The COVID-19 virus outbreak is having the right effect on the world.
Unfortunately it is doing so for all the wrong reasons, and the effect is only temporary. Once the ’emergency’ is over everyone will forget the lessons they should be learning and it will all go back to business as usual. Which is wrong.
So what is good about it?
Let’s start with improved hygiene. Face it, much of the ‘ordinary’ viral illness spread every year could be prevented if people followed the basic procedures they are observing now. Not the ridiculous extremes some people are touting, but the simple acts of cleanliness like washing your hands. It’s somewhat appalling to realize they haven’t been doing this all along anyway. Rhinovirus that causes common colds by the score can be greatly reduced by washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and wiping off dirty surfaces. Never mind the reduction in bacterial transmission. And if you don’t know the difference between bacteria and viruses please learn as it is important. For example that hand sanitizer that is currently selling for $200 an ounce has no effect on a virus, but will kill off bacteria. It’s still just glorified rubbing alcohol, though. Likewise antibiotics will not cure a viral infection, but are sometimes given to stave off a likely secondary bacterial one. In the short form, nothing is really efficacious against a virus save your own immune system, and a few things that would be have a damaging effect on you as well as the germ.
Another benefit has been a great reduction in travel, even locally. What’s so good about that? Less fuel consumption and resulting lower pollution. No, really. The social shutdown is actually showing up already on views of emissions and climate change. Amazingly positive effect in a really short period of time. It really gives you hope for the future of life kind (only we know … it hasn’t got one).
The third major benefit is probably not so obvious, because it looks like an unmitigated disaster: the stock market decline. What’s good about that? Well in the first place no real wealth is affected because real wealth is fixed at the resources available to a given society and that doesn’t change just because of some arbitrary numerical evaluation. No, it doesn’t. What does change is that basically the rich people are eating each other alive financially, and they deserve it. The only reason they are so rich is because of the poverty they’ve inflicted on others. This isn’t some sort of socialist-communist rant, is a factual observation of economics that only con artists try to deny: no one gets rich in a closed resource system (which is any and all of them) without someone else getting poor. Wealth is not “created” (except in terms of falsified statements to convince banks to loan you money by proving you don’t need it), it is redistributed. The billionaires are reverse Robin Hoods, robbing the poor to give to the rich – themselves – like Dennis Moore. (There is a weird paradox that goes along with this wherein the richer they become and the poorer they make others the still richer they must become to be “as rich” because the uneven distribution stifles the economy and drives inflation, making the value of their money go down as the quantity of it goes up.)
There is a fourth part as well, and it starts with this Wall Street Syndrome. The fact is that the stock market and its various forms are no longer a means of investing but instead have become the biggest casino on Earth. It’s gambling, not investing. If the profits from the company this quarter aren’t as large as expected (instead of merely present), the stock value goes down. People even wager on that and ‘borrow’ stock they haven’t got to sell at top prices as they expect to cover those sales once the value drops. Almost 2/3 of “investing” these days is really speculation, and not based on any solid financial standing of any given company. The whole system needs a drastic overhaul, with much of the current accepted practices outlawed. This would stabilize the economy as nothing else could, and begin to change the economic mindset from constant demand of ever greater quarterly payouts to long-term consistency and planning.
From there we go to spreading that idea across the whole of society. Not just economically, but holistically. We should realize that the first industries hardest hit by the irrational social effects of this truly insignificant viral outbreak are the ones that need to be re-examined for their sustainability or indeed actual need. (See my earlier piece on a Sustainable Society).
None of this will happen, of course, as the virus is no place near as bad as the hyperbole makes it out to be. So far the world-wide infection rate has been less than 1/100,000 of the population and the unlucky few who have contracted it have a 98% chance of survival. By contrast, influenza which can largely be avoided by vaccine still manages to kill about 300,000 people per year. In more localized statistics, places like Italy and Iran are much worse off and you have to then consider what underlying differences there are to make their infection and death rates so much higher than the ‘norm’.
Once coronavirus is out of the news by dint of its lackluster staying power or is pushed aside by the start of World War III or something everyone will go back to business as usual and we’ll still have the same major problems we had before this insignificant one came along and got promoted as the new Black Death by an ignorant, nay stupid populace. COVID-19 is no place near as dangerous as the idiotic behaviour it has triggered.
Addendum: the amount of utter nonsense I’ve been reading about this and other viruses of late makes me wish it was going to wipe out half the population. Preferably the stupid half. Even when you explain the reality of it, people steadfastly refuse to believe the truth no matter how well-documented the facts or what qualifications the conveyor has. It’s like they have a built-in need to be wrong, or to be scared by something. It’s like with a zombie invasion; you can’t convince them that is impossible either. It is for that reason that I am not uttering one word about my own legitimacy in presenting this essay as factual, because no one would accept any. I can be just as trustworthy as anyone else spewing nonsense on the Internet.
Except in this instance it’s not nonsense.
What’s that phrase they always use? Oh yes: “do your research!” *LOL*
Or to paraphrase Pogo (Walt Kelly): We have met the enemy, and it is us.