A Virus That Discriminates
As I write, the virus pandemic is at its peak (I hope) in the United States and reports are filtering in about just who is dying. The dominate report is that the dead are made up of older people with underlying health conditions. Those underlying conditions include type 2 diabetes and respiratory conditions of the kind brought on by smoking.
So, the overwhelming number of victims of this hideous virus is the already weakened and vulnerable. The transmission rate is increased by closer living circumstances, such as in New York City and Italy. In short, the dead are made up of older, poorer, more vulnerable populations living in close quarters who bear the brunt of anything that shakes there already precarious position on life’s ladder.
That they are older or sicker doesn’t make their death any less a tragedy; there were years of lost life and lost warming contact with loved ones, family members, and lifelong friends. That many died alone, in hospitals where no family could be present, compounds the tragedy.
If it was possible, this virus could be sued for wanton discriminatory practice in the US for targeting the weak and vulnerable. Age is a protected class under US civil rights code. The virus is violating the rights of equal protection under the law. But then, nature is absolutely discriminatory. Nature seeks the appropriate level in all things. The earth by itself provides for no social justice.
Preparing Myself for War with Gaia
Gaia made the virus and I am in the crosshairs. Fine; I’ve often held that the earth wants us all dead. Civilization itself is a thumb in the eye of the natural order. Evolution wants no competitors for knowledge transfer. Human libraries and other centers of learning are an affront to nature.
Nevertheless, in quarantine, I’ve had plenty of time to double down on my reading and exercise, and I’ve done so. Fortunately for me, the habits of body maintenance were developed early and so a certain amount of extra time is always devoted to another run, a few miles on the bike, a session with the weights, or even just sitting on the floor and stretching while I watch TV.
I have time as well to cook good meals. My kitchen has never been busier than it has been lately.
But, of course, I have this time because we’ve decided here in the US not to quarantine the most vulnerable people who fit a profile and can be sequestered. No, as in 9/11, we refuse to segregate people by any category for any reason, so old ladies in wheelchairs are patted down at the airport some 20 years after 9/11, and the streets are empty in nearly every US city, even those where Covid-19 has never been detected.
While the state refuses to categorize and assign risk and let everyone else get on with their lives, and to seek to find an infected needle in a haystack by creating smaller haystacks of risk, I don’t have to play that game. I can assume that either this virus or the next is coming for me, and prepare accordingly. If it isn’t a virus, it will be an accident or eventually, just the accumulated damage of living. If the war is for my survival, then I must prepare.
And, preparing I am. Why wouldn’t I? I assume the state will not protect me.
Engendering Risk Aversion and Weakness
The welfare state, of course, carries right along during the pandemic. As of now, my kid can’t go to school, and yet, the schools are still serving meals. ‘Who will feed the children now that the schools are closed?’ it was asked when the schools closed down, as if the answer was not so blindingly obvious. Does not the parents have agency enough to feed their own kids? What kind of parent can’t or won’t provide breakfast? It takes pennies to feed a kid breakfast. Should anyone step in to that breach? If well meaning people accept that the parents of a child can’t be expected to provide breakfast, even when the schools are closed, then what can they be expected to do? Might we do better with orphanages, where at least the kids can be expected to address their own needs as quickly as possible? What percentage of people in prison, where they are also not responsible for their meals, started on that journey with free school lunches?
I can accept that in nearly all circumstances, my life matters mostly to me, and if I don’t take care of my mind and body, and correct for mistakes when I perceive them and take corrective action, then I should not expect others to take up the slack. The same with my kids; no one will ever love them like I do. I should not expect otherwise. Even if kids get free meals from the schools, they are not the same as a meal served by a parent. The food signifies love and caring, while schools are mere institutions. They should not, and I would hold, do not care.
And yet, here we are, deepening the dispersion of wealth not based on anything but a heartbeat. We got here because we could not or would not expect people to assess their own risk related to the virus and take appropriate action. So the trend of letting public forces assess and decide for all of us continues apace; the virus just accelerated the trend.
Community does not mean that some populations can endlessly allow themselves to weaken and become degraded. And further, just because you are strong today does not give you permission to be weak tomorrow. It’s as if, over and over and in so many spheres of our lives, we’ve simply refused to assign responsibility or blame to anyone, especially groups, and therefore, must live with the outcome, no matter how dire or expensive, of trying to rescue ever larger swaths of the population from the outcomes of their decisions.
But, in all places and times with all populations, habits and values mostly dictate outcomes. Commit violent crime and you might get shot, by other criminals or the police. Allow yourself to become weak physically with a bad diet and no exercise, and you might get claimed by an opportunistic virus.
My Fellow Citizens
It isn’t that I care nothing of my fellow citizens, or that I don’t recognize calamity when I see it. I am not 100% responsible for every outcome in my life; my life occurs in a context and era, and there is, or appears to be, a great deal of luck, good and bad, involved in living.
And there is a leveling role in the public sector where normal private insurance and risk mitigation cannot or will not go. A foreign invasion is a risk and we mitigate that risk with public armed forces. Same with crimes against us all, which is why we have public police forces.
But I am responsible for most of my life and the best thing I can do for my fellow citizens is not to burden them with my care or the care of my kids, and take every precaution regarding my independence. I advocate for me, and that is OK. My well being is good for all if I take less than I give.
And that holds true in areas of my health as well. It is MY JOB to keep my body strong, not just so I can work, but so I don’t consume medical resources that should be reserved for that corner of life that is just random and unfair. Some people get in car wrecks. Life is not fair.
For the people who allow themselves to degrade physically, I’m sorry about their fate, but any fair society allows for one to reap what one sows. People should take care of themselves. My life matters to me, and that is good for everyone.