I could not decide what would illustrate best what I am trying to say about the most important aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic. The first picture is the infamous Mordecai Richler gazebo on Mont Royal in Montreal. It was a restoration work with a final price tag of $700,000.- Yes, that is seven hundred thousand Canadian dollars for something that you can buy brand new at Home Depot for less than $7,000.- (taxes include). It is a monument to government incompetence, waste and corruption. It is a glaring exposure of the problems that lay behind.
The second picture is about the perverse exposure of our dirty little secrets. We have many, and the pandemic with the whipped-up panic around it exposed them all. The pandemic is real, the response to it is just perverse. The problems it exposes exist on several layers. The politics, its consequences and what it says about us.
Political exposures and the crisis of trust
We learned that we are vulnerable, that we are poorly prepared for epidemics. The government run health-care systems do not have the flexibility required for quick response.
We learned that our governments are incompetent and the only thing they know how to do well is displaying their power over us.
We learned that our politicians are dishonest and opportunistic, that they will never let a good crisis go to waste. Everything they do is designed to either grab more power or to clubber their oppositions with whatever nasty rhetoric they can come up with.
We learned (to the surprise of some) that China cannot be trusted.
We learned that international organizations such as the WHO cannot be trusted. We learned that neither the reported nor the calculated numbers can be trusted. We also learned that models predicting the severity of the outbreak were completely useless as they overestimated the problem by more than an order of magnitude.
Our economic future at a time of disruption
Our economic well being before this crisis was a mirage. Savings in the Western world are at an all time low, debt levels are at an all time high. Our blind faith in poorly understood and badly misrepresented Keynesian economics resulted in ever bigger bubbles badly in need of deflation. That deflation is here, and we have no means left to re-inflate the bubble, we can only inflate the money supply.
- The average US taxpayer owes $200,000. The US national debt is over 24 trillion dollars. Total US liabilities (federal, state, personal + unfunded liabilities are close to 170 trillion dollars. These are unreal numbers. At some point, somebody will have to pay that.
- We can expect never before seen unemployment rates. Record number of bankruptcies, bank failures, mortgage defaults, etc.
- With near zero interest rates, there is nothing left to stimulate the economy with. Besides, with all the losses, banks will have limited abilities to extend credit.
- We are going through an age of technological disruption. The job market will go through some serious changes creating job losses that would be dangerous even in good times.
We would be facing serious problems even without the pandemic. A better response to it would be very much needed. The future does not look good, but let’s hope, that like the pandemic, the dire predictions are also overhyped.
Our private parts, or the dirty little secrets of collective behavior
The most disturbing of the exposures is us. Our behaviour, our readiness to submit, our willingness to accept whatever is fed to us. The rise of petty tyrannies, virtue signalling and snitch lines.
Jordan Peterson likes to point out the righteous arrogance in people believing that they are immune to evil influences. It is difficult to imagine a society like East Germany where about 12% of the population was an informant for the Stasi, but when I step outside looking at how we behave in this world under quarantine, it is getting easier to imagine. The unquestioning obedience is scary. Seeing how content people appear to be embracing conformity is unsettling. The obnoxious virtue-signaling comments I get for not noticing, for example, that the isles in the supermarket were turned one-way, are revolting.
The aggression to demand conformity is really startling. As I started writing this, I was sent a link to an interview with two practicing doctors in California. Part one and a much shorter part two.
The hostility directed at them by the reporters is incredible. How dare they to contradict the official dogma! The real experts that we can see on television, like the saintly and heroic Dr. Fauci! Probing what kind of financial interest motivates them to say what they do.
What these doctors are revealing based on solid evidence is excellent news.
Why is it not received as such?
The obvious answer is because we do not want to hear it. We bought into the panic hook, line and sinker and we do not like to hear that we were stupid enough to do so. We do not want to acknowledge that we were fooled. We do not want to think about the heavy price we will have to pay.
When I look around, what I see is our readiness to accept communism. The appeal of communism is the freedom it provides from responsibility. Just like in this crisis. Your situation is not your fault, and somebody will take care of it. All you have to do is to relinquish your rights to those who can control your life better than you can. Just accept the leadership of the experts and your well-intentioned leaders.
But it is not all our fault. There is, actually, vested interest in play. What we have to ask is: Who benefits?
I will turn to that I my next post.
In the meantime, somewhat contradicting the dire tone of my post, I am glad to tell you that I finally have the answers:
- Basically, you can’t leave the house for any reason, but if you have to, then you can.
- Masks are useless, but maybe you have to wear one, it can save you, it is useless, but maybe it is mandatory as well.
- Stores are closed, except those that are open.
- You should not go to hospitals unless you have to go there. Same applies to doctors, you should only go there in case of emergency, provided you are not too sick.
- This virus is deadly but still not too scary, except that sometimes it actually leads to a global disaster.
- Gloves won’t help, but they can still help.
- There is no shortage of groceries in the supermarket, but there are many things missing when you go there in the evening, but not in the morning. Sometimes.
- The virus has no effect on children except those it affects.
- Animals are not affected, but there is still a cat that tested positive in Belgium in February when no one had been tested, plus a few tigers here and there…
- You will have many symptoms when you are sick, but you can also get sick without symptoms, have symptoms without being sick, or be contagious without having symptoms. Oh, good grief!
- You can get restaurant food delivered to the house, which may have been prepared by people who didn’t wear masks or gloves. But you have to have your groceries decontaminated outside for 3 hours. Pizza too?
- The virus remains active on different surfaces for two hours, no, four, no, six, no, we didn’t say hours, maybe days? But it takes a damp environment. Oh no, not necessarily.
- The virus stays in the air – well no, or yes, maybe, especially in a closed room, in one hour a sick person can infect ten, so if it falls, all our children were already infected at school before it was closed. But remember, if you stay at the recommended social distance, however in certain circumstances you should maintain a greater distance, which, studies show, the virus can travel further, maybe.
- We count the number of deaths but we don’t know how many people are infected as we have only tested so far those who were “almost dead” to find out if that’s what they will die of…
(Unable to provide attribution)