The Next Pandemic
Why the next pandemic may well spell the end of civilization even if it’s relatively harmless
Arguably the most revealing feature of SARS-CoV2 has been the viral nature of the media-induced hysteria that has caused hundreds of millions of people to panic, thus driving politicians to flail wildly in search of actions to minimize loss of votes at the next election.
The outcome has been to shut down the global economy, throw 1,500,000,000 people (yes, one and a half billion of the world’s poorest) out of work, cause the starvation of uncounted millions across the Asian subcontinent and parts of Africa, fail to vaccinate 140,000,000 children against diseases far more serious than covid-19 and thus condemn many of them to painful deaths in the years to come, and finally create a self-imposed economic collapse of larger magnitude than the 1929 Great Depression. Which, as few people seem to know any history and therefore need to be reminded, led to the dominance of populism/fascism and hence ultimately to World War II.
All of this for a virus that the data shows clearly inflicts a per capita fatality rate of less than one-tenth of one percent in even the worst-hit nations. And no, lockdowns and facemasks and social distancing aren’t significant factors in this extremely low death rate because countries like the Netherlands and Sweden and Switzerland didn’t rush to implement these things and their per capita mortality rates aren’t overall higher than those of the nations that did.
Again, the facts: covid-19 has caused less than one-tenth of a percent of the population to die and most who died were killed by doctors rushing to ventilate them, a procedure known to be highly risky. In fact it’s now estimated that between 70% to 80% of all covid-19 deaths to June 2020 were a direct result of ventilation. Today we see infections rising but death rates remaining far below projections because doctors have, for the most part, stopped killing their patients by pushing them into induced coma and ventilating them.
Unfortunately, the average person knows only what they see on TV and read in newspapers, all of which promote the same standard narrative. The average person doesn’t bother to look for reliable data and attempt to reason from it; thus the average person is convinced that covid-19 is a threat to all human life and that facemasks and social distancing are the only things standing between us and a zombie apocalypse.
It would be funny were it not so tragic.
We can only be thankful that in reality SARS-CoV2 is an extremely minor inconvenience. It’s a shame we turned it into a world-crippling problem because we allowed ourselves to be stampeded into mindless fear by sensationalist reportage.
Nearly One Million Dead! sounds very serious, until we realize that this actually means only 1.18% of all deaths over the period were covid-19 related, which means 98.7% of all those sixty million deaths were not covid-19 related. One million dead is also just 0.013% of the world’s population. Every death is sad, but pretending that the demise of 0.013% of the world’s population over the course of nearly ten months is a global catastrophe is to be very silly indeed.
The question is: given how badly we bungled our reaction to the non-threat of covid-19, what will happen when a real viral threat emerges?
We seem to have learned nothing from our baleful experience with SARS-CoV2.
We’ve not learned that the mass media is irresponsible and cannot be trusted with serious matters.
We’ve not learned that we are easily stampeded into panic because we believe whatever we’re told and never bother to look for the underlying facts. If we’re told a hundred thousand people have died we imagine it’s a catastrophe because we’re so ignorant we don’t even know that three times that many people die every single day as a matter of course. One hundred thousand just sounds like a big scary number. Nice and context-free. No thinking required.
We’ve not learned that doctors panic too and instead of trying different therapeutic approaches to see what works best will instead rush to intervene in whatever seems to be the most hi-tech and dramatic way possible and then silence any dissenting voices as patients die in their thousands.
We’ve not learned that politicians are as foolish as everybody else and thus can’t be trusted to behave rationally and coherently when they see voters screaming hysterically for someone to save them.
We’ve not learned that coordinated responses based on solid data work far better than a populist/nationalist rush to close borders and fight over medical supplies.
We’ve not learned that causing millions to starve in the streets and throwing hundreds of millions into unemployment and acute poverty isn’t actually “saving lives.”
We’ve not learned that we did absolutely everything wrong at every turn and we’re still doing it all wrong.
Not learning anything means when a real viral challenge comes along, one that doesn’t leave 99.9% of people unharmed, we’ll likely act to bring about the accidental collapse of our fragile and much-damaged civilization.
Because apparently no one can be trusted with serious matters.
As epidemiologists have been warning for more than 20 years, we are eventually going to encounter a virus that kills at least one hundred times as many people as covid-19 (which, by the way, would still be a very benign virus compared to smallpox with its 30% death rate, or the plague with its 60% fatality rate). A virus that kills 1% of the population would be sufficient to see the end of civilization as we know it, despite the fact it would be in reality a minor and easily survivable threat if we did the right things instead of doing all the wrong things.
Unfortunately, we are evidently incapable of learning anything whatsoever from experience, no matter how obvious and important the lessons may be. We know this to be true because we’ve lots of reliable data now and… we’re still doing everything wrong.
So let’s all go back to watching streaming video and stroking our screens, because that’s all we’re really good at. Let’s not bother to try to learn anything from our abject failure to behave with any degree of rationality and coherence this time around.
After all, it’s only the future of our civilization that’s at stake.