Two million registered cases of CV19 worldwide? Holy fcuk. So what’s the real number, five million? Ten million? But I’m in no mood for metrics today; instead, I’m asking just one question, and that is how will the post-plague world look? I ask because maybe for the first time in human history the answer is obvious: We don’t need a crystal ball or a quantum computer, we just have to look out the window.
The post-apocalyptic fiction and film genre has long imagined a correction of the human race by biological means. TS Elliott came close in 1925 (“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a wheeze.”) but really we’ve awaited the end-of-days since we began huddling in caves. A viral extinction-level event for humans is probably lurking in the bat > pig > human nexus, as contemplated in ‘Contagion‘ (2011). That film, btw, is as close as we get to a primer on how badly the US would cope with an R-nought closer to four. American hubris aside, the movie also contains my favourite filmic quote: “A blog is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.” Thanks to the other Elliott for that pearl. And how’s this for a sobering reality-check: Professor Ian Lipkin, the epidemiologist consulted by Soderbergh on ‘Contagion‘ has annouced he has the virus.
Some history: the classic swine influenza virus has existed in European herds since medieval times, and has been killing humans throughout history. The swine virus is related to the ‘flu pandemic of 1918 which killed at least 10% of the global human population. In the early ’80s the swine > human nexus morphed with the addition of a Eurasian avian virus, so the formula became bird+swine > human. We all remember what happened next. But while there are many ‘virus reservoirs’ in nature, it’s the bat+swine > human path the writers of ‘Contagion‘ picked for verisimilitude (ie SARS, MERS). What I’m not hearing, though clearly referenced in ‘Contagion‘, is how pandemics can last for years and often mutate into something worse. The first season of Spanish flu, for example, was mild: the second was a killer. So what’s CV19 got in store for us? My advice: Don’t abandon your stockpiles just yet.
I just gave away my first prediction — that we’re all preppers now. We’re not hoarding — just ask Rhonda Rousey — we’re just making sensible preparations for an uncertain future. The difficulty is the quantum: how does one calculate squares-per-day toilet paper usage? How many of us are converting backyards into chook sheds, or laying out vegetable patches, or relearning the lost art of bread-making, or stockpiling ammunition for the day when the hungry neighbours come knocking? All the preppers I’ve followed over the years on their monetised YouTube channels would now be quaking in their northern-woodland-camo Cabela’s, cursing the day they revealed to the world exactly how well-prepared they are, and consequently wondering if 5,000 rounds of 30-30 Win 160 gr FTX LEVERevolution is going to be enough.
5,000 rounds? Maybe, maybe not, because my second prediction is that there will be a massive spike in crime. If governments don’t re-open economies soon, all those unemployed people will fall upon desperate times. Governments will respond with a range of welfare initiatives, including a dramatic increase in LE funding and police powers. Every canny political aspirant from 2019 onwards will seek a law and order mandate, because scared folk (including preppers) will abandon their hard-won civil liberties when strangers start jumping their fence at night. The first liberty lost is always an individual’s freedom to associate. A hungry mob is a government’s greatest fear; instead, they want people going hungry alone at home, or in pairs in public at most. A group greater than two is a potential riot. Expect to see police clamping own on that, and hard. The second liberty lost will be individual privacy as governments cajole (then force) us to install tracking apps on our phones ‘to assist in combating community transmission of the virus‘ unquote. It’s already happening, so watch out (and remember to carry your papers).
My third prediction is a massive anti-Chinese backlash. Our leaders will push for political, economic and cultural sanctions that marginalise and isolate China from world affairs: the ‘yellow peril’ is back, an existential threat to Western civilization. Lock up your daughters (and real estate)! Except that China in 2020 quite frankly doesn’t give a damn about our daughters (except as fodder for their wet market civets and pangolins) albeit they do display a certain ferocity when it comes to acquiring new assets… Sinophobism is an easier stance for the rest of the caucasian world than it is for Australia, the most Chinese-infiltrated Western nation on Earth. How long before we see the Old Guard (resurrected as the New Guard) marching in the street? Takeaway stores getting firebombed at night. Asians getting spat-on and bashed in the street. Thank god the cops will be there to protect us!
My fourth prediction is that humans are clever, compassionate and kind. We don’t want our children (and grandchildren) inheriting a world of depravity and deprivation. I know that a vaccine is not guaranteed, but by god there’s some good work happening to find it. Human ingenuity gave us wings, put us on the moon, gave us contraception, and invented the www (okay, three out of four ain’t bad), so who’s to say what we can’t achieve? We’ve demonstrated the awfulness we’re capable of, but COVID-19 could, should and (I think) will showcase humanity at its most inspiring. Yes, there will be backward steps, sabre-rattling and regressive thinking by those who live and profit in moral vacuums, but (as Gov. Cuomo in New York has shown) it’s up to us to just say no.