Thursday, September 10, 2020

Read this!

If there is only one thing you read today (and I hope that you read more than this!), read Ed Yong's latest piece at The Atlantic on the US and the pandemic. Here's a taste, but please, do read the whole thing. He's one of the few sane voices out there.
Army ants will sometimes walk in circles until they die. The workers navigate by smelling the pheromone trails of workers in front of them, while laying down pheromones for others to follow. If these trails accidentally loop back on themselves, the ants are trapped. They become a thick, swirling vortex of bodies that resembles a hurricane as viewed from space. They march endlessly until they’re felled by exhaustion or dehydration. The ants can sense no picture bigger than what’s immediately ahead. They have no coordinating force to guide them to safety. They are imprisoned by a wall of their own instincts. This phenomenon is called the death spiral. I can think of no better metaphor for the United States of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. enters the ninth month of the pandemic with more than 6.3 million confirmed cases and more than 189,000 confirmed deaths. The toll has been enormous because the country presented the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus with a smorgasbord of vulnerabilities to exploit. But the toll continues to be enormous—every day, the case count rises by around 40,000 and the death toll by around 800—because the country has consistently thought about the pandemic in the same unproductive ways.

Many Americans trusted intuition to help guide them through this disaster. They grabbed onto whatever solution was most prominent in the moment, and bounced from one (often false) hope to the next. They saw the actions that individual people were taking, and blamed and shamed their neighbors. They lapsed into magical thinking, and believed that the world would return to normal within months. Following these impulses was simpler than navigating a web of solutions, staring down broken systems, and accepting that the pandemic would rage for at least a year.

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Do read the rest and ponder it. The US is a broken system (calling it a system, even a broken one, is a compliment!) that is in dire need of overhaul. And that overhaul needs to start in every heart; we need to address the fact that our radical individualism is destroying us, and I mean each one of us. We are not independent entities who can create our own meaning. There is a reality out there that is larger than each person and it can destroy us if we don't work together. Sure you might "sacrifice" a little bit, but it isn't really a sacrifice because in the end all will benefit.

I could go on, but you already know everything I would say—most of you could probably say it better than I anyway. Just crying into the wind in an
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