Thursday, April 23, 2020

Are we really this fucking dumb?

Photo by CDC on Unsplash


By: Alex Kack 


We’re facing an unprecedented global crisis, an invisible killer that has brought much of the industrialized world to its knees.

With very few exceptions country after country has fallen, often into the same series of traps, brought on by economic fear and nationalistic hubris.

Experts have long warned political and military leaders that this was around the corner, that the greatest threat to global stability was not a network of terror cells or a rogue nation state but disease. These calls have been almost entirely ignored.

Stockpiles have been depleted, scientific and research funding slashed and healthcare looked at through the cold analytical lense of austerity for some and profit for others.

Almost more galling than this is the way that world governments have watched as one nation fails to act quickly enough and then repeats these same mistakes.

Looking at how the public reacts though it’s easy to understand how our governments have become so negligent.

Humans have difficulty with existential threats, few people can accurately assess risk that they can not themselves see. This denial is increased by a culture in the west that increasingly puts little value on education and even less faith in experts and institutions.

The result is a public that takes for granted the fragile health and security that modern science and functional government has brought us. Instead of communally pitching in we deny the magnitude of the problem because it is not already invading our own personal worlds, not in front of our own faces.

As images poured in from other nations of overcrowded hospitals, stacks of coffins and crying doctors, in America young people continued to pack crowded beaches, social media stars licked toilets and middle-aged folks ranted about how this couldn't possibly be worse than the seasonal flu.

Some of this was simply willful ignorance of the severity of events happening around the world. To some other extent, it was based on a perverted notion of American exceptionalism that nothing as small and mundane as a virus could possibly bring this level of catastrophe to this nation.


It is undeniable that in the face of this a great restructuring is needed. Partially this will occur through policy, our government must not only be ready for threats but proactive in working to prevent and minimize them. In many other ways however our culture must change. We must abandon hardline ideologies that are not rooted in the progress of society and the protection and benefit of people. We must reembrace what is possible through education and encourage curiosity. Perhaps most importantly we must stress the destructive nature of those who refuse to rectify their personal beliefs with fact.

The past few weeks and very likely the next few months will be of historical note, something that in many ways will shape the collective consciousness of our people moving forward. This time will continue to require shared sacrifice and it will require us to be both smarter and more empathetic as a people. If we can’t learn to be, to stop disaster, then disaster will almost certainly force us to be later.

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