But since we're gonna be here for a while and I'm gonna be having these conversations anyway, I might as well lay it all out here and now rather than scattered throughout my feed. Then I can get back to writing about ax-throwing bellydancer space mercenaries and gun-toting wizard handymen.
That said, I got a definite audience I'm aiming at here.
If you're insisting on panicking no matter what? That's your call, but I got nothing for you. Scroll on in peace.
If you're going to stubbornly keep to your routine until forced otherwise? I get that. I was just telling my audience last night I'll keep coming. Hook up my mic to a mask if I gotta. But I'll keep coming. But if you're not going to make changes at all? Might as well keep scrolling on.
I'm aiming at the mighty middle. The nervous but still head-on-shoulders.
I'm not going to go into fifth grade health class lessons about how viruses act or what the official words from on high say. Plenty of other people are doing that. I'm gonna talk about how people react.
And we're all reacting to something new to us, but old to humanity.
Before I start, lemme give you some stats:
I'm a freelancer in the arts world. I make money working crowds 4-5 days a week. And I spend a lot of time living check to check. So when I talk about crowds going away and the entertainment, hospitality, and tourist industries taking it in the shorts, realize that the hand of fate I'm talking about is reaching for my waistband too.
My beloved works a corporate job from home. She's also got a pair of lungs so fucked up she might as well have got 'em off of Doc Holliday. So when I talk about the immunocompromised and more susceptible to corona out here, before you start yelling, keep in mind that the one true love of my life is right in those crosshairs, and I care more about her than any of you motherfuckers.
(That goes double for the able-bodied woke-ass fucks who think being a smug little shitstain about mentioning the immunocompromised counts as compassion.)
My neighborhood is in the west side of Cobb County, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. And this area is full of what I, for lack of a better term, call Quiet Preppers. They don't show up to rallies in camo, they don't rail about boogaloos online, they're just... quiet. Armed to the teeth, most of them. Home invasion isn't a completely effective method of suicide out here, but it's close. They weren't panic buying toilet paper, because they already had between a week and a month's worth of whatever they needed already. Might have picked up an extra few cans of food here and there, but nothing truly noticeable.
And just as a side item, I've personally lost two, possibly three old acquaintances to complications of the regular flu in the last 30 days. So if you think I'm being flippant at any point, be aware that I know damned well how serious this can get.
So that's my little snapshot in the storm that's completely new to almost all of us.
Americans aren't used to ongoing, low-grade crises. We're used to 9/11's and Katrinas. We're used to getting our asses kicked for a couple days, then a couple months of recovery. We're not used to an ongoing crisis that goes on for months.
On top of that, our economy is based around slim margins and last day delivery. Some of that is pure capitalism (maximize profits and minimize losses, Econ 101). Some of that is incentivized by tax structures (if you're penalized for keeping a cushion of inventory around, you're not going to keep it around. You'll just have it shipped overnight when you need it. Which works until your supply chain gets borked.)
So now we've got three problems:
One, a flu variant that looks tenfold more nasty than the seasonal, with the bonus factor of lingering on surfaces.
Two, a last-minute, slim-margin economy with a large workforce that live on even slimmer margins.
Three, the most connected populace in history, which means every fear and anger has a soapbox waiting for it even in the depths of quarantine.
I'm gonna go over the bad potential outcomes first, then look at some of the good ones.
First is one we're already seeing: public gatherings are being closed left and right. This means that industries that rely on crowds are taking a hit. Entertainment, hospitality, food & beverage, and tourism are all going to get hit here. Disney is already looking at a big loss because the theaters in China have been closed for two months, just as they're about to release Mulan.
Two, big childcare crisis inbound. Schools are closing in several areas, which, while they're probably the biggest single contributor to flattening the curve, are leaving parents who were already juggling work schedules up in the air.
Three, crisis brings desperation, and desperation breeds scammers. There's going to be all manner of fuckery from people trying to scam victims of this. Anything from work-from-home scams to MLM's on steroids to bogus creditor scams will kick in.
Four, between the Boomers and the immunocompromised, our high-risk population could be as high as one in four adults.
Five, we've spent the last decade and change fucking with our medical system, which is awkward at the best of times.
Six, we've never been more politically divided. And that only gets worse with desperation.
In calmer times, there was a standard gallows joke in the prepper community. Those of us who did prepare for the zombie apocalypse inevitably had a circle of friends who laughed at us for the practice. But even while laughing, the phrase, "something happens, I'll just come to your house." would be said.
The more honest among us would point out, "you're jumping to conclusions about just how welcome you'd be." The rest of us would just keep quiet, not wanting to hear the inevitable whining about how unfair and greedy we were.
That argument has circled up and down enough levels that I'm tired of the whole damn thing.
I've already unfollowed everyone on my feed economically illiterate enough to not know the difference between price gouging and capitalism. The soapbox sadies screaming "hoarder!" at everyone with an extra jar of peanut butter in the shopping cart.
I've also unfollowed every smug-ass prepper who thinks they'll be king of the zombies at the end. Yeah, yeah, yeah, grasshopper, ant, what the fuck ever. Save it for Call of Duty or whatever the fuck you play.
I’m sick of the screeching mob and the smug hermit. Join humanity as a grownup or fuck off.
OK, now I'm going to move on to some of the good outcomes.
I mentioned before that we're not used to long-running crises. But we've seen parts of history where humanity managed to thrive. Most are looking at the response to the Spanish flu, but I'm looking at the reactions to the Blitz in London during WWII. It sucked. It sucked hard. But people adapted.
And I think that's the biggest thing that gets me. I've lived in two war zones in my time. You can adapt to anything. Might not thrive, but you can adapt.
One, we've had enough nasty weather in a lot of the country that a lot of people have at least dipped their toe in the river of being prepared. Every little bit there helps.
Two, while we've got a medical and financial crisis on our hands, it's not quite at the level of survival (excepting the high-risk). The Russian/mideast price war means fuel is cheap. Fuel, transportation, and agriculture are still largely unaffected. Assuming food distribution can be arranged, we can at least hold off starvation.
Three, it's an election year. And no incumbent wants to be caught letting their constituents eat cake. That goes from federal to local. Right now, local leadership has their chance to shine. The next county over from me shut down their schools the moment an employee tested positive. Mayor Bottoms in Atlanta just signed an executive order putting a 60-day stay on shutting off people's water for nonpayment. It's local leadership responding to local problems that will really make big differences.
Four, Social distancing? You mean Americans have to be more isolated and less touchy?
As I said last night, Hold my sanitizer.
Seriously, I'm looking at the difference between Italy and South Korea from a few days ago. They've got similar, homogeneous populations, both aging into the risk zone, same number of positive cases. Korea has twice the population density.
Yet Italy has seven times the deaths of South Korea.
Now some are harumphing and saying, "Well, that's what socialized medicine gets ya!"
But that can't be the factor, because they both have socialized medical systems.
(That said, the belief in socialized medicine as a cure-all is still a false hope at best. Italy is effectively doing battlefield triage and there are still some crystal-wavers in the comments section insisting that they're violating rights by doing so.
Look, healthcare isn't a privilege OR a right. It's a commodity, and there's only so much of it. And when there's more patients than treatment, triage happens no matter who's paying the bills.)
I'm calling social distance the tiebreaker here. Italian personal space is much closer than Korean personal space.
Americans are way out there in personal space. Especially dudes. There's some exceptions (elevators, subways), but in general, Americans like their space. Ask any midwest salesman. In cities, you stay just outside of the bad breath zone. Out in the county, you might be out at shouting distance for the other person to be comfortable.
Stop handshaking. Vulcan gang sign, heart hands, salute, fucking something, you're American, backing off should be second nature to you, and now it's your greatest weapon.
Five, Improvise, Overcome, Adapt came from American Marines. And it's so very true.
Out of hand sanitizer? Mix some aloe vera and moonshine.
Figure out what’s needed and cobble together what you can.
Six, clean your brain.
Isolation plus anxiety is a recipe for all manner of nasty. Find ways to laugh. Find ways of relieving tension.
If I had to list the top two things I did when I had some personal time after a firefight or something equally nasty, after the admin shit was done and weapons clean?
Two, watch something light-hearted. Muppets, cartoons, whatever makes you smile.
You NEED psyche-cleansers just as much as you need to wash your hands, people.
* * *
Allright, I think that’s it. Fuck, that was rambling.
Go in peace, folks.
Stay safe out there.