Not sure what to say to mark this occasion, but it felt important to mark it somehow. It’s Monday, March 16, 2020, and I think it’s fairly obvious by now that this Corona virus thing is going to be wildly transformative. It’s also terrifying for obvious reasons. Being in Bishop is a tremendous blessing, as most of our daily activities here fall squarely within the recommended social isolation parameters, and as of this typing the county of Inyo has yet to see a confirmed case. If there’s a downside to being out here, it’s the anxiety from not being around to help the old folks in the Bay Area and San Diego. At least it’s not too long a drive.
I was a 17 year old high school senior on 9/11/01. I remember the panoply of chaotic emotions the country collectively went through, and I recall feeling distinctly that the world would never be the same. Between the Patriot Act and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (the former on pretenses of such obvious and flimsy bullshit that the mere fact we managed to hold our noses and swallow it was a grave indication of the lessons unlearned from our numerous tragic attempts at imperialism), it was pretty clear that the changes the world was going through were not, on balance, in favor of freedom and equality and transparency of government.
It’s obviously way way way too early to know anything about how this whole pandemic thing will progress, much less how the world will look in a year or two. I know it’s going to get worse here in America before it gets better, and it’s scary that we don’t really know how long it’ll be before we have adequate testing, much less a viable vaccine. It’s scary that we don’t know how bad the spread of the disease, or its indirect consequences, will get. We’re doing the distancing thing, avoiding eating out and the like, and tuning into the CDC. This crisis feels, very, very different from other major disasters in recent memory.
But, if it’s not too early, I’d like to offer a note of optimism.
Unlike hurricanes (Katrina, Harvey, Irma, etc.), tsunamis (Banda Aceh), nuclear tsunamis (Fukushima), earthquakes, and wildfires, this thing is coming for all of us, rich and poor, wherever we are. With different governments taking different steps at different times, we have a real-time natural laboratory. This gives us the ability to compare best practices and collectively mitigate the overall damage to life and livelihood. Furthermore, the very nature of the disease is itself a strong incentive for us to be very concerned indeed about the health and welfare of everyone in our communities, and indeed the entire globe. Countless benefit concerts have preached that we are all one connected people, but may take Covid-19 to make the lesson stick.
Unlike climate change, Covid is an immediate and palpable threat. Humanity has thus far failed the climate challenge pretty miserably–I take my small-yet-well-above-the-global-median share of responsibility–but nobody, not even Trump, can claim that this is all a hoax perpetrated by a cabal of greedy grant-money-grubbing paleoarchaeologists hoping to fund their Powerpoints. Unlike climate change, the results of carelessness are immediate, and the social pressure feels too strong for there to be much noise from whoever wants to downplay the threat. And unlike all of those other problems in America, like the wealth gap, lack of health coverage, and an eviscerated federal government run by a toddler with the brain of a magic 8-ball, Covid is making the stock market deflate so even our benevolent oligarchy has a little skin in the game.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m already seeing and hearing of people offering to help each other out, employers paying staff during closures (and members who can afford to continuing to support shuttered businesses), and, at least around Bishop, a general sense that shit got real, and that we got each other’s backs. I’m hopeful that if this doesn’t get too much worse, then there’s a halfway decent chance that we could become a whole lot better.