screwtape wrote: ↑
Lsuoma wrote: ↑
Sat Mar 28, 2020 5:57 am
I had to do a complete reinstall. Will be adding avatars and images back as I get around to it.
My experiences with phpBB have been less than smooth. Still running 3.2.2 without issues. Anyway...
If anyone can tolerate some semi-serious thought:
These thoughts are in my mind. I may be wrong to have any of them. I don't really have anyone with a wonderfully cool and scientific mindset to whom to present them. As a physician I had all sorts of experience with epidemiology, and the ethical decisions that had to be made about rationing resources. I know next to nothing about economics, and tend to despise it as an unscientific discipline. History has become my main love since I have had the time to spend upon what interests me, rather than upon what must be ingested for work purposes. My concern here is why a disease with such a relatively small mortality rate (I say that knowing what mortality looks like in the front line, and as someone who drags along behind him his own personal bag of bones from failed and inept professional choices) is having such an ahistorical effect on our lives and economies? Why the disproportionate effect compared to the Black Death, the Great Plague, and the Spanish Influenza?
Given that a combination of leukemia and chemo place me in a spot where I haven't the slightest chance of surviving if one of these viruses enter my poor, tired, old, body (even now, I hate that Oxford comma) - I think about things at a larger scale. If no one else has thought about it, we will easily survive this as a species, as societies, and as individual nations. For goodness' sake, we survived a 33% death rate in the mid-1300's, and history mutters one or two things about peasants wanting higher wages. Well, good for Wat Tyler and his mates (briefly, as it turned out at the time). We know, intellectually, about the Great Plague. The sacrifices of Eyam, and suchlike. And history tells us that the Great Fire of London seemed to be a cleansing flame - what a marvelous consolation! Go read Defoe's Journal of a Plague Year if you enjoy that kind of thing. In 1918-1919 we had a 10% death rate from the "Spanish" 'flu, and more people died from it than those killed during the Great War.
So, right now we face a disease with a paltry 1% death rate if we do our best to help those affected. I don't know what the death rate would be if no medical help were offered - no ventilators, no antibiotics for secondary infections, no general supportive measures at all. Just lie in your bed and see if you wake up again, in the old fashioned manner. Shall we double it to 2%, or be awfully pessimistic and set it at, say, 5%? We are told, currently, that 6% require hospitalisation, and 1% die. So the death rate, unmodified by modern medical care cannot be over 6%. No doubt a good few of those we admit would survive at home, so a 5% death rate seems to be the upper limit if no medical care is available. But remember, most will have no symptoms, or minor symptoms, and then recover. Evidently, societies, economies, whichever seems to be the best or most important way of describing ourselves can take this in our stride. Yes, there are casualties, and if I'm to be one of them, allow me the consolation of knowing it will have made little difference to the histories of our era written a thousand years hence.
So, let's get to the meat of this thought. If a relatively primitive society/economy in the mid-1300s could endure a 33% death rate and no one cares or writes much about it within the next couple of centuries, and 102 years ago the world suffered a pandemic influenza that had a death rate of about 10%, and there is no common cultural memory about it all in our awareness, why the heck are we being so damaged by this virus?
Let me be clear: I'm not minimising the risks, and I'm not in any position to do so personally. No, I'll write this from the point of view of a dead man walking. If we do nothing - NOTHING - at all about this virus, around 5% of us will die at most. The rest of us, and I do mean all of the rest of us, will get it and be a bit sick and then get better. Those who die will be the oldest, weakest and most expensive members of our societies. Once that is done, and herd immunity now prevents this virus from being anything other than a rare threat, will we be better off or worse? I know I'm not supposed to ask that, but just think about it. I have not yet managed to be a burden on society, and I may say that my ambition now is to eventually become one! But if this coronavirus takes me and my fellow unworthies away, we will no longer cost our society anything: the balance between aged dependents and young working folk will have been altered in favour of the latter. Economically, that is a plus, no matter how much we might dislike admitting it.
And to get to the very marrow of the matter: given the above, why are our economies being so devastated by such a small death rate among the unproductive members of our societies? I can't believe, under ordinary circumstances, that I would write such an uncaring and fascistic thing - but being one of the expensive and unwanted, I feel I have the right to do so. We could choose to carry on as normal. A very few young people would die, and many of the elderly and chronically ill. Most would have a few days' symptoms and then go back to work.We could compare other sources of mortality than plagues - the world wars took large proportions of our young men, for example. A horrible and hateful thought, but far worse than oldies and infirm like me to be the ones that have to go.
If that's what it would look like to do nothing at all about this virus, why are we living under the gathering stormcloud of economic disaster for all when this is over, if it is ever over? Is this related to the stunning differences in mindset between us oldies and today's youth? Time was when the worst thing you could say of a parent was that they spoiled their child, and then that such a child was spoiled. We don't say those things anymore as all children are spoiled according to older lights. So have expectations of continued smooth and carefree living got to the point where a 5% death rate among the oldest and weakest can bring a whole society to its knees? I'm beginning to suspect this, and do so, once again, without having the expectation of being one of the survivors if such a view were universally adopted.
Good lord, I don't like to write such seemingly uncaring things, but as an amateur historian I try to compare today's circumstances with those that our ancestors overcame. The thing that remains to be understood is how a disease that has a relatively small death rate compared to historical plagues and warfare is having an undue effect on our society and our economy. Is it our unwillingness to accept any casualties? Is it all due to our media presenting facts in the best way to increase their profits? I don't know, and maybe won't be around to find out. I do expect that future historians will enjoy dissecting this (and, no doubt, award many worthless postgrad degrees based upon such dissections!). What do you think about it in this light? I'm not suggesting for a moment that Trump understands any of this and is correct in wanting to loosen restrictions; I don't think he understands much beyond a basic gut instinct for impressing himself upon others, and maybe that serves some purpose in the mysterious movements of democracies.
So the TL;DR of all this burbling is this: would we be better off to accept the 5% casualties among the frail and the elderly but have our societies and economies continue as normal? Or is there a good argument for drawing out the torment as long as possible and saving some weak and elderly lives at enormous cost to the young and vigorous?