Still alive in the coronavirus panic? Thank a worker
I just visited my local Food Lion supermarket. A small battalion of workers was busy restocking shelves, and I thanked the manager and every other employee I found for the great job they are doing, keeping open and stocked (except for paper goods). All expressed pride in their actions and thanked me in return for my appreciation.
I was told that demand is high. A delivery truck comes every other day instead of just a couple of times a week. No one was quite sure how the back end of the supply chain works, but obviously, someone is doing something right so far, and I-81, which links the Southeast with New York and New England, hums with truck traffic.
After my grocery run, I got fuel, then came home to my working electricity, full propane tank, and functioning telecoms.
So, again so far, our great systems of infrastructure are working. This is an excellent thing, because, as the oft-maligned prepper community has noted, a complex civilization such as ours is about three days from cannibalism in the event of an infrastructure breakdown. Were the electric grid to collapse, almost all of us would soon be dead. Were the fuel pipelines to shut down, self-quarantine at home would cease to be a matter of choice. An internet shutdown would destroy our ability to communicate.
Don't get cocky. It is not clear how vulnerable these systems are — not to the virus, but to the next spasm of political craziness.
These realities make the current shutdown weird indeed. White-collar workers promptly voted themselves a paid vacation, especially the education industry, which sent students home to mingle with the at-risk elderly and canceled the balance of the school year without regard for, or interest in, the necessity. Some teachers are going online, but many, I am certain, are phoning it in and, like the administrators, taking paid vacation.
The MSM excoriate Trump for even opining that we cannot shut down the economy forever, acting as if the support structures of civilization were somehow automatic. If the spasm responses of politicians to date do not suppress the virus immediately, the media will demand ever more drastic measures without concern for how these will affect the systems on which our lives depend.
As Jeffrey Tucker says in his fine article, "We Were Wrong: So Sorry We Ruined Your Life":
What truly should inspire us all right now are the grocers, pharmacists, truck drivers, manufacturers, doctors and nurses, construction workers, service station attendants, webmasters, volunteers of all sorts, philanthropists, and specialists in a huge variety of essential professions who keep life functioning more or less. And let us not forget the "unessential" people (it's an incorrect and vicious term) who have innovated ways around the Great Suppression to continue to serve others, keep the rent being paid, and food on their tables. They are the means of salvation out of this mess.
Tucker contrasts this group with our feckless political class:
I doubt seriously that the political class in this country, as low a regard I have it, set out to destroy all that we call civilized life, instantly generating millions of unemployed workers and bankrupt businesses all around, not to mention a pandemic of utter hopelessness on the part of vast swaths of the world's population. Still, this is what they have managed to achieve. This is what their pretense of knowledge — as opposed to actual wisdom — has unleashed on the world, with incalculable human cost.
One datum well illustrates the fecklessness. Anyone over the past couple of decades who has been responsible for thinking about possible epidemics should have come to the conclusion that two essentials of effective response would be good tests to sort out the sick and the well and masks to limit the spread of airborne droplets. Yet, when COVID-19 hit, it turned out that test development had been throttled by the FDA and no stockpile of masks existed.
As Ed Yong wrote in The Atlantic: "The testing fiasco was the original sin of America's pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure." Tests are only now becoming available, but the Food Lion workers have no masks, despite their continuing interactions with the public.
Yet this same class claims the ability to re-engineer our entire society to prevent projections based on the worst-case ignorance for which it is responsible, and screams loudly for shutdowns without any grasp of real-world consequences. We can for a time survive the closure of sporting events, restaurants, and even religious services, but if the great infrastructures begin to topple, we are done.
What can the average citizen do? Maintain equanimity and perspective. Thank the workers and encourage them. Push back at the media at every opportunity. Call your local, state, and federal representatives. Talk sense to your friends and neighbors.
It not yet too late, but we do not know when the point of no return will arrive.
James V DeLong lives in the Shenandoah Valley of VA.