What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

91-Divoc

molecule3.png



The virus came down like the wolf on the fold
And his proteins were gleaming in purple and gold

Having all made ourselves epidemiologists and biochemists, combined with virulogists and supply-chain experts, I propose that we undertake a retrospective of what has happened in the last 3 months.

From Hubei Province in China emerged a strange and dangerous contagion known variously as coronavirus, Covid-19, and other monikers. It started sickening people and killing some fraction of them in late 2019. It’s chief feature was respiratory distress, but it carried along with it a train of puzzling ailments.

By February alarums rang throughout Asia and nations there began taking aggressive measures to slow its spread. Whole districts, indeed whole countries cancelled schools, instituted stern lockdowns, and forbade public gatherings. European and American infections soon appeared. By early March, northern Italy presented an unmistakable health crisis -- hospitals under severe strain, ghastly tales of triage medicine, corpses left to rot in apartments. Spain and other parts of Europe looked dire. Positive tests for infection came to virtually every US state. Shrewd New Yorkers perceived that doom was approaching. By St. Patrick Day, most of the United States operated under restrictive orders. Folks sensible of reality knew Easter would be cancelled as a public event. Men of all faith mourned in spirit.

New Orleans, Detroit, southwest Georgia and many other regions spiked red with virus, hospitals near the outbreaks staggered, and economic activity diminished to mere portions of former robustness. Green spaces all over the world were recruited for markshift graveyards reminiscent of military battles.

Hoarding, silent streets, work-from-home, everyone online; mind-numbing layoffs, bankruptcies, gigantic relief bills from Congress; the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury openly aligned into a single institution. The hydroxychloroquine wars. The ventilator shortage that wasn’t. Happy hypoxia.

Intellectual life in the Republic took on a peculiar cast of mind. Frenzied and stupefied, but bored and unable to look away, folks plunged into online argumentation of an embarrassingly irrational sort. The distance with which confidence outpaced knowledge can hardly be exaggerated. It was the Humbling of Social Media, utterly unnoticed by the stars of social media. The list of errors will boggle the mental setup of any objective future observer. Often behind the shield of online anonymity, but not always, men staked their reputation boastfully on such nonsense as that non-Asians were immune; that the virus was less lethal than endemic seasonal illnesses; that warm weather and humidity would eliminate it; that Italian health care sucks; that only the old and infirm perish of this new plague.

Public health authorities hardly fared any better. Well into April, virtually all of them recommended against wearing masks. Probably the least hospitable environments on earth for this pathogen to survive -- subtropical beaches under blazing UV light -- remained forcibly closed by government decree through most of April. The New York City subway, which may prove in the end the most efficient transmission mechanism for the whole pandemic, remained open through the crisis, while California beaches during a heatwave, remained closed.

Now a third of a year into the plague, a periphery of bitterness stalks all American life, exacerbated by the deprivation of human contact. Even smart folks struggle with important concepts like exponential growth, the Pareto 80/20 heuristic, above all the want simple want of knowledge. And yet, the human capacity to, as it were, just get used to circumstances, homoeostasis, has not failed to assert itself. Though excited for today’s golf, I’ve managed to just get used to the total absence of televised sports -- a condition that would have sounded like unimaginable madness in January.

Human beings and human institutions detest admitting error. But this plague has humbled us, only most of us may not know it yet. Lacking a capacity for self-examination, we may never know it. A wise friend likes to say that the pandemic has made everyone think what he already thought, only moreso.

Perhaps we may hope, however, that embarrassing error will lead some to a deeper sense of chastisement. I mean that in the biblical sense: loss, discomfort, humiliation that works out for discipline, reformation, modesty about our capacity to know and understand. Out of reformation we might learn patience and charity.

We might look with clarity upon our own boastful errors and be gentle with those of our countrymen.

In the spirit of contrition, I will say that my attitude around, say, Mardi Gras, was egregiously complacent. I observed idly that markets had finally noticed this Asian flu business; and spared five minutes of worry about the damage to equities from Chinese supply chain disruptions. Then I got back to worrying about when the Colorado Avalanche injuries would stop piling up and threatening a glorious season of hockey. I daydreamed about the Lord Huron concert scheduled for June: my first show at Red Rocks in about 18 years. I put some thought into which New Orleans craft brew I would enjoy before Lent mandated teetotaling. I grumbled internally about all the upcoming logistics for events for the kids: travel and carpools and complicated planning.

These were the idle musings of a fool who imagined himself a farseeing man.

But I resolve, and ask that we all resolve, to commit to this: while severe with the foolishness in myself, so far as in my lies I will endeavor to pardon the foolishness and be patient with the frustration in others. As Gen. Honore might say, “The virus had a vote!”

Let not your mind linger on ill-will and anger. Take courage instead. The goal is not to win an argument but for fewer people to sicken and die. Think charitably of your neighbor, even the one who posts lunatic rants on Facebook. Do not suffer friendship to perish over the trivial details of a colossal choque de trenes. Repent, be cheerful and believe.

The virus like the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold, but after much heartache and loss, by God’s grace the City held.

Comments (10)

We might look with clarity upon our own boastful errors and be gentle with those of our countrymen.

To an extent I agree, but I would distinguish between those who are willfully spreading misinformation and those who mistakenly thought it was only slightly worse than other viral diseases. The former clearly have no interest in learning from their mistakes and anyone who feels entitled to endanger themselves and others should not be respected, much less obeyed. We are in an odd situation where the pandemic is full throttle in some states and in a decline in other places. The net effect is the illusion of a plateau, which isn't the reality at all.

The virus like the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold, but after much heartache and loss, by God’s grace the City held.

Isn't the lesson from Passover supposed to be that when the Angel of Death arrives you quarantine your family and yourself? The wolf is still out there until a nationwide vaccine is available. Other countries which have taken the virus seriously from the beginning are reopening more cautiously and with stringent metrics for putting restrictions back in place to stop the exponential spread.

Thanks for still coming around, Step2. I hope you and yours are all healthy and safe.

those who are willfully spreading misinformation [who] have no interest in learning from their mistakes

Do you include the progressives right now trucking in Infowars-type conspiracism about the Florida and Georgia Departments of Public Health?

The wolf is still out there until a nationwide vaccine is available.

Agreed, and it's a lot worse than the flu.

Thanks for still coming around, Step2. I hope you and yours are all healthy and safe.

Extremely kind of you to say, and likewise I wish the same for you and yours and for the other contributors here.

Do you include the progressives right now trucking in Infowars-type conspiracism about the Florida and Georgia Departments of Public Health?

My understanding is the GA Department of Public Health brought suspicion upon themselves by releasing an egregiously misleading chart on their website with the dates out of sequence to give the appearance of a strong decline in cases, when there was no clear trend at all. From what I've read the governor's office even gave an official apology for that. I haven't heard much about Florida except from one former employee who has yet to prove any of her claims.

In the interest of the before-times when we (or at least I) would occasionally joke around, I saw a cartoon that gave me a much needed laugh. It was a silhouette of Bigfoot with the caption of Social Distancing Champion.

My understanding is the GA Department of Public Health brought suspicion upon themselves by releasing an egregiously misleading chart on their website with the dates out of sequence to give the appearance of a strong decline in cases, when there was no clear trend at all.

The site can be a little misleading because they report cases as they came in, thrice daily. So you can look at today, May 26, and see only 26 confirmed cases. But of course that will go way up as they receive further data. That confused me a bit, but the Department has always clearly shaded on the graph all preliminary data over 14 days. So for instance, right now May 13th is the first day they're reporting firm, "non-preliminary" case numbers for.

That's very different from this allegation (similar to what we heard a month ago from the other side vis-a-vis New York) that these health officials are "hiding bodies." No they aren't. They're trying to present incomplete and murky data as best they can.

And look, presenting this data in a way that useful means a challenge for anyone. Again, to my post: we need to have modesty about all this.

As to murky data: even the CDC is having trouble making their graphs make sense, with weird swings that are entirely not plausible in the real world. I can see the real world having trouble getting reports to CDC on a consistent day-by-day basis, when you take weekends into account, so maybe a Monday's numbers really have some of Saturday's and Sunday's cases that piled up in the paperwork. But CDC's numbers are weird because they invert that kind of real-world problem: they appear to have some of April 7ths new cases seemingly reported on April 6th! The same weird inversion is present for May 16 and 17.

And instead of Monday May 11 (after the weekend) showing more cases than it should, it shows fewer. Is Monday a "we are having trouble doing daily reports" day?

My suspicion is that there is a combination of (a) reporting guidelines, and (b) reporting theories, and (c) data actually collected in person by doctors and nurses, that don't all quite square up to everybody being on the same page as to what each guideline and each medical practice mean. Hence reports from one hospital can't really be compared to the reports from another hospital - the person in Hospital A filling out the reports think Line 7 means one thing, and the person in Hospital B thinks it means something else. (Or the morgue, or nursing home). Multiply that by different persons in the field doing the reporting on various days from the same hospital. The data may be, hmmm, complete garbage, except in the broadest terms.

I am not saying anything like "I know this is what is happening", not at all. I am merely extrapolating from the evidence I can see. Which includes the above odd results, but also the fact that not one data purveyor seems to be reporting on the same data that any other data purveyor is reporting on: their data DON'T MATCH UP. And are not very close, either. I cannot figure good reasons for this, so I speculate on not-good-reasons. This is one.

We also don't have very reliable evidence from which to draw conclusions about the portion of the population that has been infected but is asymptomatic, though the suggestive evidence is ... again, a little odd - from 25% in NYC to 4% in LA to 0.2% in remote CO. Then again, maybe those numbers aren't really odd, there really is that degree of variation. It would be hard to make general policy on that information, other than: different communities should treat things differently. Which is, after all, pretty much what states and counties are beginning to say, anyway - at least some of them.

I thank God that I and my immediate family have been well and working (at home) virtually the entire time, but I know people out of work and it is very hard. Even when you get a government check, the fact that you have no assurance that it will be repeated for the duration means the loss of confidence is very wearing. Reports of suicide deaths have skyrocketed in some places, a very worrisome result, but it is only one of the more measurable effects on public health, there will be many less measurable ones.

I have been suggesting since mid-March that unless the state officials have spent time devoted to (read: in a locked room for a weekend with 30 other policy-participants and a dozen data pushers and computer model programmers) what are effectively "war games" to game-out the mid- and long-range effects of this or that attempt to manage the epidemic, they can have no solid reason for confidence that their efforts won't do a great deal of damage, possibly rivaling the damage caused by not trying to quarantine: the interconnectedness of the many spheres of action and reaction are just too complex to think out in one week's time and be sure of getting it all right. Or even reasonably sure. I hear that many hospitals are on the verge of bankruptcy, and some are closing already (perhaps, ones that had been at risk before this?) This is one downstream effect of the lockdowns that it didn't occur to me to worry about, back in March. My wife predicted the rise in suicides back then. I would be delighted to hear of some state or other that "hey, we war-gamed this stuff out 3 years ago, and had a refresher session 1 year ago". But 2 months in, I haven't heard any state official saying that. I'm not saying it never happened, but...politicians, bragging, crystal-ball claiming...would you bet that some state did it but isn't mentioning it? Yeah, me neither.

I am also grateful that my county immediately applied for, and was approved, to move into "expanded phase 2", so a lot of businesses will be able to open. A bit too late for JC Penney and Gold's Gym, (and some small places around here), but it was always a given that a lockdown would push some on-the-edge entities over the edge, which doesn't imply the lockdown was a bad idea.

Paul,

You wrote:

“ Perhaps we may hope, however, that embarrassing error will lead some to a deeper sense of chastisement. I mean that in the biblical sense: loss, discomfort, humiliation that works out for discipline, reformation, modesty about our capacity to know and understand. Out of reformation we might learn patience and charity.”

Would that that were so. I just happened to be working on two epidemiological papers before all of this started (I am not an epidemiologist by training, but the disease outbreaks were in areas (humor, priest abuse) that I study), so I spent the last year reading the literature in mathematical epidemiology. I was able to understand the basis for the models of COVID-19 pretty easily. Just recently, because of all of the brouhaha in Catholic circles about which is safer, receiving Communion on the tongue or in the hand, I did a comprehensive theoretical analysis of the difference (I have no idea where to even try to publish the paper). As you say, data is hard to come by for some things, so humility should be the order of the day.

Unfortunately, I am not seeing that humility at the federal level. As much as I applaud Pres. Trump for his pro-life stand, his actions with regards to COVID-19 has been the farthest thing from humble. Around the time that Jared Kushner took over dictating the use of national supply reserves, I became disillusioned by the Trump handling of the situation. Some early fumbles I could ignore, but, to my mind, this was downright hubris. In those countries with national cohesion, such as New Zealand and South Korea, the effects of the pandemic have been minimized and the countries have, largely, been at peace. In those places where there has been extreme political polarization, such as in the U. S. and Brazil, the pandemic has run amok. It was unity of purpose that allowed us to put a man on the moon. We did that even in the midst of the turbulent 1960’s. Today, almost looks like deja vu, with the vaccine substituting for the moon landing, but in many ways we were in much better shape in the 1960’s then we are, today. Our critical infrastructure was brand new and globalization, not to mention the Internet, had not yet taken off, so the effects of the 1960’s discord was much more confined and less destabilizing than today’s round two - except for the global influence of birth control and abortions. The rest was more parochial.

The lack of national cohesion in the U.S. is much more dangerous, now, then 60 years ago. This is not Baby Boomer or Woodstock 2.0. These are the sorts of chaos one normally sees just before a country falls. I hope I am wrong, but we need leadership of someone with an emotional I. Q. of 200 to figure out how to ease the tension in this country. I have no freedom of speech at work and few are even interested in looking at facts about many of the problems currently facing society. Unlike in the 1960’s, where the chaos hit during a time of prosperity, the lockdown and failing economy have made this chaos harder to dispel. Patience is at a premium, these days.

I was trying to remember who the four horsemen of the apocalypse are, the other day. I don’t think we are anywhere near the Apocalypse, but I do think that the horses might be taking a stroll.

The Chicken

I remember when heady opinion made you the Prince of Bloggers. Opinion was right, but can you believe that you and I and all of us are [reverse the order of the digits in 31] years older now? Neither can I.

Frenzied and stupefied, but bored and unable to look away, folks plunged into online argumentation of an embarrassingly irrational sort.

Indeed, but is anyone embarrassed by anything any more?

At least irrationality is nothing new.

I do not know to where the bulk of your former readers have drained away. For all that I still desire to fight the 10th Crusade, I have drained away, too, seduced by the rise of the Alt-Right Fascism you have so generously deplored. I remain seduced, yet cannot help admiring your unflagging fidelity to the great, vanishing Aristotelian Middle. I had wanted what you want, after all, but no longer believe that what you want is obtainable.

Aristotle remains right, but the debacle of our times has now progressed too far: some rupture must and will occur. Guillaume Durocher is right, too: our people are being replaced. And I don't think that one can make much sense of the Great Replacement without an unfriendly examination of the indispensable rôle played in the Replacement by Jews.

Which literally makes me a Fascist. (Athwart the spirit of an age that blurs the meaning of every word, you have insisted on nothing these past thirteen years if not verbal precision. So let us call the thing what it is.)

Ironically, I've little wish to persuade you to join me. The attempt would be futile but, more pertinently, to reflect that a doomed guard of a few honorable Christian men, the Prince of Bloggers among them, still stand to defend the great, vanishing Aristotelian Middle, is sobering. And inspiring.

The superb quality of your prose still merits a far wider audience. I hope that one day it finds it.

It seems very revealing that Howard describes the appeal of fascism as a seduction. I suppose because the ideology has no foundation in principled reasoning or accountability. A version of the excuse has been used to avoid a reckoning with a person's own behavior ever since Eve claimed she was beguiled.

@Step2

You have not asked me for a debate, which is just as well, so you are not obligated to answer when I ask: what about our people being replaced?

I would rather be principled but I have six children. Whether my six children shall have a dignified future in a world in which our people are being replaced is a matter of immense concern to me. Shockingly, the Church does not appear to care. Scholasticism is great but the sharpest Scholastics (who do not seem to have much influence in the Church) can do little or nothing practical to help me and mine. So where does this leave me?

Alt-Right Fascists actually care what happens to my six children. Indeed, they care about little else.

Hardly anyone else cares, so what would you have me do?

Howard,
what about our people being replaced?

First I will object to the word replaced. The only way it would be acceptable to use the word is if white people were being deported or killed. Then it would be an accurate characterization; the most you can say that is the white population is declining as a percentage of the whole population. Second, the number of immigrants as a percentage of population is less than what it was in 1900. While those immigrants from European origins have significantly declined since the 1960's that is an effect of supply instead of demand - meaning Europe has been relatively stable and prosperous since then. The dominant reason for the population percentage decline, if that is your primary concern, is from falling birthrates among whites. Third, a dignified future is incompatible with a fascist regime and my previous reference to a lack of accountability is a main reason why. Fourth, your comment that Scholastics should have a deep concern over race is discouraging. It gives the false impression St. Paul never advocated for a universal church.

Hardly anyone else cares, so what would you have me do?

Care in a way that improves your legacy and theirs. Let me frame it in a provocative way: How many biological children did Jesus or the Apostles have? I hope this proves the point that principles are vastly more enduring than genetics.

Post a comment


Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.