Worst Case Scenario

Instead of arguing about the unknowable future course of the Asteroid Virus, let us assume the worst. In addition to mutating into multiple configurations, it turns out the virus has collateral pathological effects besides filling up the lungs with fluid. Suggestions that this might be happening are showing up on the internet as of now.

In this thought experiment, the current flap about the World Health Organization and aerosol projection of infectious material is joined by dozens of other bureaucratic screw-ups, while the infection rate climbs and the death rate resumes its climb. Public pressure groups and some politicians "call out" the various organizations like WHO and CDC for their criminal negligence, and the general public becomes more disillusioned and angry. So mad, they vote Democrat in November.

But the virus ignores the election returns and continues to attack human beings, making millions sick and hundreds of thousands die, due to a combination of Trumpian Anti-Science stupidity, the fundamental dysfunctionality of our social order and the unbeatable nature of the mutating, multi-faceted plague that refuses to go away.

How many people will this ultimately kill?

And how will people manage to remain good citizens as the "correct" science continues to impose social distancing indefinitely -- the New Normal is masks and long lines with no mass gatherings of people ever.

Does this civilization survive? How?

This, of course, is a more elaborate version of a question that still draws contempt and invective rather than rational thought. Is the cure worse than the disease? This question has nothing whatsoever to do with whether any particular statistic is bogus. It assumes that the virus is as bad as Science can possibly predict a virus to be, and then asks how bad is that? It also asks the forbidden question of how many people will be killed, maimed, sickened, rendered homeless, go hungry, turn to crime, become addicted -- and become multi-factored and multi-vectored THREATS -- in the Intentional Depression started to defeat the virus.

And it is the organized suppression of this side of the Pandemic Equation that makes me paranoid.

The worst experience with a virus in American history was the 1918 pandemic that swept through the country in multiple waves in an era in which medical science was close to helpless in treating the infected. That pandemic swept the world on steam ships and railroad trains. It killed six tenths of one percent of the American people. Adjusted for population growth, that would claim the lives of about two million Americans now.

I cannot argue that the lockdown is not keeping such a massive catastrophe from happening. I do not believe it is possible to know how well or badly it is working. So I will assume that it IS working and we have already saved at least hundreds of thousands of lives -- and could have saved more with less corruption and incompetence in our leadership.

We do not have any plausible "metric" to predict what the cost of the lockdown will ultimately be, and it will take many years to make an assessment. I love the argument that if it weren't for the GOP and its secret sweethearts in the Democratic Party, we could have had a New Zealand style dole that paid a percentage of everybody's salary, and the crash would not be so bad. Yup, our corrupt society is not really geared up for shared sacrifice, and I think we have to include the absurdity of the Massive Giveaway to corporate America as part of the cost of the lockdown and a huge contribution to the social disillusion we have just imposed on ourselves -- without debate, which is shamelessly suppressed.

Worst case scenario is already upon us in terms of cost. We might as well ride it out with lock downs, because the economy is moribund. The rest of the world is not hurt as badly as we are, but nobody on earth is coming out of this unscathed.

You cannot have more than you produce and the world just lowered its gross production for 2020 by an as yet unknown percentage -- more than 10% at the very least, and probably more than 20%. Here in the USA, we have "papered" over the stock market so far and we are handing out trillions of dollars of freshly printed funny money -- while overall economic activity has been reduced by at least 30% and I saw one Business Page estimate that assessed the drop in GDP at 40%.

Within the US, our "conservative" and "centrist" political parties have delayed the flood of homelessness until later this summer. But soon millions of people will be evicted while unskilled labor will be a buyer's market. Already, the folks sleeping on the sidewalk in my neighborhood have about doubled and panhandling has become a lot more aggressive.

Beyond this anecdotal evidence, the undeniable reality is that no nation on earth -- let alone most of the nations simultaneously -- has ever created a Depression intentionally. It took World War II to restart the American economy after what used to be called The Great Depression.

Do I get to count World War III as part of the cost of the cure?

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Anja Geitz's picture

To write an epic novel, I might consider evil doers hatching up a virus that ultimately puts WWIII on the table, but as it pertains to my real life, I’m just not there.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Raggedy Ann's picture

Intelligent virus is sent to earth to help raise the vibration of the people and bring them to the fifth dimension of consciousness, which cannot be accomplished without a catastrophic event that stops the entire earth and requires it to pay attention to the message and then to act on the message.

I think that's what's happening!

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"When will our conscience's grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?" Eleanor Roosevelt

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Socrates (469-399 BC)

is a tendency to think that how things are now, right this minute, will last forever. It's certainly not a trait, learned I suspect, of only the young but I find it less common as we age. I certainly was afflicted with that view. Some never grow out of it. Those who see the world as only two ways instead of a continuum of possibilities and ways to live, a conservative view seldom move beyond it. In my experience anyway.

The more we dig into negativity and fear of the unknown the more apocalyptic becomes the thinking. The only path from a bad day is downhill and the only possibility is great stuff moving forward on a great day. Neither is the reality until each of us no longer exist which may be a bad or good day depending on the circumstances. Non-existence means every day is the same - nothingness like before we were born. I don't remember it so lacking additional insight I'll assume it will be similar to the previous non-existence.

Until then the only thing I know is that how the world is today will be different tomorrow. Better or worse is only dependent on my perspective and judgement but it will change. I've learned to live my life looking forward to the challenge of what comes and not fret over what may be. I've found that by doing my best to make whatever small piece I have in making life and my world better is the best way to help it happen.

This is a well known idea of living in the moment. I'm far from being always in now but when I am my life is a lot better.

I appreciate the time it took to write this essay. A lot of thought went into it. I seriously doubt it will occur as written or even close. Yeah, life will probably be a bit more difficult before it gets better. We can't always be on a winning streak. But I know it will change. I'm perfectly OK with that even if it kills me. Well. Maybe in 20 years.

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Hawkfish's picture

@vtcc73

I had this strange experience last night while watching Shaft (I’d never seen it). The New York of 50 years ago(!) was very familiar and it put me in a pre-pandemic frame of mind. Very strange.

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We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.
- Greta Thunberg

CS in AZ's picture

First let us be clear that discussion of the trade-offs and economic impacts of various mitigation efforts is not by any means a “forbidden question” — in fact it has been an ongoing and major issue/dilemma for individuals and businesses since the very beginning.

One problem you may be encountering is the way the entire pandemic and response has been politicized, because the words “can’t let the cure to be worse than the disease” were uttered by D. Trump as a way to justify doing nothing and just allowing mass deaths and rampant disease without even trying to mitigate it. Keep in mind too that mitigation efforts are not a “cure” so that is a misleading frame to begin with.

People in this country have always been fickle on what is wanted from the government, but “keeping us safe” has become one of the first and foremost things people demand, and political leaders say is their “top priority” and most important duty to uphold. We want our food to be inspected and we expect a guarantee that what we buy in the store is not deadly. We want restaurants inspected to ensure the food they serve is safe. We want regulations to make sure our workplaces are safe and don’t harm us. We want traffic laws and safe cars and roadways; we don’t want bridges to fall down or dams to break and flood a town or city. We expect the government to work at keeping us safe.

So for a president to state that his policy is to forget safety and “protecting us” in favor of keeping the money machine churning ... well, let’s just say that did not go over well. It set up a political battle over public health policy, such that now it seems like it’s become strictly a red/blue thing. Democrats are claiming they would put safety first, and take responsible mitigation efforts seriously, while republicans now openly flaunt the whole idea of safety, and think that any mitigation efforts whatsoever are just like Hitler. People are literally having full-on meltdowns and screaming fits in public over wearing a face mask. Rationality is missing from every side. Welcome to modern politics in the US.

Other countries do real, serious lockdowns — much more severe than any we have seen in this country — to protect the public from massive death and disease, and they do a better job of taking care of the people affected by the closures, and they just get it done. China for example, after several months of having it under control, recently locked down a section of Beijing due to finding 18 positive cases of community transmission. Eighteen cases, and they do a total lockdown of an area with close to half a million people. The US has done nothing remotely similar to that.

You refer in your essay to “the lockdown” several times, but there has never even been a real or single lockdown in this country. Some states and areas have had short-term stay at home orders — with MANY exceptions — or partial shutdowns of certain businesses and activities. We have never made a serious effort in the US to contain the disease that comes anywhere close to what countries that are serious about containment have done. And yet, somehow, they survived these measures!

So maybe the question is the wrong one. What we should be asking is, why is the US government so inept and cruel that what we have gotten is the worst of both worlds — partial shutdowns that cause economic disruption and loss, but are so leaky that they are not very effective. We should be asking why we are not being supported with adequate money and assistance to survive the mitigation efforts.

We should not be demanding to be allowed to take life-threatening risks just to have enough money to live. We should be demanding that the government change policies that do not support people through the necessary mitigation measures. This should 100% not be about electing democrats, because its not about which party is in charge, it is what they do collectively. The people should be demanding change from whoever is holding the lead role at any given time.

This is getting way too long, but I also wanted to address the core of conservatism in the position that we must return the economy to “normal” above all other considerations.

People have been saying for decades now that humans, as a global civilization, are on the brink of the total destruction of our species and many others, unless there are major, fundamental changes in the global system of ‘the economy’ that is killing us all. But such changes have been deemed “impossible” because, well, it just cannot be done. We have to have a global economy that burns all the oil and never stops churning. Otherwise, what about the jobs!!!

So now we have a circumstance where it HAS changed. Rapidly and radically. A virus suddenly disrupted the entire global economic system that has been slowly killing everyone but was deemed impossible to change. I find that very interesting and eye-opening, and somewhat encouraging. So you will not see me in the line to demand it all be restored back to a “normal” that was far more deadly than any disease.

Change comes as it comes. Yes obviously this upheaval means pain and loss, which is why it could never happen by choice. But is going back to the system we all wanted to change really what we want now?

I don’t. I hope this leads to a permanent change in how work and ‘the economy’ are viewed, and we (humans) are forced to find new ways that actually make more sense. I realize this is not likely. With so many forces aligned to get back to “normal” and the fact that we’ve already seen in other countries that a serious temporary effort to mitigate the spread of the disease does work, I think the crisis phase will fade into the past within a few years. And since the worst of the outbreaks happen over time and in various locations, there will be no lasting changes to the overall system. Unfortunately.

So you can probably rest assured that the precious ‘economy’ that is slowly killing us all will be back. Yay?

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Hawkfish's picture

@CS in AZ

the other day. My brother lives in Maine and the deer on the islands have many problems with disease and food caused by lack of predation and population oscillation. This is what happens when a species no longer has any checks on itself. Or as a hunter I heard put it: “Everything gets eaten”. As long as we keep acting like deer, this is going to keep happening.

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We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.
- Greta Thunberg

@CS in AZ deserves its own essay.

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There were some good non-responsive responses to the essay:

Change is indeed the only constant in the universe, and it is foolish to pine for the past for a long list of good reasons. The world I grew up in Dallas, Texas featured White and Colored bathrooms as Jim Crow still dominated everything. My older brother "avoided" the draft by making an agreement with the draft board to join the police department. These and a zillion other "realities" evaporated with the decades, to be replaced by the current mix of bullshit and glory. So, yes, I agree with those who admonish people like me who worry about the Depression that worrying does not help, and that change can make way for improvements as well as disaster.

Furthermore, the particular economic regime that is now swirling around the toilet bowl really sucks -- compared to the economic exception called The New Deal. It is moribund whether or not the Asteroid Virus had appeared on the scene to put an end to it.

Where I disagree with what I see on the thread is that it is not "the economy" tanking that is bothering me. It is civilization that I believe will collapse as a result of a political decision for society to just stop itself. Yes, most of the crap that we are not able to get now is really just crap -- and in the long run, those who live 50 years from now will be far better off because of the destruction of Consumer Society.

A nice philosophical take on the chaos, death and destruction that will come if civil order disappears. One possibility is that I am totally full of shit and that "the economy" will go through a cycle of increased unemployment that plays itself out like previous recessions. The reason why I think everybody who takes this view is full of shit is that the "numbers" in this crash are an order of magnitude worse than anything the world has ever seen.

To conflate the fear of civil order breaking down with a grubby and greedy fear for "the economy" is yet another disingenuous rhetorical gimmick.

One comment pointed out that the "lockdown" was not as draconian as it could have been -- or should have been. This is a plausible suggestion as to why our experience is so much worse than the rest of world's. However ineffective the lockdown has been in fighting the virus, it has been a Perfect Ten at putting people out of work -- giving us the worst of both worlds.

I do have to concede that I overstated the case when I claimed that discussion of the cost is "forbidden." That was a lazy formulation of the overwhelming imbalance between the volume and vehemence of argumentation on this subject. I call as my witness the threads on this board.

But that is a triviality about my own rhetorical excess. The reality is that the decision was made to "lock down," a variation on the idea of a quarantine that has never been tried on such a scale before. There was no public debate and the decisions were all made by a dysfunctional glom of health bureaucracies, corporate entities like the National Basketball Association that started the lockdown, government bureaucracies and hack politicians. Nobody claims that the USA has done a great job at fighting the virus -- but we have done a bang up job of destroying jobs.

Yes, most of the jobs destroyed should be replaced by sustainable and sane activity. I'm sure Trump or Biden will hop right to that reimagining how we all live in peace once the virus "goes away."

If it goes away.

It is one thing to stage a revolution. It is another thing to cheer lead for the dissolution of the existing civilization without any conception of what comes next. What will come next is chaos and survival of the worst -- that will eventually give way to Paradise Regained. Many, many years from now and probably many billions of dead bodies from now.

Of course, it may not be all that bad. How bad? Very few people on the internet seem to wonder.

Final note. In my view, it is already too late. Had the Not-Stringent Enough Lockdown stopped by the end of June, the Depression might have been short lived and recovery might have been strong. But we are going to have to face the hard cold reality of tens of millions of people out of work, living without producing anything.

Handing out money does not solve that problem, especially when you hand it out to somebody who is doing fine. Again, our political dysfunctionality is part of any rational assessment of the cost and benefit of the badly mishandled fight against The Asteroid Virus.

People will not starve without a fight. Get ready to face that reality, folks.

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I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.