I wanted to write this before things got really bad. We’re still in a bit of a holding pattern, watching almost in disbelief, as an avalanche pours down toward humanity like some kind of slow motion disaster movie opening sequence.
As I write this, Donald Trump and the Republicans have, through greed and ego and incompetence, turned the United States into a hotspot for the coronavirus COVID-19. Certain government officials, of course, all of them right wing, are starting to suggest that maybe we just let a lot of people die, because hey, we can’t hurt those stock prices.
This virus is a lot of things. I too hope that we’re overreacting and that eventually, we’ll get back to normal and laugh at how over-the-top we were.
I worry that the law of unintended consequences is going to catch up with us.
From a great depression to panic, food shortages, riots, mass hysteria, even the imposition of martial law – not with the intent of saving us and stopping the virus, but with creating a long-term authoritarian state – these are things that I see coming.
The depression is obvious. We can’t stop or slow the worldwide economy without consequences. Still, we’ve been there before – FDR did a nice job getting the States back up and going. We understand how to get out of it.
The problems I see are the unintentional consequences of inducing mass fear and panic, which always leads to irrational decision making, as well as the willingness of scumbags, like those we currently see populating the right wing in almost every developed country, to exploit this for their own gain.
People like Texas politicians suggesting grandma and grandpa kick the bucket so their 401Ks stay safe. See Senator Richard Burr selling off stock after a confidential meeting where he was told how bad the virus would be, then going out tell the public everything was fine, in order to stall a stock market crash long enough for him to profit. See Tucker Carlson and Matt Gaetz getting pissed off at that, almost definitely not because it’s illegal and put lives at risk, but because they weren’t given the heads up, so they lost a bunch of money.
I don’t have proof of that last statement, but I’d bet dollars to donuts on its veracity. Neither one of those men has demonstrated any capacity for empathy or selflessness toward the well-being of their fellow Americans. Both have repeatedly demonstrated a callousness and selfishness that borders on sociopathy. It’s 100% guaranteed they’re mad because no one told them to cash out.
I worry that the panicmongers online are raising anxiety levels among their friends and family, so that people prone to mental health disorders are starting to spiral. I have no doubt that when this is all said and done that the number of people both suffering from mental health issues (or not suffering anymore due to suicide) will increase during this period. As far as I’m concerned, that’s on the people posting over and over about it, with information misleading or inciting in tone, at least in part.
What really gets me is that some of them, while adopting a “concerned citizen” persona, almost seem gleeful about how the virus is spreading, as though it gives them pleasure to watch others panic and suffer, because it means they were right. What kind of sick mind gets sanctimonious joy out of the unravelling of our world and the death and illness of our fellow humanity?
And what kind of impact are these people, and the ones who refuse to accept what’s going on, having on the rest of us? I certainly feel the stress. I’m prone to bouts of severe depression; the kind of fatalism this produces is hard to ignore. That there are those who take pleasure in promoting the “horror” of everything, knowing that it will damage the mental and emotional health of those around them – including those fully complying with all the provided health suggestions – it makes me ill. The selfish sanctimony of it, undoubtedly justified later by “I told you so” or “I’m just trying to be a good citizen” if they’re ever called on it, makes me sick, because you know it’s not genuine.
They’re getting off on the pain. It’s disturbing.
Meanwhile, the hysteria these people are helping whip up drives things like toilet paper hoarding and as I found out this weekend – pancake hoarding. Some unintended consequences are less impactful than others.
Everyone is aware that panic and mass hysteria can lead to all kinds of awful things. The question becomes how to keep the panicmongers under wraps while we get through this, so it doesn’t end in violence or the rise of other social ills, like suicide or mental health disorders or deaths by other diseases. Is there a point where enough truly is enough and we’ll have to choose – food riots or COVID-19 protection? Mass homelessness and poverty or COVID-19 protection?
I hope we don’t get to that point, but the more short-sighted, selfish individuals drive the bus, the more likely these things become.
Bill Barr, I understand, is already drafting legislation intended to allow Donald Trump and the GOP to suspend the Constitution. If you think they won’t use this emergency to steal, suspend or downright get rid of the election in November, and implement all the fascist authority they’ve so clearly desired, then you haven’t been paying attention.
This is what I mean when I say unintended consequences. What are we in for in the coming days? The virus is scary enough. Mass panic, potential shortages of essentials, riots, the rise of the authoritarian right to complete power?
I do have an alternative. This crisis has brought much of the inequalities in the world into the light. A universal basic income would have stemmed a lot of the concerns over what happens when people go out of work from the virus. In the U.S., the medical community’s dysfunctional insurance schemes has uniquely highlighted the need for some kind of universal health care. It’s also demonstrated the absolute incompetence and corruption of those currently in charge down there.
I am hoping that this is fostering a sense of community for the people who aren’t playing the role of asshole or selfish, sanctimonious panicmonger. I’m hoping that it’s opening the eyes of people to the possibilities of economic systems and government set-ups that aren’t based on inherent inequalities. I’m hoping that there’s enough reality being exposed to the eyes right now to sweep men like Donald Trump out of office, permanently.
I’m hoping that what comes out of this, an unintended consequence turned into intended protopian progress, is a greater connection and care for our fellow humanity, and a greater accounting for those who would violate our trust and behave in manners detrimental to those around them.
Let that be the legacy of our unintended consequences, rather than the dissolution of everything we hold dear.