Mad Max got the mask part right, but when does it become okay to start wearing the leather thong and studded collar in public?
How’s the Thunderdome Treating You?
I was wrong, we’re not post apocalypse yet. We’re still in it.
Just kidding about the thong and collar, of course. I wouldn’t wish that sight on the world. Besides, I personally find thongs of all types fit squarely in the cruel and unusual quarter of instruments of torture.
It’s just that I jokingly started this year with a Facebook post that said:
To everyone thinking the world is going to reset at midnight tonight and that 2121 will see a return to normal.
Coronavirus was an apocalyptic event in the sense that it ended life as we knew it. Now we have early vaccines, but we’re by no means free of the virus.
And even after this one is gone, we are faced with a world where pandemics are increasingly common and the effective response to one threat may not be effective against the next.
So, no, things won’t go back to normal.
We are entering the post-apocalyptic world. Welcome to the Thunderdome.
Here we are, almost half way through the year, and although vaccines are rolling out, lockdowns, restrictions, and precautions remain a major feature of everyday life.
Today, I saw yet another post talking about the “Next Normal” and how future historians may well look back at this century and talk about “pre COVID-19" and “Post COVID-19” the way we look back at the twentieth century and talk about pre World War and post World War periods.
What this post appeared to miss was the actual World Wars period, the political turmoil that broiled from 1914 to 1945. The War years and interwar years. The first world war, which cost an estimated 17 million lives worldwide, and the second, which killed an estimated further 60 million. (See https://www.diffen.com/difference/World_War_I_vs_World_War_II for stats and comparisons.)
The point here is if you also take death tolls of the wars in the interwar years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars:_1900%E2%80%931944#1920%E2%80%931929) into account, it would be foolish to bet against the overall death toll coming in under 100 million.
We are currently in that “War Years” equivalent.
We’re not post anything yet.
We haven't vanquished COVID-19, and the fast-approaching 4 million deaths worldwide could easily end up looking like WW1 compared to WW2 when the next pandemic hits. One that our social distancing and other COVID-19 measures are ineffective against.
Pandemics used to occur approximately once a century. We’ve had six in the last 20 years. ISARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza, swine flu and COVID-19. Modern living with its international travel, urbanisation, and booming population, has created conditions that make it easier for pathogens to jump the species barrier from various animals to begin infecting humans.
None of which is in any way intended to diminish the medical and scientific communities’ efforts to identify the virus and synthesise a vaccine so quickly. Or the pandemologists focused on predicting and identifying potential pandemics before they occur and responding to them quickly. Only to warn against complacency.
Don’t let it end in faint applause
I have a quote running through my head I can’t find any evidence of online using the usual search engines.
“The world won’t end in fire and brimstone, it will end in faint applause.”
I can’t for the life of me remember if this is a song lyric, a Douglas Adams line from one of the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy books, or something seen on a comic strip type poster. It may not be an accurate quote, it’s simply the way I remember it. So if anyone can clear that up so I can credit the quote, that would be great.
In any case, the quote reminds me of the applause we saw for health workers in the early stages of the pandemic. Coincidentally, the mood in Britain at the time was likened to the coming together during the war years to get things done.
This espirit de corps lasted a couple of months, and the clapping campaigns were denounced as empty gestures with budget cuts undermining healthcare workers on the font lines — another wartime analogy for the historians.
But we are human. It’s all too easy to let lockdown fatigue lower our guard. We can only go so long without genuine physical and social contact before the mental health issues outweigh our individual risk of infection. In those moments, it’s hard to put the herd first and maintain social distance protocols.
It’s also easy, during the summer months with vaccines being rolled out to assume this is the last wave, and next winter all will be well and we won’t need to lock down again. Which we may well not, if we reach herd immunity with a combination of natural antibodies and vaccinations. If the vaccines remain effective against the new strains of the virus as they have done so far. If we maintain social distancing and hygiene measures while we are free to roam.
If, if, if.
We’re in it for the long haul
With luck, we’re closer to the end of this pandemic than the beginning. With luck there won’t be a third winter wave or national lockdowns. With luck, we won't have another pandemic knock us for six before we’ve fully got a grip on this one.
But until we as a worldwide community get to grips with the aspects of modern life that make pandemics likely, we’re going to suffer through more of them. And that may take a generation growing up with social distancing and online schooling, and all kinds of restrictions and precautions we haven't yet even dreamed of.
This is, after all, life in the Thunderdome.
Or we might all be “back to normal” by 2025.
What do you think?