Questions Are Good, But Don’t Question Reality

This is what kills me about the “Italy has 1/5th the population” argument. It’s just flat out bad math — and I mean high school bad math. Just because the population has 1 million or 30 million or 300 million? The disease doesn’t care … give a certain R0 times a certain mortality rate, and the population is irrelevant.

What matters is the rate of infection. If the arc is at a 60deg angle? You’re screwed. If at a 30deg angle? Better … but once the number of infected persons overwhelms the capacity of the local health care system (note: local) to absorb it?

Game over.

It’s funny that the things that are crystal clear to me seem nebulous to others, either because (a) they do not know how to do math or (b) perhaps it is complicated and has too many variables.

This one should be a no-brainer. The additional policy discussion as to whether or not the US economy should trade $4T of value in order to shut down for 30 days is a rational conversation to have. The trading of 2.2 million lives vs. a 24% drop in GDP if we suffer a 12 week “shelter in place” is a rational (if cold) conversation to have as well…

But the problem itself? Should not be in question.

Question the remedies … question the wisdom of social distancing vs. allowing the wave to hit us. Question whether it is better to let 2.2 million people die and have a short but sharp economic dip vs. whether we should expend every ounce of energy to save 2.2 million American lives and to hell with the temporary economic cost. Question whether it is capital or people who build economies.

Question whether the banks and credit card companies and loans you have deserve priority over your family. Question why big businesses get bailouts but you don’t. Question whether the way you used to work was better than the way you are working (if you can work from home; if you can work) today. Question whether or not the public education system is doing anything better or different for your kids than what you are doing for them as parents and homeschoolers right now.

Question whether or not having your family close is better for communities than spreading them out all the time. Question whether you actually miss Sunday services because you were worshiping God or whether you were going there simply because it was expected of you.

Question whether the partisan sniping of the previous month was really relevant to you and your family. Question whether or not there are darker forces who would love to use a crisis to tell you what to do and how to live. Question whether or not there are lighter forces who understand this is a pandemic and truly are seeking your good and the public good (res publica).

William Issac Thomas — a native Virginian, one might add — remarked once that, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”

So much for the madness and wisdom of crowds who think they can ferret out some deeper meaning in this crisis, either trying to convince themselves that it isn’t as bad as the math tells them it is or by trying to pack facts into a hypothesis (political, religious, or otherwise).

Thomas knew better though … the only thing that could break such myopia was a reality larger and more omnipresent than the one manufactured by the ego.

… and here we are. Question the solutions, question one’s assumptions … but questioning an ontological reality in order to refuse to grapple with reality? That’s postmodernism … and in this instance, it is going to get you, or someone you know or love, hurt or killed.

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