Friday, February 14, 2020

Concerning The Coronavirus

     The reaction to this new disease that gets the most air time and column-inches has been hysteria: a pseudo-panic more appropriate to a potentially world-ending event – and I have a sneaking feeling that it’s mostly a media artifact.

     Nevertheless, I’ve been seeing emissions such as this one rather frequently:

     Such recommendations, to my mind, are more dangerous than the Coronavirus itself. To follow it in its entirety would be to abandon society, personal affection, and all external involvements in the name of germophobia. Among other things, it would result in a severe reduction of economic activity – and a healthy economy is one of the requirements for maintaining a healthy population. Contrary to a lot of Leftists’ opinions, medical products and services do not grow on trees.

     One respondent said that “some temporary adaptation to environment may be necessary.” If we were talking about the Bubonic Plague, I might agree – and the response that physician recommended would be more appropriate. Indeed, it would be near to mandatory, especially for anyone with dependents. But this is a flu-like virus that has a mortality rate (reported) of about 5% — and apparently that mortality rate is skewed by age and other factors. So an "adaptation to environment" that amounts to huddling behind a locked door strikes me as excessive, and probably worse for us than maintaining a reasonable facsimile of our usual affairs.

     For some reason this puts me in mind of a passage from Steven Brust’s The Phoenix Guards:

     “Let me tell you a story,” Aerich said.
     “Ah,” said Tazendra. “I should like to hear a story.”
     “Well then, here it is. Once there was a young man of the House of the Lyorn. He was raised in a proud family, and brought up in all the ways he ought to have been. That is, he was taught history, poetics, philosophy, sorcery, swordsmanship, penmanship, and the thousand other things necessary for one who is to rule over the lands and vassals he will someday inherit—for he was the eldest child, in fact, the only child of this family.”
     He paused to sip his tea. Khaavren thought he detected an odd tremor in the Lyorn’s hand. He said, “Pray continue, good Aerich. You perceive we are all listening most adamantly.”
     “Well, it so happened that at just about the time this gentleman reached the age of eighty—that is, well before, by the custom of his House, he was considered to have reached maturity—his father became involved in court politics. To be precise, he was called in by His Majesty, Cherova, for advice on settling matters with the King of Elde Island, whose name, I regret to say, escapes me.”
     “I think it is not important,” said Khaavren. “Please continue.”
     “Yes. Well, a certain individual, also of the House of the Lyorn, had, until that time, been advising His Late Majesty on the subject, but m—, that is to say, the young man’s father proved more able to conduct negotiations.”
     “Well,” said Khaavren, “it would seem that this would be all to the good.”
     “So it would seem, good Khaavren. Yet there are times when it is dangerous to succeed where another fails.”
     “Ah. There was jealousy?”
     “You have it exactly,” said Aerich. “And not only jealousy, but the power to act on it. The discredited advisor was not above using subterfuge and hiring known thieves. It began to appear as if the successful advisor were unscrupulous. The evidence mounted until, driven to distraction, the gentleman began to fight back in ways he would never have thought himself capable of using. Of course, this was discovered, and, in less time than one would have thought possible, the successful advisor became the discredited one, and, furthermore, all of his lands were taken and he died a broken, penniless man, leaving his son trained to rule a fief that was no longer in the family.”
     Khaavren studied his friend for some moments, then said, “And the unscrupulous advisor, could his name, perhaps, have been Shaltre?”
     Aerich stared at him coldly. “I have no idea to what you could be referring. I was telling a story, to illustrate a point.”
     “And the point, good Aerich?”
     “The point is that it is sometimes dangerous to meddle with those who have fewer scruples than you do; you may lose more than your life. You may lose a stake you didn’t know you had set onto the board.”
     “And yet, good Aerich, was the Lyorn wrong to have done what he could for the Empire?”
     “Ah, as to that, I do not say. I merely bring up a matter for you to consider before you dive headlong into danger of an unknown sort, from an unknown quarter. We have no worry for our lives, after all; they have belonged to the Empire from the moment we took our oaths. But what are we prepared to risk, my friends? Surely this deserves some consideration.”
     As he spoke, Khaavren felt a sudden chill, as if, in the winter, a window had been left open and cold air, unmistakable in feeling yet indefinite in source, had touched the back of his neck and sent its tendrils down his spine. He sent a glance at Pel, who was frowning and staring at the floor.
     Tazendra, however, said, “But consider that, if we do nothing, we are giving in to fear of the worst sort—the fear of unknown dangers. We may scorn a man who runs from a battle he cannot win; how much more should we scorn a man who runs from a place where he thinks there might be a battle that perhaps he cannot win?”
     Khaavren stirred. “I think our friend the Dzur has the right on this, good Aerich.”
     The Lyorn sighed. “Yes,” he said. “I’m afraid I agree. And you, good Pel?”
     The Yendi made a dismissing gesture with a wave of his hand. “We are young, we are brave, and we are four together. If we let fear direct us now, what will we do when we have lived a millennium or two, and know the full measure of terror? We will be afraid to throw a stick in a river, lest we be splashed by water that has somehow been poisoned. I agree with Tazendra.”

     Judicious fear can be useful: protective, sometimes even a spur to personal improvement. But unreasoning fear, fear of something not yet demonstrated to be a significant threat, is the opposite. Consider the way the Left and the media (BIRM) have relentlessly worked to spread a fear of firearms among naive Americans, and to discourage them from learning more about them and the enthusiasts who own them.

     Think about it.


Unknown said...

I'm not sure that more concerned is justified. The 'not much worse than the flu' story doesn't explain the measures China has taken to contain and control the outbreak. Seriously. Massive quarantine, disinfectant spread by fogger trucks, the shutdown of major manufacturing regions with all that means for their economy. All this for 'not much worse than the flu'?

Not sure it should be handwaved to that degree.

Francis W. Porretto said...

If the virus is having severe effects on the Chinese economy and the Chinese social system, the Chinese response to it is warranted. It's spreading rapidly there. The same cannot currently be said for the U.S., and the Chinese medical system is inferior to ours. I'd say to remain watchful, but don't surrender to hysteria on someone else's say-so.

Linda Fox said...

I'm not suggesting hysteria, but, rather, watchfulness.

The thing is, all of the stats are crap, as long as it's China creating them. They could be more or less correct, they could be wildly understating the danger.

But there are few ways to check the numbers.

I once took a history class on the Civil War era. We had to do some research on specific units, and their experience in the war. It was fascinating, and a good introduction to how to read official reports.

BOTH sides said they killed MANY, MANY enemies, and had few casualties. When we asked how we could verify the truth of the casualties, my professor said,

"Look at the day's muster. That's the roll call from which they generate payroll. Since they won't pay the dead, that gives the true mortality for that battle."

Similarly, don't look to the numbers in China. Look at how they are handling it - the quarantine area, and the numbers affected, are way out of line with a relatively low-level epidemic. Look at the response of the Elite of China - they got the hell out of the region. And, now, they are grabbing all available masks and testing materials for us by the Elite. As in the case of the old Hunan famine, they are writing off the region.

Are the hospitals overwhelmed? Yes.

Are those reporting on this being shut up? Yes.

Are those with access to people in the affected areas reporting information at variance with the official reports? Yes.

So, yeah, until and unless the nearby countries have sufficient numbers affected to show otherwise, I"m gonna treat it like a potential pandemic.

Chine is the country that has developed a reputation for lying so routinely, that, even if they are telling the truth, no one believes them.

daniel_day said...

A Japanese doctor I talk with regularly told me that the Japanese public had started washing their hands more frequently due to concerns about coronavirus, and that had already reduced the spread of ordinary influenza.

Barb said...

@linda... I agree. Its follow the money time imo, china produces ALOT of ingredients for pharmaceuticals worldwide. If their economic productions falls, everyone gets the trickle down. I'd rather be considered alittle foolish, than lacking basic supplies, water, food , basic meds, soap, disinfectant. Cant supply for the unknown but at least for a few months. That's all I can decide is prudent until time reveals more info.

Andy Texan said...

Rumors that the virus affects Chinese disproportionately appear true so far. Visited Chinatown in my metropolis last week and the businesses there are under pressure.

Linda Fox said...

And, daniel_day, that change in sanitary practice is one of the most positive things that might result from this scare - it's long past time for people to get out of that "natural" hygiene rut, and get with what works - soap and water, and disinfectants for surfaces following that cleaning process. Less dependence on 'sanitizers' and more on the soap and water.

Ironically, the Black community (other than those already weakened by disease) may come out better than most groups - most of them are scrupulous about covering sneezes and coughs, and cleaning up personally (some to the point of being germ-phobic).