The Politics of Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

I know exactly how long I’ve been in lockdown, but what I don’t know is how long I’m gonna have to remain cooped up. 

It is weird, this faux normal. This kind of societal disruption is generally associated with tanks in the streets, burned out houses, and people running down roads while screaming and tearing out their hair. At the very least, you’d think, every one should be carrying some sort of weapon to use against marauders and zombies.

Instead, the people on my street are quiet and thoughtful. At 7:30 pm every evening, some of them open their doors and bang on pots and pans to signal their appreciation for those who are working in the stores, in transportation, and in hospitals, so that they themselves can stay at home, watch Netflix, and complain about how governments are handling an unprecedented, unique, multi-pronged attack on everything we once thought we knew and understood.

I’m guessing those workers would better appreciate a raise. Funny how those exposing themselves to danger every day, who are called ‘essential workers’ still have to beg for decent pay, or even a minimum wage with which they could pay their bills.  

Speaking of zombie apocalypses (apocalypti?) don’t those preppers seem unhappy these days? All those years of preparing for a civil war, a nuclear attack, or the aforementioned zombies, and all they get is this slow motion, invisible enemy.

Wrapping your head around our faux normal is tough, because the time line for personal harm is just too long for most of us to conceptualize. Our DNA and responses are wired to fight or flight events. We’re expecting to fight off immediate threats, things that come at us in a matter of minutes or days. Things we can punch, stab with a knife, or shoot with a gun. 

But that’s not how this particular threat operates.  It’s more like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, those things that stop you in slow motion, years after you’ve enjoyed the ingestible that would, in time, do the mortal damage.   

If I venture to the grocery store, and Covid Cathy has had her hands all over the items I want to buy, I’m not gonna know about it until days later. Maybe I’ll have a serious bout of COVID, or maybe I’ll just feel rotten for weeks. But I won’t know where or how I got the bug. That makes it hard for most of us to wrap our heads around continuing to stay at home, particularly as the warm weather nears.

Bill Maher had an interesting fellow on his RealTime show this week, a Dr. David Katz, who is a preventive medicine and public health specialist. Dr Katz lamented that this crisis was being mishandled by many governments, and said that things would be improved were there grown-ups in charge. He explained that our immune systems are revved up by a healthy lifestyle, and that we’d all be in better shape if there were daily breaks advising the nation on how to keep fit and healthy, instead of the dog’s breakfast of a briefing/Nuremburg rally we now ‘enjoy’ every day at dinner time.

 Sadly, our appetizer nightly is the senile musings of a POTUS who really needs to get more rest – specifically in the time period when specialists, scientists, and actual doctors are advising the American people on how to stay safe during COVID 19.

Exhibit A:  President Trump offered his idea for a cure in the White House briefing room Thursday after a presentation that mentioned disinfectants can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air. 

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” (Washington Post)

Now, before you say that nobody … but NO BODY … could be stupid enough to act upon the president’s dangerous, and potentially fatal advice, I present

Exhibit B: “In Maryland, the Emergency Management Agency received over 100 calls inquiring about the president’s suggestion, forcing the service to issue an alert to remind citizens that “under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.” Washington State’s Emergency Management Division similarly issued a public statement to remind people to not “drink bleach” or “inject disinfectant.” 

More concerning, though, is the number of people who actually went ahead with the suggestion. In New York City, the Daily News reported that the Poison Control Center saw 30 cases of “exposure to Lysol, bleach and other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion” that cleaning products might be used to treat coronavirus. NYC Poison Control saw only 13 such cases in a similar period last year.”

In truth, 330 million Americans look to their POTUS for advice, and many of those good citizens, bless their hearts, are not very bright.  

Exhibit C: Cipolla’s five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

(For more on this subject, I recommend https://advanced.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Basic-Laws-of-Human-Stupidity.pdf )

Desperate times strip away society’s veneer, and expose the truth. Our private faces may be hidden by n95 masks, but the lack of sanity, reason, or common sense in many countries will be on display, and revealed in technicolour in the annals of history. Assuming we have one.

……………………………….

Shawn O’Shea is a talented musician, entertainer and songwriter, and is the alter ego of lead vocalist Macky of the heymacs. In the nearly 40 years that I’ve known him, he’s never been one to be kept down by circumstances beyond his control – like a global pandemic. On April 20th he woke with the structure, chords, and most of the lyrics to a song dancing in his mind, and within days, he had recorded the tune, and added my dulcet tones to the duet. 

Last week I put out a call on Facebook, asking that anyone who was interested in being involved in the recording send me a photo of themselves, holding a photo of someone or something they miss, or a photo of themselves with someone they love and are looking forward to seeing ‘when this is over.

I’m happy to say that the photos sent were awesome. And now, for your listening and dancing pleasure .. may I present the debut of this timely tune ….

When This is Over – is dedicated to all of our friends and to future days. These photos represent all of the people, places and events we are missing during these days of COVID 19. Special thanks go to Brenda Meecham Armstrong, Michael Bar, Pat Blythe, Bianca Brynda, Arlo Burgon, Paul Christopher Caldeira, Louise Boucher-Chartier, Lauren Davis, Sheila Douglas, Amanda Flaherty, Lynda Francis, Craig Hastings, Sharon Kaczmarczyk, Peter Kashur, Linda Kennedy, Barbette Kensington, Gina Letros, James McBay, Annalee Orr, Honey Novick, Elke Ramstead, Hap Roderman, Tara Scott, Scott Sutherland, Greg Simpson, Sylvia Surk, Phyllis Taylor, Sheila Horne-Teixeira, Louise Tokar, Teresa Verity and Headly Westerfield

Apocalypse Now?


Apocalypse Now?

So, apparently we’re on the verge of another mass extinction – the last one killed off the dinosaurs. We’ve exploited the planet through hunting, fishing, and the degrading of wild habitats, and the planet is fighting back. Couldn’t happen to a nicer species, judging by our behaviour of late. I thought the advent of ‘promposals’ would have pushed us over the edge.

On the plus side, we may have until about the year 2200, the end is nearso put away the ‘end is near’ signs for now. On the negative side, there are a whole lot of people who not only think we’re living in end times, but who are actively praying to be in the first wave hitting Heaven.

Baby Boomers grew up with apocryphal thinking. We cowered under our little school desks during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and sang along to Barry Maguire’s depressing dirge.

(Fun fact: The Turtles recorded “Eve of Destruction” on their first album in 1965, but wisely did not release it as a single until 1970. The writer, P.F. Sloan, felt the song was essentially channeled to him in one long song writing session in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn. He claimed he heard an “inner voice that is inside of each and every one of us but is drowned out by the roar of our minds! “)

The Spokesmen, a folk group that were actually John Madara and David White, a Philadelphia song writing team whose hits include “At The Hop” and “You Don’t Own Me,” recorded an answer song called “The Dawn Of Correction” that made it all the way to #36 on Billboard. “When we wrote the song, we were never for the war, we were just for America, and we felt that ‘The Eve of Destruction’ was a slap against America. Because of the anti-war sentiment, ‘The Dawn of Correction’ was obviously taken the wrong way.”

And of course, “In the Year 2525” predicted the human race’s eventual demise in 9595, but I can’t even listen to the song long enough to get you the url … it was that bad. Save yourself! Don’t Google “Zager and Evans ‘In The Year 2525!”

Certainly there’s no shortage of music available that warns of, or pleads for, mass destruction. Everyone from Johnny Cash to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and from The Strokes to Nine Inch Nails are included for your listening pleasure in this playlist for your Final Days.

No shortage of literature, either. Heck, the Bible told us to start packing for the afterlife centuries ago! And I’ll bet there were cavemen who etched cautionary tales into the walls even before that. But why? Why do we alternately fear and embrace an end to our lives and world?

Some say that our tendency to romanticize a post-apocalyptic world is a response to today’s uncertainties, threats of terroriszombiesm, war, fiscal cliffs and climate change. We secretly believe that we will be one of the few ‘left behind,’ post disaster, in a world cleansed of the Bad Guys. Children, especially, think that life would be much simpler if all they had to deal with were well-known and predictable boogie men like Zombies.

Some mentally cast themselves as the heroes of a new world they can leave their own mark upon, imagining that they can thrive and get back to nature, oblivious to the very real hardships of a life without antibiotics and electricity, amidst crumbling infrastructure. These are the preppers, who build bunkers and compulsively store food and water. Their response to fear is goal oriented. Simple tasks are therapy.

Others are survivors of traumatic experiences, fatalists happiest when amongst other fatalists. It’s not suicidetimeenough if the world kills you first. An apocalypse is just another event in a life of negativity, and if doom can be ascribed to some larger, external event – a rogue comet, an ancient prophecy – well then, whatever happens is certainly not going to be blamed on them.

fear-allure“Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable.” And fear is something so primal, it’s etched into our DNA. “Over evolutionary history, organisms with a better-safe-than-sorry approach survive. This mechanism has had consequences for both the body and brain, where the fast-acting amygdala can activate a fearful stress response before “higher” cortical areas have a chance to assess the situation and respond more rationally.” (Shmuel Lissek, neuroscientist)

A scarier group, and one with an even more frightening ability to move the planet closer to oblivion, are the religion based groups who are anticipating a glorious afterlife with their chosen deity. No, not just Muslims in the Middle East – you can count mescalator to heavenany politicians in both Canada and the United States as being amongst those who are salivating at the prospect of a stairway to heaven.

Or better still, an escalator.

One third of Americans believe that the conflict in Syria is a sign predicted in the Bible that the end is nigh. Rep Michele Bachman , who has often hinted that she believes President Obama is the Anti-Christ, claims that the rapture is coming, thanks to President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran’s nuclear program and marriage equality.

“We in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church,” Bachmann said. “We see the destruction, but this was a destruction that was foretold. Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hanHalloweenTwilightZoned.”

Three out of four evangelicals believe Christ will return soon. They believe they’re seeing the end of the world because that’s what they want to see. They pooh pooh the idea of dealing with hellfire and brimstone, because they figure they won’t be around. They’ve ticked the “Rapture” option, which says that true believers get first dibs on heaven, while the sinners deal with the mess they’ve left behind.

left behind(Fun fact: The Rapture is not in the Bible. It was invented in the 19th century by John Nelson Darby, an Irish evangelist, and then made popular by a preacher named William Eugene Blackstone in his 1908 book, Jesus is Coming, which sold more than a million copies. It’s a pop construct. An “escapist fantasy” that neatly avoids killing off the ‘good’ Christians.)

Whatever their religion, religious fanatics want to see non-believers punished, even if it means destroying the planet, as long as they themselves are finally instated as the rightful rulers of all mankind.They are so eager for that day to come that preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame every current disaster upon those they conceive of as sinners; feminists, gays, pagans, and every other religion that isn’t their own.

What they’re really drooling over are apocalyptic revenge fantasies.

Although Canadians are pretty tolerant, we have Evangelicals in Canada as well, and one of them is our Prime Minister. In Marci McDonald’s 2010 book, The Armageddon Factor, she warned about the “theo-cons” (Stephen Harper’s word), who view “science and environmentalism as hostile to the Bible.”

armageddon factor“Regarding the church that Harper has belonged to for nearly three decades — the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church — McDonald noted that its “adherents believe that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ and the Second Coming is ‘imminent’.”

That would place Harper’s church squarely in the Evangelical tradition called dominionism, those who believe in the so-called “dominion mandate” spelled out in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.”

Many (although not all) dominionists take that passage as a divine trump card against any thoughts about environmental protection or regulation.”

This is an interesting read, though not really the sort of book you want to take to the beach with you on a sunny day. It’s the sort of book that makes you think, whether you believe the work or not.

We are fascinated by tales of an apocalypse, especially if said apocalypse finds us alive and having wonderful adventures in a new world of our own shaping. But what those stories should be teaching us is what we can do to stop moving towards an end caused by human interference, and how to make the necessary changes in our lives in order to avoid leaving our children and grandchildren a barren world, ripe for annihilation.

(originally published June 21/2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)