A few thoughts to start the New Year. 2020 was an annus horribilis – the worst since 1968; a year that had riots, the murders of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and a presidential election accompanied by civil unrest about as bad as the year just ended.
COVID-19 appeared and kindled both the best and worst of responses. The best were all the medical personnel who worked under difficult conditions unmatched in living memory – at least when a war was not in progress. But all was not perfect on the medical front; overly cautious isolation regulations (still in place) let patients to suffer and even die in solitude bereft of the comfort typical given by the presence of loved ones.
The performance of the world’s most influential epidemiologists was beyond atrocious. Mixing baseball with bullshit is an example of the unexpected notoriety that clouded medical judgement. Public health officials are carrying their poor performance into the new year.
Consider their response to the new B.1.1.7 strain of the coronavirus that is said to be more contagious than it’s older siblings. Nowhere have I seen anyone explain that it is common for a virus to become more contagious as it makes many passess from patient to patient and that this increase in contagion is usually accompanied by a decrease in lethality. This combination makes perfect evolutionary sense. A virus that spreads more easily, but doesn’t kill its host will be better fit for survival than its less contagious RNA siblings. Why none of our medical masters has discussed this issue personifies the reality that the more notoriety a physician attains, the less capable he is likely to be. The unassuaged panic that has greeted the appearance of this new strain of coronavirus should have been put in proper perspective by our public health experts who seem to be encouraging continual overreaction to a serious medical crisis that requires professional focus rather than blunderbuss bluster .
Politicians always eager to maximize a crisis have gone mad with an inchoate zeal that worsens a bad situation. I can’t understand the motivation that seeks to add economic and social mayhem to disease. We’ve arrived at a moment unique in our history when those who seek to reform or organize our society seem to hate their country to the point where they offer demolition to clear the way for a new order that in reality is a very old one with a repeated record of failure.
Consider the lockdowns that have been imposed on some of our states. They clearly are useless. A catcher’s equipment is often called the tools of ignorance – masks, distancing, hand washing, and lockdowns likely fall into the same category. The first three are mostly innocuous, but the last is lethal. To have any effect all activity would have to cease which means that we’d have no food, water, energy, and worst of all – no Netflix. But doing something that on balance causes more harm than good is felt preferable to doing nothing that at least causes no additional harm. All the recommended palliatives save self isolation are useless. The epidemic will either go away on its own as did the inaptly named Spanish Flu or it will be eradicated by a vaccine. Those who think themselves at risk can isolate without imposing the same behavior on those who see themselves at lower risk.
That the young and healthy face little risk from the current plague has had no impact on much of the public or the teachers and their unions who like getting paid for doing nothing while public education gets even worse than it was pre-plague. Our current situation adds more proof that public education as now constituted is a failed shambles; its inadequacy is in direct proportion to its size. Once again, athletics could serve as an instructive for life in general. How many of the athletes who have tested positive have become seriously ill? – none as far as I know. This disease spares the young and healthy. It also may not end the lives of the old and healthy; more evidence needs acquisition and analysis to determine if this latter statement is true.
Language has been so corrupted that every enlightened utterance means exactly the opposite of what it clearly says. When someone says follow the science, you can be certain he means lose your reason and do something that satisfies a primal need buried deep in the limbic system and which has no empirical support. The purge of pronouns is unmatched in the annals of anomalies, evidence that something is rotten in the state of discourse.
The press and other media have been accomplices in the spread of disinformation. One of their most visible organs has a newly self proclaimed motto that would be accurate only if the second D in it were changed to an L. Journalism, with very few exceptions like Mencken, has always been a disreputable profession. Today practitioners have built on the failures of the past to achieve new depths of disrepute.
Our current state of disproportionate panic had it genesis in the environmental movement. Its leading figures deliberately distort data to sow fears of an existential threat from climate change which is unsupported by evidence. While the human species can easily survive the worst climate change predicted by the biggest alarmist, it can be degraded. Thus, prudence prescribes that we meet our energy requirements in the safest and most economical ways before us. We must also preserve the survival of other species whos well being is our responsibility.
We cannot tell the billions of people who still rely on wood for their energy needs to jump to renewable energy in a single leap skipping coal, petroleum, and natural gas. And even if they did solar power and it congeners can’t come close to meeting the world’s energy requirements. What’s needed is an energy dense source that’s cheap and safe – ie, nuclear power.
The environmental establishment has labored with more vigor than Hercules at Augean Stables to block construction of nuclear plants. They have hurled every slander at nuclear, no matter how outlandish. The unwarranted fear they’ve spread served as a good warmup for the current viral epidemic. Panicked people do not make rational decisions.
Consider the show Chernobyl on HBO. It’s very good drama, but most of the incidents it presents as facts are untrue. The city was evacuated and remains empty of people to this day, yet vegetation and wildlife have returned in abundance. It’s clear that the radiation damage and the necessary exclusion zone was drastically overestimated. See David Attenborough’s Our Planet Episode 8 (Netflix) for startling footage of how life has rapidly returned to the forlorn city. If you want a full length account of the dishonesty of many environmentalists read Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All by Michael Shellenberger. Shellenberger is a lifelong card carrying environmentalist who stopped drinking the Kool Aid sometime ago allowing him to make a dispassionate read of the movement. He wants the environment to be preserved, but he realizes the complexities of the process. Billions need to rise from poverty. Agriculture must find a way to feed more people without destroying the habitat of wildlife. This process requires nuance and the development of energy dense technology. Apocalypse Never is a must read for anyone concerned with the planet’s well being and who is not daft. It’s author does on rare occasion drift from reality when he effectively denies the first law of thermodynamics in his discussion of diet, weight loss, and caloric intake. He repeats the discredited canard that a calorie is not a calorie, but rather its energy is modified by its food source. But this is a minor quibble.
So what will make 2021 a better year than the previous one? Observing the three maxims at the entrance of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi would be a good start.
- Know thyself
- Nothing in excess
- Surety brings ruin
Closing most of our institutions of “higher learning” would be a terrific second step. Nothing has failed Western Civilization more than its most prominent child – the academy.
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, scene 2 is still a good nostrum even if it never gets beyond the symbolic. Remember most politicians are lawyers. But of course, we elect them and keeping asking them for “free” stuff.
I’ll end with another Shakespeare quotation: “The fault… is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” Happy New Year.