this. That’s the arrogance of thinking one is more “educated”.

  2. Hi Erik,
    This is a good post, thanks for posting it.
    I’ve found the daily videos of Dr. John Campbell, a retired teaching nurse from the UK, to be a good place to send people who need to/want to be informed on COVID-19.


    I try to leave politics out of, hard to do, but my “far left” POV will have to show up through my actions, not my words. We’ll see how that turns out.

    In the meantime, take care.

  3. Hi Erik,

    I don’t really know what to say. The intersection of government power in the hands of apparently incompetent elected politicians, an economic system played to a limit and now in a shrinking crisis, and unforeseen consequences to the (mis)management of natural resources… it’s really hard not to feel like we’re all going to hell.

    I really hope it’s not too late for change. I really hope change in attitudes and habits may not reverse damage but somehow heal it. But it’s just hope and not knowledge.

    Take care and stay safe, my friends

  4. Hi Erik,

    I’m not at a total loss for words, but then people have thought I’ve been strange most of my life. I have a slightly different prospective because back in 2007 I took a lot of prepper talk seriously and retired to a small community (2900 pop.) in the middle of Nebraska where I can grow a substantial amount of my food.

    While I have been welcomed with open arms, I find many of the people oblivious to the wider world, informed only by Fox News, and consumed by sports. Most are furious that the state’s high school basketball tournaments have been limited to families only, despite the fact that one of our current 15 COVID-19 patients is a boy basketball player who attended 2 girls games and probably infected dozens.

    I was in the grocery store yesterday. (OK, I admit I was there to get toilet paper, but hay, cut me a break, I do use a composting toilet). Nevertheless, I over heard to women talking saying because we’re in a small town, we’re safe. I didn’t interrupt, and say no we’re not, but I did silently mourn their simple mindedness. I not sure how to approach strangers, but most of my friends here have been told that I’m only communicating by phone. I’ve already bowed out of various community activities and I’m about to cancel our garden club.

    While this wasn’t what I was thinking about when I bought my home, I can now hunker down and not leave for several months!

  5. I’m a math biologist whose PhD thesis was about epidemiology (of infectious disease) if I can answer questions. I think this a great video.

    Also the #FlattenTheCurve concept is probably the most important thing to consider and most convincing concept about why this is so serious.

    • Thanks Sean! I’d be curious to hear what changes you are making in your personal life right now.

    • Trying to better plan ahead for the long haul in terms of work and home. I think we’re in this for a while and need to stay calm and find reliable sources of global and local information. I’ve been following a few accounts on twitter (mlipsitch, CT_Bergstrom to name just 2) that have been very helpful and convincing.

      The downside is that if the interventions work, there will be some that say ‘why did we bother, it wasn’t bad after all?’ If they fail, ‘why did we bother, the experts were wrong.’ I’m hoping it looks like an overreaction in the end.

      I’m mostly trying to get everyone I know to take this as seriously as possible. From younger friends (and students) who could be risks to older family, to my own older friends, neighbors, and family who are more at-risk.

      I’ve taken seriously the advice to stay out of large crowds and am trying to be aware of how much time I spend in stores. I’m in a part of the country where the garden is pretty bare right now, so I’m reliant on grocery stores. I think it is important to support local restaurants with take-out orders.

      One way to picture this is two main ingredients to transmission of infection: number of contacts and chance of acquiring infection upon contact. For the first, social distancing helps to reduce your potential exposure (e.g., number of people you see). This thing seems pretty transmissible, so the second term is harder. You can help yourself by washing hands and not touching your eyes. Others can help you by self-quarantining, if they know they’re infected/infectious.

      Long answer, but I guess in short, I haven’t made to many abrupt changes because I’ve been watching for a while and slowly starting to build them into my routine. The biggest change is maybe being more bold in trying to educate.

  6. I am a massage therapist and just closed my business until April 1. This should be like a vacation, right? I can stay home and do all the projects I have been wanting to do? My house is stocked. Projects are ready. I just have to quit watching the trainwreck of the internet and get my brain in a different gear. Forced time off never feels right.

  7. I’ve tried to tell the naysayers (some in my own family) that they need to take steps not for themselves, but for the most vulnerable among us, i.e., their parents or grandparents. That seemed to move them into understanding; they can still be in denial regarding their own risk but can save face by saying, “well, I’ll do this for my elderly friends and family.”

  8. I am staying home, doing my gardening, reading books I have longed to read, making jams from my fresh citrus, and working on my creative projects. I think that always being told to be prepared for The Big One in California or hearing the talks about Y2K and 2012 have made me prepared. A book that gave me a good view as to how society tries to ignore issues like these was Albert Camus’ “The Plague”. It is a good commentary on the reactions of society and government.
    Don’t get discouraged. Like others are saying, this is a good time to stay home and concentrate on things that are more important and peaceful. And maybe this is the wake up call that the world needs. Time will tell.

  9. Love the title of the post. It is so true.

    Communicating the danger is not really an issue in Austria since the government here is attempting to flatten the curve by closing schools, universities, stores (except for supermarkets, drugstores, and cell phone services), banning gatherings of more than 100 people, limiting opening hours of restaurants and cafes, and urging the public to practice social distancing.

    I agree with the previous comment that Albert Camus’ “The Plague” is a good read while you are sel

  10. I went ahead and closed my piddly little antique shop starting today. I admit that my husband pushed hard on this and I was resistant; but I thought it over carefully and decided that he is right. if we are very fortunate we may be able to laugh about this someday but I won’t count on that. The time off will be well filled with yardwork and interior repair projects that are long overdue anyway. I’m sad that I’m not going to be visiting my small grandchild who lives 150 miles away but I do think it’s really important not to risk transporting bad germy stuff between communities. Meanwhile we can visit via facetime etc. Take good care all.And thanks for the thoughtful post and replies.

  11. Interesting to read about what people are doing with their down time after shutting their businesses for a while. I work from home generally doing computer work so I am mostly unaffected.
    In Australia we are doing the self-distancing, shutting down meetings larger than 500, washing hands regularly and implementing other infection-control procedures. The government seems to have gone out hard and fast with this which has helped to flatten the curve. Covid numbers are in the low hundreds nationally.
    I find that the panic buying in shops is far more disturbing than Covid 19. I hope that after a week or two this silliness will run its course and the shop shelves will be restocked. I have a small veggie garden, but not enough to supply everything! Like Erik, I sometimes lose faith in the veggie patch, my carrots and leeks where a disaster, but my current planting of Rocquet, Lettuce and Cilantro are an absolute abundance, so who can guess what will work and what won’t. We just keep trying to find the success stories.

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