The weather is warmer, the people are restless, and our world is slowly but surely reopening. That is incredibly worrying, given that our closest historical analogue, the Spanish Flu of 1918, saw three waves of infection, with the largest coming in the fall of 1918 after the initial social distancing implemented in March 1918 was eased just in time for the summer. Sound familiar?
The truth is that as a whole, humans in 2020 are dealing with this latest plague tremendously well, at least from a historical context. It certainly doesn't feel that way, but as of today 253,381 people have died from COVID19 around the world. If this were 1918, the number would probably be much higher. Modern technology has allowed us to share information about the virus and its spread in unprecedented ways. That of course has its own slew of problems which we are also seeing played out through information warfare between China and the USA and the future of privacy looking rather cyberpunk.
Which brings me to today's topic... the News of the Day. I don't know about you, but after two months of vigorously absorbing almost any and all news about the virus, I'm just fatigued. That's despite the number of infections going up and only a few indicators that things have gotten better since March. We are an impatient species, but the virus has no use for the social anxiety that's resulted in us being forced to stay inside. It moves and spreads and kills regardless. Consuming news is a choice... one that we make on a daily basis. The news is a form of story that reports the truth, but is not in and of itself the truth.
Finding the truth requires a lot of thought. Asking where the news is coming from, the facts being reported, and cross checking with other sources to see if others are corroborating what's being said. Many of the loudest demagogues will purport this same process of critical thinking.... only to willfully or complicity spread their ignorance to others.
Chinese history is said to be one of unification and dissolution. We come together, we fall apart, same as it ever was. same as it ever will be. I was reading Ram V and Sumit Kumar's excellent These Savage Shores recently, and came across a similar sentiment expressed in its depiction of colonial India. Ancient lands, long shattered, forever one.
The advent of the digital age has allowed us to see this same cycle of unification, dissolution, and unification in quicker and quicker cycles as information is shared, authority is decentralized, and truth is shattered into a thousand narrow shards. Pessimistically, it seems people draw comfort these days in uniting under the ugliest common denominator. All of which we experience is through a human lens that, limited to just one lifetime, yearns to seek progress, change, blame, and fault, all under the auspices of an egocentric worldview -- surely, we have sacrificed these past few months. Surely there is a reason, a plot, a blame!
Nope. Disease knows no borders, holds no grudges. It enters and kills and cannot be seen with mortal senses. Just because you, Ray, are tired of hearing about it doesn't mean it's not still happening. I write this to remind myself heading into this summer of tentative easing, while I wait and fear when the next domino will fall.