maxbarry.com
Wed 07
Oct
2020

And Then There Were Deaths or Whatever

What Max Reckons One thing I haven’t figured out yet about this pandemic is why we’re okay with so many deaths. Not in the sense of “what is wrong with people,” even though, you know, what is wrong with people. But I try to make sense of the world, and this has been very surprising to me, this sudden blandness toward the idea of masses of people dropping dead from a mystery virus.

That isn’t something I would have anticipated, if I had been writing a book about people dropping dead from a mystery virus: everyone going very rationalist about it. In my experience, people are very twitchy about the idea of dropping dead from something. Especially something that’s new and mysterious and you can’t do much to stop it. That ticks quite a few boxes on the list of things that makes human beings freak right the heck out.

I definitely expected more fear and fewer people calmly arguing that it isn’t actually that many deaths if you compare it to five or ten years worth of influenza, and anyway, you have to die of something, sooner or later, and who knows, it might not even be as deadly as they say.

I’m not saying this is wrong, necessarily. It just feels like an inexplicable, planet-wide rescaling of what makes us hysterical. Because for a long time, it hasn’t required much to make us hysterical. We’ve been ready to overreact to very slim threats.

So what’s going on? There are probably a few factors in play—it surely helps that older people are disproportionately affected, and there are identity politics mixed up now—but maybe it’s simply that we’ve grown tired of it. Because I do remember us taking it more seriously in the beginning. But humans recalibrate. You can get used to anything, I read, in an awesome short story about a man who’s sent to Hell (I forget the title), so maybe you get used to this, too.

Comments

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1001.0010.0101 (#925)

Location: Turn left at your CPU
Quote: "How can something be deemed artificial if it is itself. e.g. A.I."
Posted: 15 days ago

"why we’re okay with so many deaths" I was hoping for more. A lot more.

Our planet, the celestial ovary it is, has begun a downward spiral towards our own demise. Yet humans and their optimism bias continue to procreate and contribute blindly to a net growth of over 200,000 new resource consuming bundles of joy every 24 hours.

Look around you Max, this is already Hell and has been for a long time. And realists like me that made a conscious choice to contribute zero to the bottom line are to be considered satanic for wanting to scale back the greatest of all viruses, humans.

Lloyd (#2491)

Location: Naugahyde divan
Quote: "Excruciating."
Posted: 15 days ago

Hi Max,

Was that short story adapted into the 1943 Don Ameche film, "Heaven Can Wait?"

It's been ages since I watched the movie, but that line strikes me as one that came from it, and it is about a man who's sent to Hell (I won't spoil it - go watch it if you haven't yet. It's good).

Best wishes.

Brenda (#7217)

Location: Berowra Bushland
Quote: "entering your world via the book portal is awesome"
Posted: 15 days ago

Hi Max,
It does seem a mind bending situation, however, I would also posit that it is part of the ageism prejudice.
"it surely helps that older people are disproportionately affected"

Statistically the most deaths occur in the 65 and over age bracket and that leaves a lot of people thinking "well that lets me off".
NB Some actions and comments mentioned in The Conversation article on Covid and ageing -
-geriatric care doesn’t even appear on the list of required training for doctors.(USA)
-World Health Organization acknowledges ageism as the last socially accepted form of prejudice.
-Ukraine’s ex-health minister said people over 65 were already “corpses".

Medical teams pressed to handle too many sick are making decisions based on the age of patients so if trained heath care
professionals can suspend their humanity sufficiently to allow deaths then I would acknowledge individuals can remain detached from the 'death' issue.

or maybe I am being too sensitive as an over 65 female..........

Mike (#5397)

Location: Australia
Quote: "$45 for a half hour's work"
Posted: 15 days ago

I think there's some aspect of tribalism going on in being dismissive of the deaths. There's also been relatively little coverage of the long term effects on health of those who survive the infection, which may play havoc with the lives of young people who thought the risks were only for older generations. If COVID-19 becomes endemic then without vaccination, it will be a continuing health risk to young and old.

There are still huge numbers who think it's all a hoax, on the level of "the moon landings were all staged" where somehow (a) hundreds of thousands of people who worked on those projects never leaked anything in half a century; and (b) the technical engineering required to fake all aspects of those missions is much more advanced than the WWII ballistics tech used to get us to the moon. The biggest bubble is in the US, where it does not occur to most people that it's difficult to perpetuate a hoax that involves over a hundred countries of different political stripes.

Machine Man subscriber Mapuche (#1184)

Location: Darwin, Australia
Quote: "Inconceivable!"
Posted: 14 days ago

I think the bigger problem is of scale. Particularly the media, but certain people as well, go on and on about (at least in the US) the > 200k deaths. And yet it is never mentioned that in the US (to stick with that example) the annual deaths from all causes is over 2.8 Million.

So this great pandemic, whilst severe, has actually been globally so well managed (despite the rhetoric otherwise) that the actual death toll is only around 10% higher than normal (and less in many countries), so the very real effect of loved ones dying is not actually apparent to the great majority.

Lacking the immediate pain of a loved one dying, we are in the real realm of the change from tragedy to statistics - I'm sure you know the quote.

ryandake (#2199)

Location: scenic monterey, ca
Quote: ""The rest is not our business.""
Posted: 14 days ago

dunno how it is in Australia, Max, but i can assure you that we here in one of the tourism capitals of California are quite freaked out. daily.

i have gotten to the point that being within six feet of anybody except my partner--even people i know have been basically quarantined, people whose chance of being positive are close to nil--activates every part of my Fear Lizard Brain. i have given up outdoor activities i love (club archery shoots) and walking the bike trail and anything that might involve being within breathing space of others.

i recently went to the northern part of the state where Covid is far less of a numerical concern and had to force myself to walk into a house with (only a few!) other people. i so did not want to be in there, breathing common air.

going to the grocery store is now an effort of planning the optimal aisle path to get in and get the fuck out as fast as i can.

216,734 deaths in the US last i checked. only the deities know how many disabled permanently by Covid after-effects. multiply each number by five to assess how many are grieving. i watch daily the rate of positive cases in my county and curse the fucking tourists stacked up on the inbound highways on weekend jaunts.

Covid stalks us all, and I never forget it, here.

Martin Wannert (#6668)

Location: Germany
Posted: 14 days ago

Hi Max,

Here in Germany it is really not as worse as media suggest. We have only a few hundred deaths directly from the virus and only a few thousand in connection with the virus. Normal flu season causes up to 30k deaths...

As our healthcare system works properly, an infection is not that bad as in countries where you have to pay the doctor and so avoid going there. Furthermore our hospitals are equipped and prepared for heavy cases.

Most of us wear masks and keep social distancing so the virus doesn't spread that quickly. This leads to a longer season for this mutation than for others but causes less deaths in total.

Panic or other overreacting wouldn't help anyway and wasn't also not the case in more difficult years here with other diseases (e.g. swine flu) in the past decades.

For most of us it's a year as every other with more protection even though, it might be seen different by many.

I hope this gives you a slight insight into our situation over here and I hope my English is not too bad.

Looking forward to reading your new book mid of 2021 when released in german language.

Martin

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