No Empathy, No Normal

I took First Reader off to a nearby town to get her second Moderna vaccination. We’re hoping for mild side effects. The first one left her arm sore for about three days, some temporary lethargy, but otherwise not much. My second was back in March, so in theory I’m good. In practice? I’m thinking Covid-Resistant but not Covid-immune. I expect to be wearing a mask when I’m out and about for the foreseeable future.

It’s not such a big deal for a lot of reasons. It’s inconvenient, but compared to dying with your lungs full of jelly or causing someone else to do so? I’ll wear the mask, thanks. I’ve heard all the reasons for not wearing a mask. With extremely few exceptions, they’re BS of the first water. Worse, they’re selfish, and usually expressed in terms of “I’ll be fine” as if that’s the only thing in the world that matters.  The whole point about living in a civilization is that it’s not “everyone for themselves,” and to do that right, it takes a little bit of empathy.

Empathy is apparently a rare trait among large populations of my fellow Americans these days. Not sure why. Maybe it was always this way and I’m just being naïve, but the fact is undeniable. I remember the recent case of the Fox News Personality who said he’d always been against paid parental leave, thought it was nonsense…until he fathered a child. Suddenly it wasn’t nonsense anymore, but a darn good idea. Which, whether he realized it or not, illustrates a complete lack of empathy.  We’ve all heard the variants: “If it doesn’t happen to me, it doesn’t happen” or “If I don’t need it, no one does.” Whether the problem is an unwillingness to place yourself in someone else’s shoes for a bit, or a lack of capacity to do so, the result is the same. I imagine future dissertations and peer-reviewed research on the subject. Maybe someone will sort it out in the future, but the rest of us must live with the consequences for now.

Or at least try to.

It’s Not Just a Bad Idea, It’s the Law

The Law of Unintended Consequences (TLOUC). Supposedly coined by the British Philosopher and Physician John Locke in the 17th Century. Roughly stated, Unintended Consequences are any unforeseen effects of a deliberate course of action. Example, when kudzu was brought in as an erosion control plant in the 1930s Southeast. Now it covers large areas of my home state and others because…well, it grows fast. In hindsight, they should have seen that coming. I’ll give the soil conservation people a pass and say they didn’t anticipate just how much kudzu would love that steamy climate, but the damage is and continues to be done.

Now consider the humble tomato. I grew up with home-grown tomatoes. They were delicious. Were. Now, not so much, and I’ll argue that anyone under the age of forty who says they don’t like tomatoes have never had a real one. See, sometime in the past century people got together to solve a problem in the shipping of tomatoes. They bred varieties with a tougher skin that would survive shipment better. Didn’t taste as good, but who cared? It solved the problem. Now almost any tomato you buy or grow tastes the same, because pollen is a promiscuous wanderer and the new varieties cross-bred with everything. Now, I do accept the idea that a person’s tastes change as they get older, and maybe I’m remembering the older varieties with a touch of nostalgia. Maybe, but every now and then, against the odds, I’ll get one that tastes the way they all once tasted, and get mad all over again.

While dwelling on these I was thinking, as almost universal as it is, TLOUC doesn’t cover everything and maybe we needed a new formulation. Maybe the Law of No Skin Off My Nose, to cover cases where people knew there would be problems with a course of action but did it anyway. When I looked up the formal definition of TLOUC, however, I found that TLOUC has three categories:

  1. Unexpected Benefits. As when a policy/action has a good effect no one saw coming.
  2. Unexpected Drawback. The same, except not good.
  3. Perverse Result: The action/policy has an effect opposite of the stated intention.

So the actions of the Governors of both Texas and Mississippi in repealing the Mask Mandate before the Covid vaccine rollout is complete still fall roughly under the umbrella of TLOUC. If I were feeling kind, I’d say #3, since the stated goal of restarting the economy will take a huge hit if Covid spikes again, as seems likely. If I’m not feeling kind, I might think #1 applies, since the people most at risk are not necessarily people who would vote for them anyway. It takes a leap of faith greater than mine to think this hasn’t crossed their minds.

Or maybe I’ll be generous and say they just don’t give a damn, in which case The Law of No Skin Off My Nose probably applies better. Even to the tomato thing.

Apologies for the lateness of this and my absence last week. Sometimes adulting is just too hard.

Up Your Nose, COVID

Lucky me. I got my first COVID-19 test on Friday and I have to take another one tomorrow. Not, I hasten to add, because I or anyone else thinks I have the virus, it’s just unfortunate scheduling. I’ve got a medical test on Wednesday that requires I test clear for the virus before I take it. I also have a routine procedure a few days later which also requires a clear test. Can’t they use the same test since it’s within such a short time frame? Ummm….no. I need a separate test for each one.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, let me tell you how it goes: they take a swab that looks about a foot long and put it up your nose as far as it’ll go, both nostrils. It’s not actually painful (or wasn’t for me). It is, however, unpleasant. Not nearly as unpleasant as getting the virus, but not something I look forward to. I sneezed continually for a couple of minutes afterwards, fortunately not until after I’d left the testing station, because if I’d had the virus I’d have been spreading it. A lot.

Wear your masks, people. It’s not a political statement. It’s just common f&&king sense.


Survival Skills

Slightly political. If that’s not your thing, turn back now. Fair warning.

Ahem. Yes, survival skills. Most of which I’ve been practicing for years without knowing it. Wash your hands? Absolutely. Social Distancing? That’s my default position. Never thought of it as a virtue, except in the sense that it’s almost the only way to get any writing done, but with COVID-19? Suddenly it’s a whole new hashtag.

Can we be honest here? Covid-19 is not even remotely at “The Stand” level bad, but it’s bad enough. Made worse by a WH that won’t tell the truth even when it really, really needs to do that. 45 (Mr. “I take no responsibility”) is clearly incapable of dealing with the situation nor wants to do so, except for how it might affect the stock market and re-election. So as a result, except for a few sane voices in the CDC and some state and local level entities on the ball, we’re pretty much on our own.

It really shouldn’t be this way, folks.

Take the disbanding of the US pandemic response team in 2018. The logic is that “we shouldn’t have people getting paid when we don’t need them” and that we could just rehire the people in an emergency.  The same logic would require disbanding the fire departments, since fires don’t happen all the time. Does anyone think that’s a good idea? It’s pure business logic, where having more people than  you need doesn’t make any financial sense. On the other hand, you get a fire? It’s too late to rehire and no time to retrain. The building’s burned down by then, and probably taken out most of downtown. Does anyone really believe we can reassemble and hire a trained pandemic team with experience and the right expertise on short notice? Does the WH even believe that? So why haven’t they already done it? We all know the answer.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Trying to run a government like a business is a really bad idea, because a government is not a business. It’s an entirely different skill set, with different goals and different expertise required.

Even a good businessman in that position is not a good idea. As to what we have now?

Again, we’re on our own.