March 12, 2020

"[W]hen Hurricane Irene devastated my state, Vermont, in 2011, people turned out within hours, bringing tools from backhoes to brooms."

"They mucked out basements and rebuilt driveways, and they kept coming back for weeks, until the job was done. They did it for strangers, mostly—although they didn’t remain strangers for long. But, with coronavirus, none of that is possible. There’s little way to be of use except to disappear inside your home, so that you can’t infect anyone. Indeed, even the places we gather for solace are increasingly off limits. Churches.... Schools....  sports...  We should use the quiet of these suddenly uncrowded days to think a little about how much we’ve allowed social isolation to grow in our society, even without illness as an excuse.... If we pay attention, we may value more fully the moment we’re released from our detention, and we may even make some changes in our lives as a result. It will be a relief, above all, when we’re allowed to get back to caring for one another, which is what socially evolved primates do best."

From "With the Coronavirus, Hell Is No Other People" by Bill McKibben (in The New Yorker).

There is the forced isolation of social distancing, and there is the isolation we choose for ourselves. During the forced isolation, we can reflect on the good and the bad of our chosen isolation. I don't agree with the implication that because we are "socially evolved primates," the meaning of life is to socialize. There is great value in solitude and in life within marriage and within a family. But this is a time to reflect on what really matters, and in addition to the trouble and pain, we may experience deeper benefits.

As we protect ourselves and others through this isolation, we should be thinking about how we can help. We can't help but going about ministering to others. And we need to help by doing what we can to avoid being among those who need medical care or cause anyone else to need medical care. Don't be part of the physical problem. But we can also help by using this time not to agonize and stir each other up but to preserve and refine our mind and our soul.

53 comments:

rhhardin said...

That's Christain Schuetz's Stencilled Speech for All Occasions.

here (scroll down to "here it is")

I found it long ago in Theodor Adorno's Jargon of Authenticity.

David Begley said...

Bill McKibben has made a living for years predicting the end of the world due to global warming. And he’s been wrong for years. He’s a radical and an alarmist.

I shun him and distance myself from his writing. He’s not credible. No one should listen to him. A total nut.

rhhardin said...

Meaning is retroactive and unexpected. You can't produce it on purpose.

Shouting Thomas said...

How “we” have allowed social isolation to grow?

What “we?” Obviously just made up BS. The New Yorker, one of the primary fabricators of the Russia Collusion hoax is not to be believed about anything.

I play classical and sacred music three to four hours a day. I gave up when I was a kid on thinking very many people would be interested in these things.

The negatives of social interaction come close to negating any potential positives. The workplace is a hive of shitty office politics. Women seem to find a way to romanticize this crap, but I’ve been retired and out of it for 8 years, and I don’t miss that shit a bit.

MadisonMan said...

Honestly. If my neighbors were sick with any illness, and couldn't get out, I'd go make sure they were okay and try to make them feel better. It's not hard to make homemade chicken soup, and very little is better for sickness.
What tedious writing.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

USA TODAY says US cases now top 1000. I really don’t see it doubling every day, do you?

rehajm said...

Just broke out of conference where we're making sure none of our people or their families are falling through the cracks. Most of the staff have already been reaching out* to friends and neighbors. On the TV in the background Andrew Ross Sorkin is freaking out because everyone isn't more upset and panicking. You rubes in flyover country have no idea what's coming to you is his attitude. Fuck you, Andrew...


*our verbiage to describe interaction isn't working at the moment, is it?

Ralph L said...

Althouse has infected me. I spent most of (geriatric possessive) my walk at the Y yesterday thinking about what the Y should be doing to protect us and how I should get them to do it.

rehajm said...

Vermonters had to rely on each other because federal government largely ignored them. DC and New York were spared the worst and The Weather Channel and the Obama administration were so grateful the crisis had passed....

stevew said...

I don't agree with the implication that because we are "socially evolved primates,"

Me neither, especially as applied with such a broad brush to all humans. As for caring and doing for others, particularly those less fortunate or poorly situated, that is an uncontroversial goal. Rather than telling us all what we should be doing (he's lecturing and scolding, isn't he?) McKibben should go pick up the metaphoric shovel and get going on helping others. One wonders if he was one of those wielding tools and brooms and operating a backhoe in VT in 2011.

tim in vermont said...

Never miss a chance to push lefty thought control politics.

On the other hand, this crisis does highlight weaknesses in capitalism, unfortunately, the 20th century has shown it’s the worst of all economic systems except all of the others.

Temujin said...

Gotta say, Andrew Ross Sorkin does look in full panic mode. He's saying the 'policy makers' (i.e. Trump) should be taking more direct action, like the NBA has. (huh?....travel ban with Europe not enough?). Really- at this point people have to take some action steps to stop the spread of this thing and bring it to a quicker end.

Yes, the market is going to tank further today and for the next couple of weeks. Things are going to grind down and come to a stop.

However, it does no good to panic. It does no good to worry about your 401K. Your worry does not bring it back. Time will. Things are out of everyone's control. I'm just hunkering down. Going to spend my day canceling the few trips I have coming up. Canceling appointments that have not already canceled me. And spending some good time for the next few weeks working on my next thing in life. And hanging out with my wife and crazy dog.

Things will mostly come back once we are through the worst of it. I think, sooner rather than later. And whatever happens, we'll deal with it because this is, as they say...life. Things happen that you did not plan for. It's all part of your life. Fucking work through it.

As for McKibben, he should take a time out and spend a few days alone. It would do us all some good.

Curious George said...

David Begley said...
Bill McKibben has made a living for years predicting the end of the world due to global warming. And he’s been wrong for years. He’s a radical and an alarmist.

I shun him and distance myself from his writing. He’s not credible. No one should listen to him. A total nut.

Where is that Begley rule when you need it.

Professional Lady said...

I'm going to my water aerobics class today. Then I'm going grocery shopping for me (no, I'm not going to buy up everything under the sun). Then, I have to go to my elderly Dad's house, pay the cleaning lady, do the grocery list and go shopping for him. Oh, on my way, I have to stop at the pharmacy and pick up his Rx. Then I go home and make dinner for myself and my husband. No doubt there will be a few phone calls/emails concerning my husband's elderly aunt in Delaware throughout the day. After dinner we go to 7 pm mass (it's a Lenten thing). Then, I go home and collapse. Good thing I've cut my hours of work. That's my socially isolated day.

virgil xenophon said...

So far comments have been pretty much on target. What utter, esoteric, standard bullshit..as ST, above, says: "we?" "We??" "WE???"

Typical present-day New Yorker drivel..

tim in vermont said...

For the first time since I retired, I am starting to think that when this is over, I may go back to work. I don’t see how spending my life playing golf and largely entertaining myself (I worked very hard to get here, BTW) is going to be acceptable to me when the rebuilding starts.

tim in vermont said...

"I really don’t see it doubling every day, do you?”

My friend’s a med tech. He says they have a patient in a local hospital who tests negative for every known virus. This was a couple days ago. They were just getting set up to do the testing for the Wuhan virus.

tim in vermont said...

I went to a spring training game yesterday with some friends. There was a man behind us who held forth on his life experiences to his friend in a booming voice. He was also coughing. I love baseball and I really enjoyed the game, but afterwards I couldn’t help feeling that it was stupid to go.

Sally327 said...

I myself am best when least in company.*

I don't see how anyone is isolated when we have the means to communicate via email, text, telephone. Being physically together in one place doesn't make us more connected. Nowadays in a public place so many people have their heads down staring into their phones or clicking away talking to somebody someplace else. I see it everywhere I go.

Twelfth Night,
Act 1, Scene 4

David Begley said...

Rehajm

AJS in full panic mode. Joe Kernan and Becky Quick try to balance him. AJS is making things worse.

Eleanor said...

The Amazon delivery guy usually just drops stuff on the porch and leaves, but yesterday he knocked on the door to see if I'm OK. For months he delivered stuff you'd need to take care of a sick person, and then those deliveries stopped. He wanted to let me know he'd noticed, and to say I should let him know if I needed anything Amazon doesn't deliver. I turned out to be a younger person than he expected to find, but it was sweet of him to think about the older people on his route. He's my age. I suspect living farther apart from our neighbors out in the boonies actually makes us closer to each other. All of the pushing us into living packed in closer and reliant on public transportation turns out to be just as bad for psyche as it is for communicable diseases.

Kevin said...

think a little about how much we’ve allowed social isolation to grow in our society

Allowed? The lack of a forced collaborative response to the virus is unsettling to those who think it fixes everything.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...
USA TODAY says US cases now top 1000. I really don’t see it doubling every day, do you?

Cases top 1000? That much we know.
By how much do they top 1000? That we do not know, because we are not testing enough to know.
And the serious estimates are not that it doubles every day. It is more like doubling every 6-10 days. Which is very serious.

Fernandistein said...

think a little about how much we’ve allowed social isolation to grow in our society

Well, how much? According to his anecdote, not much at all.

Karen of Texas said...

My 30 year old daughter posted this last night on her Fb page:

"This coronavirus thing has some people really freaked out. Personally I'm not too worried for myself or my kids getting sick however the thought of the economy coming to a grinding hault (like Italy) does make me feel anxious, like I should be doing SOMETHING. But then I realized I have been: I have chickens; I planted a garden last month; I use cloth diapers, wipes and napkins. I remember hearing stories about "victory gardens" during WWII when people were told to grow their own food so resources could be diverted to the war effort. Instead of panic-buying everything off the shelves, people were taking charge of their own circumstances (or at least that's how history remembers it). So I encourage anyone with the means to look at their own lives and figure out what you can do for yourself (and others) so that if things shut down, you have something sustainable to fall back on. I for one will not be buying any extra toilet paper (I happen to have enough for a couple weeks). I'm leaving it on the shelves for people who can't use cloth for whatever reason. If we run out before this settles down, I'll make the baby's cloth wipes work for all of us. And if anybody WANTS (or desperately needs) cloth wipes at some point in the near future, I am more than happy to make them for people out of old flannel sheets I have laying around. And if anybody wants a crash course in cloth diapering, I'm more than happy to help with that too(did you know you can use old t-shirts to diaper your kid?). So I guess in summary, I'm here if anyone needs help with anything related to chickens, gardening or using cloth P.s. also I can help with making sourdough, yogurt and water kefir soda"

I must have done something right.

Amadeus 48 said...

Good luck with that.

Althouse, you are right, but people are pretty far gone. As I think about myself, the mellow fellow has retreated and been replaced by the man less understanding of others. Living in Chicago, I have a lot of friends who are irrational in their Trump hatred. I still like them, but I have stopped listening to them. I only talk politics with friendly people--friendly to my point of view. I feel the same practice of avoidance surrounding me. I don't want to hear it. They don't want to hear it.

George W, Obama, and Trump didn't do this to us. We did it to ourselves.

Howard said...

Bill McGibbin is the Elizabeth Warren of AGW panic.

Althouse is where we come for Corona free socializing. Social media, texting, people are not completely isolated.

The focus now is to remain calm and do as many activities as possible to optimize your physical and mental health.

You people are an endless supply of material so I appreciate that thank you very much

Char Char Binks said...

"USA TODAY says US cases now top 1000. I really don’t see it doubling every day, do you?"

But it's the best way to defeat Trump. The second best way is to keep the panic alive, tanking the stock market and driving the economy into recession.

MayBee said...

But also....what are these 1000 cases like? Are they like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, where you just feel sick but not a big deal sick? Or like the Utah Jazz player who tested positive even though he felt well enough to play last night? Or like, need a respirator?

Tom T. said...

Notice what McKibben is inadvertently pointing out. Hurricane devastates state. Private relief steps up, in the apparent absence of FEMA. Media ignores it all, because it's 2011.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We should use the quiet of these suddenly uncrowded days to think a little about how much we’ve allowed social isolation to grow in our society, even without illness as an excuse....

We can also reflect on how UN-isolated and connected we can be while physically hunkered down in our homes trying to avoid illness. What was impossible 25 or 35 years ago and is possible now, through the magic of the internet. And just using an old fashioned telephone.

Like Howard and others have just said. Social media, texting, people are not completely isolated.

Tom T. said...

By the way, where was Vermont's socialist senator when all of this private effort was being organized?

Inga said...

“I must have done something right.”

You did! She sounds like a lovely leveled headed young woman.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

“But also....what are these 1000 cases like?”

I’ve wondered the same thing. I agree with the social distancing measures as a prophylactic yet at the same time, when I look around, I see less real impact than a snowy day.
I live in Washington State. When I talk to people in other western states, it becomes clear that their media is portraying Washington as Plague Central. The other day, a colleague in Idaho said we’re “in the eye of the storm”. It’s the calmest storm I’ve ever seen.

Phidippus said...

What a relief, after reading the previous post, to know that The New Yorker is still as pompously pseudo-intellectual as ever.

Lemme help you here, Bill McKibben: The difference between a contagious virus and a hurricane is that a hurricane is a one-off event that has no persistence in time and no significant effect on those who aren't hit with it. Not to mention it isn't contagious. A virus on the other hand is a tiny, invisible package of genetic material that hijacks the replication machinery of certain species to make copies of itself. The whole point of it is to affect as many hosts as possible and to persist in time indefinitely, or until the host organisms figure out how to deactivate it. Then, those virus variants that escape the deactivation technique start the process again. Epidemics wax and wane, but viruses as a class never go away, and can be depended upon to break out and hit the big time at some point in the future.

Does that help you to understand why people handle these things differently?

Inga said...

“But also....what are these 1000 cases like? Are they like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, where you just feel sick but not a big deal sick? Or like the Utah Jazz player who tested positive even though he felt well enough to play last night? Or like, need a respirator?“

Coronavirus survivor reveals what it was like.

AllenS said...

"... people turned out within hours, bringing tools from backhoes to brooms. They mucked out basements..."

That's what happens in the countryside. The only clean up that is done in the cities are the looters cleaning up.

Sebastian said...

"There is the forced isolation of social distancing, and there is the isolation we choose for ourselves"

I agree with the thrust of the post, but this leaves out a third path: the isolation by force of accumulated circumstance, not quite chosen, not quite forced, but quite real nonetheless, to a fair portion of the populace.

vermonter said...

Bill's just sad that he can't fly around the world in private jets to climate change conferences.

Chris N said...

At Peace Pavilion West, although we’ve canceled Earthsong and ploughing duties, the Leader still asks of History’s Children that we minister to the sick. Visit each and every ecopodment, and bringeth bug paste and empathy and Readeth UN resolutions aloud.

You should have seen Starchild’s eyes shine with Gaia as we brought the Kool Aid to her lips.

Oh Green Glory of Vermont, red rose of the North, make our Community whole again!

Barry Dauphin said...

Although the official stats say we have 1323 cases as of now, we won't know how many cases until we're able to do more testing.

Lance said...

We can't help but going about ministering to others.

If it gets as bad as it did in Hubei province, we will need to minister to each other.

Roughcoat said...

Amadeus 48 @8:03 AM:

My sentiments exactly. EXACTLY.

In two weeks we're leaving Chicagoland, moving to northwest Indiana where we will be living among people who are mainly share my views. Will still be commuting to work in Chicago, but only because I have to. I don't talk politics anymore with anyone, even those who share my views. This has cause what I take to be permanent rifts in lifelong friendships. Old friends demanding, DEMANDING, with much anger, to know why I am a conservative and why I support Trump. I'm not interested in having those conversations and, as a result, I'm not interested in those old friends anymore.

Known Unknown said...

This is where you go for perspective.

Known Unknown said...

If it gets as bad as it did in Hubei province, we will need to minister to each other.

We are a much better-prepared and healthier society overall than in mainland China. We have much better safeguards in place to limit the intensity of the disease. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and probably not the best healthcare system. I only worry about my parents, who are both in their 70s. My dad has diabetes. Neither are immunocompromised, though.

Social distancing will help to flatten that curve. Only 18 new cases reported in China yesterday after 6-7 weeks.

Karen of Texas said...

"You did! She sounds like a lovely leveled headed young woman."

Thank you, Inga.

Leslie Graves said...

I love your last paragraph.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

On the TV in the background Andrew Ross Sorkin is freaking out because everyone isn't more upset and panicking. You rubes in flyover country have no idea what's coming to you is his attitude.

He's the one in for a surprise. I just got back a couple of days ago from small town Western NC (moving my 91 year old mother) and I can tell you that they'll fare much better than the denizens of NYC, LA, SF, Seattle, etc. Flyover types have built in social distance and no piles of shit on the streets to deal with.

Anthony said...

I haven't done anything different thus far, except those things that have been forced upon me, like dumping my own espresso shots into my chocolate milk at Starbucks. Well, and I haven't tried to buy toilet paper yet.

Oh, and WTFF is it with toilet paper hoarding??????

I didn't really think I would see a true case of mass hysteria in my lifetime -- although the Satanic daycare crap in the 1980s came close -- but here we are. Kind of a worse-than-normal influenza. People freak.

I think I shall start calling it the Dumbf****a virus.

walter said...

We also have no idea how many cases resolved prior to testing.
It's good for Bill to make some hay on this since it resonates as a real problem vs his usual hobby horse.

n.n said...

Social proximity, and physical distancing, if and when necessary. The CDC advises to avoid social distancing to mitigate the progress of diversity (i.e. color judgments) and exclusion. They are victims of the incongruities spread by semantic games that have been played for leverage and profit.

Lance said...

Only 18 new cases reported in China yesterday after 6-7 weeks.

China shut down entire cities in order to lower the R0 enough to stop the exponential growth. And yet they're still getting new cases.

While I agree that most of the U.S. is better prepared than China, that won't stop this particular virus from spreading. The issue is preventing the exponential growth that overwhelms the medical system. The U.S. system doesn't scale well. Thus my earlier comment about the potential need to minister to each other.

gpm said...

>>Roughcoat: In two weeks we're leaving Chicagoland, moving to northwest Indiana

Some (maybe a lot) of background. I think I originally believed you were a bit older than me (and yes, I said "me," not "I"), if not as old as Dr. Mike, but I now believe we're pretty much the same age. Make of it what you will, but I've been living in Boston (after seven years in, well, Cambridge) for more than forty years. But I grew up in West Englewood. We lived two blocks from 71st and Ashland (as you probably know, Ashland was ground zero at the time), where MLK's open housing marches to Marquette Park started. Now there are well over a hundred of us (meaning descendants of my parents and their mostly spouses but also including some partners), with at least two-thirds still in Chicago. Or, rather, the Chicago suburbs; for better or worse, I'm the last one who's still basically a city kid, even though all of my siblings started out as such (my youngest sister lives in Norridge, which almost counts as being in the city, but not quite the same thing).

Getting to the point, I had an interesting conversation with my brother-in-law (one of many), my nephew (one of many), and said nephew's two teenage sons at my sister's house in Orland Park (where we've been doing Christmas since my parents finally fled to a depressing trailer park at 79th and the Tollway in Justice in 1973). Teenagers were a nullity beyond the fact that they apparently had no particular attachment to the area. BIL and nephew really wanted out because of the taxes, etc., but recognized that there was no way anyone could dynamite out my four surviving sisters there (oldest died recently and one has been in LA forever), not to mention several of my nieces (the women have pretty much always controlled the money and called the shots in the family). But they were eying the move to NW Indiana for reasons similar to yours.

I have a great sentimental attachment to the city, still know my way around far better than I do in Boston (after spending high school years riding all around the city on the el at all times of the day and night), and still find it far more interesting. Come in for Christmas every year and have been staying at a hotel in Greektown for the non-family time for the last decade. Will be coming in and staying there for my 50th reunion at St. Ignatius in a year or so. Despite the debacles on the South and West Sides, the rest of the city is still magnificent, but the state is royally f*d, both financially and in terms of governance.

--gpm

--gpm