What you are about to read is going to come across as heretical to many people reading it contemporaneously, but I have good reason to believe that it is going to become commonplace knowledge in six weeks or less.
But before I risk getting arrested or censured, I want to take a brief sidebar and talk about Albert Einstein.
Today, he is known as a genius who discovered the fundamental rules underpinning space and time (i.e. E=MC squared). And he is rightfully credited for this and other, related discoveries.
Yet the very first paper he ever published had nothing to do with large-scale physics. Instead, it was his elegant computations that explained Brownian motion that started off what came to be known as his “miracle year.”
In short, Brownian motion is the name for a curious phenomenon – that particles in a fluid (or gas) randomly bump around.
When scientists (including Robert Brown, for whom Brownian motion is named) first discovered microscopes, they saw this motion for the first time. But nobody could explain it. Why, exactly, do microscopic particles zip and bumble around?
Well, that’s the question that Einstein solved, using mathematics to describe precisely not just how it happens but why it happens.
But here’s the most important thing to take away from the story – Einstein solved the mystery of Brownian motion without using a microscope. Yes, that’s right. He accurately calculated how microscopic (invisible to the naked eye) particles moved around without being able to see them simply by using mathematics to see if there was a logical explanation for it.
Likewise, I have zero training as a medical doctor. I certainly have no experience or training in virology or infectious diseases. But I am quite confident that I have finally been able to put my thumb on what the hell this new coronavirus is – and, perhaps most importantly, what it’s going to take before I get my fucking freedoms back.
And yah, I do realize the cheek of comparing myself to Einstein 🤪
This new coronavirus first hit China’s Hubei Province at the very end of December. Although it was initially confused with the regular flu (which kills thousands of people every winter), it was soon identified as a new strain of coronavirus.
China then went into overdrive to lock down the region, keep people in their homes, enforce the wearing of masks, shut down schools, and prohibit crowds from gathering (indoors or out).
This was regularly dismissed by even such mainstream Western media sources as The New York Times as “Maoist” and “authoritarian” and all kinds of other insulting terms.
And because it was “over there” in China (and Asia, in general), nobody in the West really took it seriously. This, of course, is despite the fact that illnesses have had global effects multiple times in recent decades, including as recently as 2008/2009.
The next place to suffer tremendously from the new virus was Iran, another place thought of as “far away.” Furthermore, since it has been the target of U.S. animosity for years, and is a country thought of as being run by hardline Muslim freaks, nobody really paid much attention to it.
The shit only really hit the fan, so to speak, when the new virus caused catastrophic system failures in Italy.
Located right in the heart of Europe and a member of the G7, Italy could not be dismissed as either “over there” or “authoritarian.” Italians can barely keep a government together for a year, after all.
Initially, the problem was contained to Milan and a few other northern cities like Bergamo. But then all of Lombardy was shut down and quarantined. And then it went to a nationwide shutdown.
Even now, some six weeks later, the government is having trouble dealing with the problem, both in terms of a shortage of medical personnel (and equipment) and public compliance with quarantine rules, and that caused a global panic of epic proportions.
Literally every single other government since then has quoted what happened in Italy to justify their response to the virus outbreak, including here in little old Pridnestrovie.
Whether it’s putting heavily armed soldiers in the streets or making it illegal for old people to leave their home, every single measure has been done in the name of “avoiding another Italy.”
And anyone who disagrees with that is liable to charges of heresy or, in my particular case here in Pridnestrovie, actually being arrested and charged with “extremism.”
Crazy, I know…
But there aren’t going to be too many other “Italian” situations – and it’s not just due to the imposition of martial law or quarantining or whatever other acts that frightened governments have taken.
Loaded to the Gunwales
Let’s imagine a small boat like a canoe or rowboat and the boat is in generally good condition. The boat represents the society in which you live.
In this boat, there are three boxes, which the boat can handle. But then someone adds a fourth box, and the boat floods and then sinks.
Did the boat sink because it was an unseaworthy craft or because there’s a limit on how much weight it can hold?
- The first box is air pollution.
- The second box is the health care system.
- The third box is an elderly population.
- The fourth box is the new coronavirus.
Exactly how “heavy” these boxes are depends on the country and the way it has been governed over the past few decades.
For instance, in Hubei (Wuhan), we know that the first box (air pollution) is quite heavy – it is, in fact, the most polluted region of China. Likewise, Iran and Northern Italy are horrifically polluted, so much so that schools and businesses have been closed in the past (long before the virus arrived!) purely due to air pollution.
In terms of the health care system or the “second box”, Italy’s has been operating in crisis mode for years. Even three years ago, there were news reports about the hospitals operating at maximum capacity on the verge of collapse. Iran, of course, has been under devastating sanctions that restrict the import of medicines and medical equipment. And China, despite its recent rise to wealth, also had a badly overloaded health care system before the virus arrived.
Moving on to the third box, the “weight” differs depending on which region that you’re talking about. Italy, for instance, has the second-oldest population in Europe (only Greece is higher). But there isn’t such a large elderly population in Iran. In fact, only 5% of the population in Iran is over 65 years old.
The fourth box, the coronavirus itself, is actually pretty light. No one can say right now just how deadly it is (on its own, as opposed to working in conjunction with other illnesses), but the very fact alone that it has spread to >190 countries and territories within two months proves that it isn’t particularly deadly.
Viruses, interestingly enough, spread faster when they’re less lethal (because their human hosts survive long enough to pass it on) and are more containable when they are more lethal (because their human hosts die).
Therefore, the real issue isn’t “how dangerous is the coronavirus?” but how much more weight can the boat take before it sinks?
If your country’s “boat” is carrying very heavy boxes like an underfunded healthcare system, a large elderly population, or bad air pollution, then it will only take a tiny number of new virus cases to swamp it.
Conversely, if you have a well-funded healthcare system, clean air, and a smaller portion of elderly people, then even a large number of new viruses cases can be dealt with in a normal and sane manner (i.e. no imposition of martial law necessary).
Let’s Go to the Videotape!
If you look at total coronavirus deaths, which is particularly hard to do because each country records them differently, you’ll see the pattern that I outlined above.
Countries/regions with less air pollution, fewer senior citizens, and a robust healthcare system are experiencing far fewer deaths – not just now, during the coronavirus pandemic, but every year.
Likewise, countries/regions with horrific air pollution, a lot of senior citizens, and an underfunded and inadequately supplied healthcare system see more deaths every year, not just now, and that definitely includes the United States of America (relatively low in air pollution, but definitely suffering from the other “boxes” being quite heavy).
Therefore, it doesn’t really matter whether the coronavirus is “super deadly” or “deadly” or “barely deadly at all.” What matters is whether or not that one additional load to the “boat” will swamp it or not.
Because that’s what has led to the global panic-demic that we’re all going through. It isn’t a few senior citizens having their lungs turn to “ground glass” and suffocating to death. It’s the swamping of the system in total, which leads to catastrophic failures via multiple channels.
If the hospital in your area is currently filled up with coronavirus patients, then some “extra” people are going to die of things like cancer, kidney disease, or car crashes simply because they can’t get the medical care that they’d get otherwise.
Swamping the boat is the real danger, not the specific lethality of this new virus (or any other virus yet to come). If the boat gets swamped, society breaks down and lots of people suffer and die – even those who aren’t infected.
Therefore, the real question is – what’s the carrying capacity of your country/region’s boat? If it’s almost overloaded right now, then you bet your ass that strict stay at home measures, the wearing of masks, closing of all public venues, and social distancing are your last hope.
But if our boat isn’t overloaded, then the existing system can handle it. And that means that all this fear, paranoia, and martial law stuff is completely unnecessary.
Yet almost nobody wants to hear that.
Authoritarian governments are imposing all kinds of crazy nonsense right now, including the abolition of trial by jury (Scotland) or using police to physically assault people who refuse to stay inside (India).
Less authoritarian governments are still imposing unnecessarily strict quarantine measures simply out of panic and irrational hysteria because they don’t want to be “a second Italy.” And everywhere, it’s poor people who are suffering the most.
Proof of this hysterical response is everywhere you look.
For example, every single person tested and confirmed to have the coronavirus is treated as a “patient.” But when they make a full recovery (as most of them do), the total number of cases never goes down.
In other words, if 100 people are confirmed to have the virus, and 95 of them recover, the “total number of cases” remains 100 for that country/region. This, of course, is highly irresponsible.
Secondly, there is not enough testing being done anywhere. I fully suspect that both my wife and I have already been infected and gone through a mild illness (which felt like a bout of the “common cold”), but we have no idea if it was the coronavirus or not.
If it was, then that’s really important. It adds to the number of people who survived it and thus lowers the fatality rate. And if the fatality rate drops below a certain percentage, then extraordinary measures are no longer needed. In other words, if the coronavirus is less deadly than the annual flu, then this mass hysteria is unwarranted.
Third, almost nobody is doing any contact tracing or mapping out whom infected people came into contact with. If you presume that I got the virus, then it’s essential to contact everyone I interacted with so that you can test them. That way, you know both a) whom to test next and b) how infectious the disease is.
For example, if I contacted 20 people over the last week, and only two of them got the virus (from me), then only the virus is only “successful” in transmitting itself onward 10% of the time. And that means that there’s a good chance of stopping it from spreading further.
But if all 20 of the people whom I interacted with also got infected, then the virus is insanely infectious, and nothing can be done to stop it.
Contact tracing is a fundamental element of epidemiology and public health, yet it is only being done in a few isolated places like Singapore. The failure to do this is yet another manifestation of mass hysteria rather than following standard protocol.
Lastly, humans are highly social and suggestive creatures. If I mention that my throat is sore and hurting quite a lot enough times, some of the people reading this will also start to feel pain in their throat.
Therefore, beyond the spread of the actual, physical virus, it seems abundantly clear that this mass hysteria is spreading psychosomatic symptoms as well, thus causing a great deal of additional suffering to people and increasing the paranoia level of governments.
Long Story Short
The fact that the new coronavirus has spread to so many countries and territories, including really remote places like sparsely populated islands, in such a short time is proof that both a) it isn’t that lethal on its own and b) that virtually nothing can be done to stop it.
But even a tiny, tiny, tiny increase in the burden of existing healthcare structures can swamp the entire system, leading to a large number of deaths due to indirect causes. Overburdened health care systems in countries with a large elderly population and/or horrific air pollution are in danger of collapsing even if a new respiratory disease (like coronavirus) is 0.0001% lethal.
A sensationalist press and irresponsible, lazy journalists have further worsened the problem by adding “fuel to the fire.” Simply increasing people’s stress levels and churning out relentless coverage of worst-case symptoms is, in itself, amplifying the number of people who become sick, thus further overloading the boat.
Lastly, panic and irrational fears of not becoming “the next Italy” have led to overreactions in nearly every country and territory in the world. And this is already leading to backlashes from disgruntled, fearful citizens, which in turn is leading to ever more draconian measures to clamp down on the resistance.
In a nutshell, the world has gone batshit insane over a not particularly deadly new disease, and the “boats” which were already overloaded are now, predictably, being swamped. And when big boats like the United States go down, that’s going to send out big waves that will swamp a whole lot of smaller boats as well.
In six weeks or less, I predict that we’ll either have enough tests to be able to handle this thing rationally, or a cure of some kind will have been developed, or enough resources will have been devoted to healthcare to manage it using normal medical means, and we can all look back at this period in shame.
But until then, it’s going to be a very dark and terrible time indeed…
6 thoughts on “Sown in Dishonor, Raised in Glory”
Too bad the world plethora of leaders and medics and all sorts of specialists aren’t reading the thoughts of this glorious thinker, living in a common khrushchyovka in a soviet that doesn’t exist. Otherwise they’ve all understood by now how the things really present themselves, and convince those tens of thousands soon-to-be hundreds of thousands people not to be so damn hysterical, to get a deep breath already and stop, like, dying so much!
But, hey, what can you do? At least you can try to share your wisdom with that militia guy who runs tanks and sickles over there, just try to save at least the great multi-cultural nation of Transnarnia, where they speak the last remnants of that true authentic language of Stephen the Great, russian.
Your churlish petulance and reference to so-called leaders and specialists reveal that you, too, are no more than a “zombie body caught in the glow of the TV screen”, as the musician and composer Goran Bregovic put it. Hence, your apparent unawareness of a growing body of fact-based medical literature not force-fed to you through the “tube” – not to mention your obvious inability to think critically.
As we say in the street, you is one dumb-ass little bitch. (The requirement was only to try to be nice, right? Well, I couldn’t)
Excellent Sam. worthy of a Pulitzer, no kidding. I would like to share it on my FB account if you don’t mind. God Bless and hope you and your wife stay safe.
Supporting your thesis is the situation in Sweden. Most people seem to be ignoring the crisis but the country is well down the league table for cases (though perhaps they are storing up trouble for themselves – it is too early to tell).
The article was long winded. I was hoping to gain some insight with your part of the world. Something I usually don’t see in the general media.
Good stuff, Sam!