Clichés are on the rise as Corona keeps headlines reeling. “New normal” and “social distancing” are as mundane as Corona statistics. As we move into our fifth month of angst and slow reintroduction into society, we have been conditioned to be afraid. I instinctively cross the road when I see someone approaching me. We nod in knowing understanding as we awkwardly try to avoid contact lest we contaminate each other. I am neighborly but stay the hell away from me. The global community has been reduced to a six feet distance. In this current environment of incongruity, I can’t help but become cynical.
Pundits, columnists, and opinion writers have spent five months telling us “their” opinion and “their” version of our future. The truth is that we blindly succumbed to political partisanship, a disingenuous media, and unsubstantiated medical “opinion”, rather than using God given common sense. It is mind boggling how quickly and easily governments managed to mobilize and curtail basic freedoms without resistance. How easy it was to convince law abiding citizens that those we distrust the most, politicians, care about our welfare.
Finger pointing and blame has reached epic proportions leaving very little doubt that no world leader could have done any better than the next, except for the Chinese, who purposely kept the enormity of the situation hidden under tongue-in-cheek pretentious Communist propaganda. They imprisoned their own in a feeble attempt at keeping the Genie safely hidden in the proverbial bottle. But escape it did. So at this stage of the game, I certainly have no problem pointing my middle finger at them.
Just as 9/11 changed the way we travel, this epidemic is going to change the way we take on our lives, businesses, politics, and health. Unfortunately, we have been hijacked by political agendas outdoing each other on how to “best handle” the situation. Without any roadmap to follow, governments played it “by ear” in which case some were more deaf than others. Now they are scrambling in the opposite direction in an almost comic attempt to outdo one other in getting us back to the “new normal”.
This is the first time that governments locked healthy people up to protect them, which begs the question: are the sick out running free? Partisan rhetoric and agendas urged sweeping decisions based on very little information and forethought. The media did not help either. Misinformed and unapologetic, they sensationalized and politicized a crises in an attempt to scare and cause panic. Gee, is this an election year?
Bottom line; we allowed ourselves to be swept by panic, political drama, unsubstantiated health opinions, and ignorance. In Germany, the first reported positive cases were in the 20-40 year age group. They were among a group of individuals who had gone skiing in North Tirol. An Austrian ski resort in the small Tyrolean town of Ischgl, infected hundreds of skiers from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. In February, an alleged case at the resort started the avalanche of cases in Europe. Germany did not have many elderly cases as evident in Italy or Spain; but then health care in Germany fares better than any European country. Germany did not fit the mold of the rest of Europe. Another reason why “experts” should be more humble in making sweeping statements.
This is not a case of one shoe fits all, and the lack of knowledge lends itself to the “shot in the dark” attitude of current world leadership. Until we get a vaccine or something similar, we are at the mercy of political morons. “Social distancing” seems to be the one-for-all approach of choice. However, if we remain conditioned to staying home, we may have created a “cave” mentality that will not be easy to recover from. Doctors are prescribing Vitamin D because otherwise healthy people who have been locked up for weeks, are showing signs of this deficiency. The deficiency causes fatigue and irritability. Vitamin D is commonly found in sunlight and certain foods.
Large companies are talking about a post-Corona template allowing more people to work from home. How convenient. They have little to lose and a lot to gain. It is common knowledge that those working from home instinctively put in more hours, but so far no one has raised the question of benefits and compensation for home workers, not even unions. Large businesses will gain from eliminating the expense of on-the-job employee liability insurance, office equipment, IT resources, and everything else related to humans in an office environment. Psychologists are sending subtle warnings that social interaction is necessary for the mental and psychological well being of workers. Will we see a rise in mental health issues or even suicide?
Small businesses, the worst hit by global closers, will never recover if isolationists continue to push their agenda. Already losing to online retailing, these businesses will most probably disappear altogether. The hospitality industry will take years to recover as will other tourist industries. If society is unable to open “normally” by mid-summer, we may witness several bankruptcies of giant brands like Hilton, Sheraton, Westin, losing millions in travel and conference revenue. The global travel industry has been shot in the foot, leaving airlines and public transport in acute financial pain, and millions out of jobs.
The cry of “second wave” is desperately rallying us to remain cautious. However, many countries like Sweden went rogue banking on ‘second waves” occurring only if complete lockdowns are propagandized as a necessity. Instead, they allowed nature to take its course with sensible precautions that we should all be taking at any given time. Their disregard to the “lockdown” cry of desperation put them in the dog house by the global community, and more so by their Nordic neighbors. Affirmative that they might have had more cases and deaths, but they will probably not experience the predetermined “waves”. When we were kids and one of us brought measles home from school, our mild mannered family doctor would tell my mother to brace herself for the onslaught of measles which will eventually spread throughout the household leaving her burdened and locked up for two months. On a small scale, but one gets the idea. Jury is still out on Sweden.
We are now Zoom professionals. For those working out of the home, a business teleconference may entail, a shirt, tie, and boxer shorts. Our business suits hang in our closets lifelessly waiting for the moment when we can go back to the “old normal” and ride a subway or a bus to work. Even the idea of a six by six cubicle sounds inviting. Pundits opine that it will never happen again. We are doomed to our desks at home until we discover a vaccine or something of equal potency. Does that mean that we anticipate an indefinite hermit’s life while we wait for a miracle cure?
Demonstrations are sprouting globally by citizens demanding their right to go back to work. They want back their freedom to earn a living. But can we turn the clock back? We have given our governments carte blanche unprecedented power over our bodies and our lives; is it going to be difficult to retrieve? This is not war time. Yet, restrictions on movement and other invasion of privacy has been accepted as the norm, akin to being frisked at airports after 9/11. One thing is for sure; we will be seeing a rise in demand for both the medical and education professions. They have proven to be indispensable. Hopefully their salaries will rise as well.
I have a personal stake in this virus because my son tested positive albeit the fact that he works from home, which makes locking down people even more questionable. How many of us are carrying the virus sans our knowledge? The number of deaths being reported in the US is also nebulous; allegedly some unrelated deaths are being counted under Corona when the virus is detected after the fact. According to The Washington Post (Stars and Stripes, May 12, 2020), virologists have no clue on the number of “disease presentations” that are mutating this virus. Among the alleged symptoms are; strokes, pinkeye, loss of smell and taste, blood clotting, vomiting and diarrhea, pulmonary embolism from blood clots, arrhythmias, purple rash on toes and fingers, and I’m sure that they will eventually add hair loss and loose teeth to the list. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University submitted and admitted that nobody knows anything about this disease except that it can potentially attack from “the brain to the toes”. Well that covers it. How reassuring.
The world has spiraled into an abyss of conjecture and contradiction that ruined economies, livelihoods, social interaction, mental health, and physical stamina. On the other hand, we’ve gone through AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and other viruses; so why weren’t we prepared? We are on the ready for the Russians, Iran, the Taliban, ISIS, and every other national security adversary, so why not diseases? In a new global community what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. Corporate and personal travel has extended to regions that in the past were only a remote pin prick on a map. Global partners bring global illnesses.
We may feel compelled to compare what is happening now to what happened after 9/11, but there is a difference. After 9/11 America and Americans, were united. The devastation brought a nation together in prayer and solidarity. Even though the partisan rhetoric rose to unprecedented pitch a few years later , we were still united behind our nation wanting justice. This time we are more divided than ever before But is it partisanship in an election year, or genuine angst? Even former President Obama found it necessary to put his two cents worth of criticism in. He thinks he would have done better. To give the former Commander in Chief some perspective; according to CDC statistics, between October 1, 2012 and April 30, 2013, (while Mr. Obama was in office) the number of hospitalized flu patients peaked at 200 per 100,000. Which given the population of the US at 337 million, it would bring the total number of serious flu cases at approximately 674,000 in a seven month period. Politicians past and present need to take a deep breath, step back, and get over themselves. I doubt that Mr. Obama and others of his ilk would have done any better. He was no more prepared for a pandemic than we are right now. But everyone is a Monday morning quarterback when they have nothing to lose.
Without a vaccine and in the shadows of the unknown, governments cannot continue to control freedom of movement and business without a projected end in sight. Life has to resume before social inequality does more harm than the virus. Poverty will eventually put more strain on governments and the health system than the pandemic. Children will the first to suffer especially those living in substandard conditions. Single parents and low income families will be thrown in financial hell and a wide social chasm will split open an already fragile society. Those in power have little to worry about with a guaranteed paycheck at the end of the month. Their seemingly public concern is hypocrisy at the highest level of government.
So here we stand in the “new normal” waiting for life to continue. We might as well remain indoors for the rest of our lives because going back to our expert virologists, they are as clueless as the rest of us. Just when we were relatively certain that the virus is more apt to attack the elderly and vulnerable, 73 children in New York have fallen ill with three fatalities. As the viral demon morphs and taunts, we are scared into submission. As we are told that we must adapt and adopt the “new normal”, I venture out on my regular early morning walk in Bavaria and stop in my tracks to admire two baby deer in a field close enough to watch them observing me with suspicion. I watch them run off and I thank God that my “new normal” is better than anyone else’s.
Berstein L, Cha E. A. (May 12, 2020). Stars and Stripes. The Washington Post; Doctors keep uncovering new virus symptoms.