In the immortal words of John McClane, “Welcome to the party, pal.”
I say this in response to the mass hysteria and panic induced by the current COVID 19 fears. I say this in response to the people who have shut down the schools, the economy, who have brought our society to a grinding halt because, to put it bluntly, they are afraid.
I get that. I get the soul-grinding, all encompassing fear. The anxiety that keeps you awake at night, the panic attacks that set your heart racing and your hands trembling, where your heart beats so hard that you can feel it thudding against your ribs.
And those of you who give into that fear are fucking cowards. You need to hear that, you need to understand that. Fear is a natural human reaction to risk and potential loss. We fear change. We fear risk. It is a survival mechanism. The appropriate response to fear is to take appropriate protection measures and continue to live your life.
Those who give into fear, they clutch at anything they can to give them an illusion of security, illusion of safety.
I tell you this. There is no safety. There is no security. We all live just one heartbeat away from death. As a society, we have become so risk adverse that we have given ourselves the illusion of safety, of civility. Risk surrounds everything we do, whether it is slipping in the shower or falling down the stairs or choking to death on our breakfast.
So what is an appropriate precaution? Do you stop eating food for the risk of choking to death? Do you refuse to go up stairs (or get in an elevator) because you are afraid of falling? Or do you lock yourself in your home and refuse to leave at all, for fear of being killed in traffic.
We should weigh the costs versus the risks. And the cost I am talking about are the ones we have already paid over hysteria. Lost jobs, ruined businesses, destroyed lives are the ones that get put around the most. Talk about the risk of disease to someone who has a mortgage and a young child at home and whose new business just went under. Talk about the risk of disease to someone who has lost human contact, become isolated and depressed, and is contemplating suicide. The cost in lives taken by the disease versus the cost in lives ruined and cut short by the preventative measures is one of quantitative versus indefinable but undeniable cost. It’s a hidden cost that may never be fully measured but which each of us pay every day.
More importantly, though, let’s talk about the cost to our society, to our children. What has this mask up and avoid people taught our young children? It teaches them to trust no one, that anyone could be the carrier of disease. It robs them of the human interaction, of seeing smiles, grins, and laughs. It distances them from one another and destroys societal trust at a time when societal trust is already strained.
What is the impact on this generation from this hysterical response. When the entire country shut down over the risk of contagion… what will they do over other risks? How will they trust their friends, their neighbors, how will they have trusting, lasting relationships? Everyone says think of the children, but what about the psychological impact of telling them that they can’t trust anyone, be around anyone, that everything and everyone is a risk. Think of the anxiety and fear you are building into an entire generation.
And that’s what it comes back to: fear. Media hysteria where fear and shock sells. Where the headlines of doom get people to tune in and makes them the advertisement revenue. Fear that we, as a society, have embraced and encouraged rather than overcome. Where we have become so risk adverse that (at the most gloomy reports) as many as 1% of the population can die. I hate to break it to you, but all of us die. Life has a 100% mortality rate and if that scares or shocks you, then you need to take a good look at yourself and wonder what it is that you fear so much. For the shrilling harpy harridans who feel the need to terrorize their neighbors into greater protective measures, maybe take a look at them and wonder if it’s really the fear that drives them or if it’s the power they can exert over others, the rush of authority where they can force other people to comply.
I want to live. I want my family members to live. I don’t want to experience loss. But I also want to enjoy my life. It’s a measure of quality of life. To live, holed up in my home like a bunker, is not really a life worth living. To not experience human touch, human contact, to not experience life in it’s fullness… this is what we should fear. We are social creatures and we need that interaction. Isolation is a punishment. I’m an extreme introvert and even I feel the need to associate with people and interact with them. The human element is what makes life worth living, shared human experience gives our lives greater value.
I say this as someone who has maintained personal space since I was a kid. I don’t like people touching me, I typically stand feet away from folks if given the chance. I also say it as someone who has worked in high-risk environments: industrial, construction, and combat positions. I’ve seen people lose fingers, limbs, and suffer crippling injuries. I have sat and had tea with people who, we knew, were supplying –at the least– material support to people who wanted to kill us. I say that having done missions, day after day for months of looking for IEDs on the roads of Iraq, where missing the slightest detail could kill not just me, but the men and women whose lives were entrusted to me.
Life is full of risk. Life is fragile and all the more precious for it. Nobody gets out of life alive. We can be swallowed by fear and consumed by it, in which case… are we really alive? Or we can acknowledge it and live our lives regardless.
I leave you with a quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.