Untitled Post About Pandemics

This is not relevant to the subject of the post, but the meme here was actually created by an AI

I wanted to talk about the pandemic without this turning into a rant about how stupid everyone in my community is. How my entire town is taking part in this ad-hoc SCA cosplay where they are pretending it’s 2019 and the pandemic never happened. How there’s just a few of us left who wear our masks at the grocery store, silently acknowledging each other with the briefest of eye contact as a way of saying, “You’re not crazy.”

I don’t want to rant about how my daughter’s school is all like, “Hey it’s all good now! Risk levels are low, so we’re dropping the school-wide masking rule!” and then 8 kids get COVID a week later. Not my daughter, thankfully, so far as I know, anyway.

I didn’t want to talk about any of that. I wanted to talk about fear and anxiety. So we have this civilization now that’s completely split on the amount of fear that is appropriate. So here’s how I lay it out. I live in constant fear of this virus. This fear is informed by reading about studies (I’ll be honest, I don’t actually read the studies because I’m a computer scientist and science writer, not a doctor, but I do read the abstracts and understand how research works) about the virus. It’s informed by keeping tabs on various data dashboards that are available from reputable organizations like the Mayo Clinic and the CDC and the State of Minnesota. As a result, I actually live in a constant state of low-level anxiety. And I know that this is unhealthy because there’s a giant bag of science that tells me so.

To summarize, I am not afraid of the virus to the point where I think it’s going to kill me, but I do not like getting sick and I really don’t like getting the kind of sick that people are getting from this virus. But it eats at me.

And so here’s my hypothesis. All the people cosplaying like it’s 2019 are actually more terrified of the virus than I am. They are so terrified of SARS-COV2 that they have to pretend it doesn’t exist in order to function. When the pandemic happened, I saw a lot of people go into fear and panic overload. Lots of them. And, while I don’t have any data to back this up, and anecdotes aren’t evidence, a really large portion of the people that I observed displaying this extreme panic responses are happily going about their lives today as if there never was a pandemic (which we are still in).

The thing that I think gives credence to my hypothesis is that, as we know, a lot of the people who like to cosplay 2019 are conservatives, and there’s a non-trivial amount of research that shows conservatives are driven by fear and anxiety.

I have seen people who claim that since you can’t see the virus, you can’t prove that it even exists. And this is insane, of course, because you can see the virus. But it’s also very revealing. Conservatives like to have the illusion of control. And people who are not conservative (I won’t say liberals, because I don’t believe we have a consensus definition of that word anymore) generally have a higher tolerance for ambiguity, and hence are much more able to operate in an environment of uncertainty.

This is not an attack on conservatism. This is a lamentation that, on some level, the conservatives might actually be weathering this better than me. They don’t have the daily levels of cortisol in their blood that I do. And they keep their fear bottled up inside, not letting it destroy their illusion of control. And I’m not completely convinced that they aren’t healthier for it.

The big difference is that they all got COVID. And so far, I haven’t. Yet. As far as I know.

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