Bangkok. Pandemic Journal. Day 6. 27 March 2020
I an uncertain whether to keep writing this Journal going forward. What are the reason for my uncertainty? Let me share my reservations.
A Niagara Falls velocity of articles about the coronavirus, Sars-Cov2, COVID-19—it has gone through many names—tumble over the edge of my consciousness daily. Sorting through them is time-consuming. Which. One to put in my mental bucket? It is difficult to choose what to expose to my limited bandwidth. Our mental bucket can only hold so much. When the bucket overflows and we experienced that glassy-eyed stare away from the screen. You try to remember what you’ve put in the bucket so far today. You’ve already let slip from working memory what filled your mental bucket yesterday. It has never been more apparent how our limited bandwidth excludes so much information from the world.
I wonder if I'm adding any value to the pandemic conversation. I’m seeking space in your daily haul which is already too heavy to carry. Why are we on information overload, mental processing burn out? We are discovering how complex is the web of a multi-dimensional matrix we call reality. There's the political dimension as well as the health, economic, cultural, psychological, historical, scientific, medical and social dimensions tangled and writhing like worms covering the bottom of fisherman’s bucket. We are trying to make sense of what we are witnessing. Too many worms to count; too many configurations to understand; too many holes in our knowledge. We are revealing ourselves each day we go to the information well to refill our bucket that what we draw from the torrid today is riddled with flaws, deceptions, wishful thinking, etc. But we want to drink from it anyway. Even though we know it might make us sick.
The emperor has no clothes. His nakedness is disturbing and frightening for most people who have unplugged from the collective dream. Waking up from our long sleep has only begun. We shouldn’t expect a this to happen uniformly and at the same time. Like the virus itself, we are being infected by a new inescapable reality that shatters the old illusions. We remain at the stage in the pandemic, where many of the sleepwalkers, dream makers, continue to clutch their invisible pearls. Many of the pearl clutchers are to be found in our political class. In fairness to the politicians, they must balance between the stark reality of our immediate future and the need to maintain morale. We have discovered the cost of officials who lack wisdom. We go to the scientists as the source of knowledge, wisdom and hope.
The realization is spreading that we are at war. Our special force troops are our doctors and nurses who staff our hospital system. In this war movie, we are all Private Ryan. They are trying to save as many of us as possible. But we aren’t making it easy for them.
Much of news reads like frontline battlefield dispatches as the latest casualty count is released. Politicians have to quickly adapt their thinking to the demands of his battlefield. They need to understand the thin line of defense the healthcare professionals provide is being breached in a number of countries. Our grandparents would remember the photographs of the landing at Normandy Beach.
Reaching into my daily bucket of news, a recurrent message is that many Americans haven't moved out of the denial stage. Trump’s approval of handling the crisis has increased. But these remain very early days into the pandemic. Already America has surrendered its global leadership role. The rest of the world understands American global leadership in this war has vanished. You will have read articles reporting how China is stepping into the leadership vacuum and playing an international role.
We are connected in a network of supplies, trade, and communication. It must be coordinated. Regions with countries with traditional grievances and historical hatred must be persuaded to cooperate. A retreat is the last thing that will work against an invisible virus. In war you can retreat to save your forces to fight another day. In this war, there is no place to retreat. The invisible enemy will follow you no matter how fast you run or where you try to shelter.
When scientists tell us to prepare ourselves because it will get much worse and support that opinion with a bar graph, it doesn't touch the emotional core of most people. It remains too abstract, distant, unreal.
I offer no solutions. I offer what most don’t wish to see: the hard reality of our situation. The unknown is much larger than the known when it comes to the virus. That means a large and growing space for uncertainty. So we try to fill that deep hole with opinions, stories, and projections based on information that is no more solid than a dream. We have to make a choice on how to deal with the fact that much we think we know now is either partially or totally wrong. That’s what the unknown means: we don’t have the facts, evidence or information that are stable. Any opinion or judgement now can’t be relied on. Each day there are changes, adjustments, new information. The bucket is emptied every day. And every day we act as if the new bucket is filled with actionable knowledge. We are Sisyphus. The bucket is our stone. The virus is our mountain.
To shift metaphors, we are pinned down on the beach fresh out of our landing crafts as barrage after barrage of hostile fire streams overhead. We have to move off that beach. But it won't be easy. That requires courage, leadership, and we need luck. Yes, luck. The randomness of the universe has never been so apparent. Eventually, we will do so. The key is locked in the word—eventually. As in all wars, timing matters. Find the enemies weakness and striking swiftly, accurately and decisively matters. We already sense that the final casualty count will be very high. What we are facing, as terrible and unimaginable as it is, will not rank as an extinction level event. The overwhelming number of humanity will survive. What will change is how that humanity of survivors organizes itself after the war is won.
Meanwhile, during these desperate times, keep reaching out to give as much comfort and support as you can to friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. Be kind. Be generous. Be forgiving. We must do what is ever needed to find a vaccine and maintain the morale needed to buy the time needed for our scientists to find a vaccine. What is to be avoided is the collapse of our will to move forward off that beach and to support everyone who is pinned down just like you and me.
Below is a dispatch from the battlefield in Thailand, where the Thai government has announced a number of restrictions that apply from 26th March. Here are some of the main restrictions.
· ‘Risky’ areas, including nightclubs and boxing stadiums, will be closed to the public indefinitely
· Indefinite closure of schools, universities and entertainment venues
· Prohibition of hoarding of food, supplies, water, medicine
· Prohibition against public assembly
· Prohibition for Media to publish false information
· Provincial governors vested with authority to control in their respective provinces
· Social isolation of persons over 70 years of age or with a history of illness as well as children under five years of age.
· Military on alert and ready to act if required.
· Inter-province travel is discouraged
If you want to know how the war is going, you can find the latest casualty statistics by using this useful tracker to follow the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads through every country. https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/03/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/