Pandemic Reality Check #2

(For reading in Chinese, please scroll down to the end of the English text.)

(For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River.)

July 2020

From the 18th-Floor homestead

In a previous article, Pandemic Reality Check #1, I referred to a woman with a life-threatening medical condition (stage 4 cancer) which prompted her to carefully question what events were important enough to justify feeling stressed or angry at a time when she was facing imminent death. Not surprisingly, judged against that criterion, most things did not pass muster. Life can be much more peaceful if you refuse to respond to the many little irritations continually provoking us; they are, after all, little things.

For Pandemic Reality Check #2, I propose a different approach to answer the question: What is really different about today? The following excerpt is from one of my blog posts in March of 2019. That was a world quite unlike what we see out our windows today – or was it? Perceptions change, values change, but facts do not. Perhaps thoughtfully examining your small part of the pandemic-altered world will prompt you to review what you have selected as the most important things in your life, how you set your priorities, and how you spend your free time. For many people in developed countries, maybe our pre-pandemic life had become too comfortable, too complicated, and too superficial. Maybe it is time we got back to the basics. “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas…” (Bonus points awarded if you recognize that reference.)

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Another way to say “really” came from a podcast heard in pre-pandemic days.

We make jokes about the generation gap because every generation always insists that their experiences are different from the experiences of their parents. Each generation claims that their parents and grandparents cannot possibly understand them because their generation’s problems and challenges are unique to the current period. Most of the conflict, however, was about the same issues of independence and each generation’s chosen form of gateway experiences to adulthood. (The issues are unchanged; the way of expressing them changes with each generation. My parents freaked out when my brother came home with an earring. Good thing they didn’t know about the tattoo.) In other words, your great-grandmother and your grandmother had many of the same conversations as, years later, your grandfather and your father had in their day. And probably these are, essentially, the same conversations you may be having with your parents and grandparents currently, with you insisting that your generation’s situation is different, so they cannot understand you.

However, today, it really is true that “things are different now.” A recent TED Talk speaker from the California Academy of Sciences announced that in the last 50 years:

1) The human population has more than doubled.

2) Our use of food and water has more than tripled.

3) Our use of fossil fuels has more than quadrupled.

Hence, in a single lifetime, the world has changed more than in all of human history… combined. So, yes, when you have a generation gap conversation, you can now speak with assurance to your parents or grandparents. You have facts on your side when they tell them that “things are different now” because they really are different. Really.

Photo by shruti dadwal on Unsplash

(Back to July 2020)

Wow! I was somewhat prescient in writing that our current situation is indeed different from that of previous generations. Moreover, since those words were published, we have seen the rise of a whopper of a fourth factor:

4) The pandemic, accelerated by fast and convenient international travel, now threatens lives and economies on a scale never seen before. Throughout history, humans have experienced epidemics and, indeed, pandemics. Likewise, there were economic collapses and downturns affecting personal and national fortunes. However, like the news reports about events in those periods, those pandemics and economic disasters could only spread as fast as one community could transfer them to another community, i.e., as fast as a man or horse could walk or a ship could sail – literally, a wooden ship with sails. There was no world-wide panic because most of the world was blissfully unaware of the danger and, hence, did not feel threatened until it arrived in their locale. Today, we do not have the luxury of that ignorance. Even in locations where we are relatively safe – for the moment, anyway – the 24/7 onslaught of apocalyptic predictions and – almost as bad – of hard, factual news, makes it difficult to stay calm and optimistic.

Fortunately, one unprecedented weapon exists in this current battle. We have the massive database and world-wide resources of the linked medical and scientific communities to fight for us. They have thrown all their considerable knowledge, experience, and technological assets into the fray. In the future, we can reasonably expect more effective treatments for those who become ill from the virus, and a vaccine will become available to prevent ever developing the illness. Examples from history would include polio, tuberculosis, and smallpox. However, despite the media hype and wistful, best-case scenario thinking, do not expect these treatments to be developed, tested, and verified by accepted scientific methods overnight, then instantly produced and distributed on a scale that will protect all of the Earth’s 7.8 billion people. That will take time. How much time is unknown – but it won’t be overnight. Only then can we relax and breathe a sigh of relief.

I believe that this day must come. Throughout history, whenever large numbers of people have united to achieve a common goal, they found a way to reach that goal. (Think of polio, tuberculosis, and smallpox.) However, I don’t expect relief from the pandemic in the immediate future. This is Pandemic Reality Check #2.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the corollary to Pandemic Reality Check #2: Don’t believe in the fairy tales and outright deceptions that are being shoveled out to the unwary masses.

A) This pandemic will disappear as if by magic. We will hurl terms like “herd immunity” at it until, suddenly, it will be stopped as quickly as a forest fire by a heavy rainstorm. No human action will be required.

2) You can pray your way out of this mess. If you don’t want to trust in magic, try prayer. Makes you feel better, costs nothing, and takes your mind off the awful reality outside your doorstep. Takes the pressure off political leaders also.

3) Throw enough money at any problem and it will be solved overnight. This solution works for many human-based interactions but invisible microbes are not so cooperative. Some politicians figure that a bigger hammer (more pressure and more money) will always produce faster results. Using their reasoning: If it takes one pregnant woman nine long months to produce a baby, then nine pregnant women and unlimited amounts of money can produce a baby in only one month.

Once again, I will remind you that the Covid-19 pandemic is Nature’s IQ test. Fail this test and you’re dead. There is no substitute for clear thinking. Really.

What we see when we look out our window is a powerful influence on what we expect the rest of the world to be like… and the people in it. But, the converse is true also. We often see only what we expect to see… and disregard the rest. Change your expectations and you will change what you notice when you look out the window. Or, as Gordon MacQuarrie wrote, “Who can say how much of a man’s judgment depends on his own state of mind – and how much of his success?” Remember Pandemic Reality Check #2. Life can be simple and good but you have to open your eyes to see the real world. Really.

Photo by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash





对于 “大流行病现实检查 “第2号,我提出了一个不同的方法来回答这个问题。今天到底有什么不同?以下摘录自我在2019年3月的一篇博客文章。那是一个与我们今天在窗外看到的世界完全不同的世界–或者说是吗?观念在变,价值观在变,但事实不会变。也许仔细审视你在这个被流行病改变的世界中的一小部分,会促使你重新审视你所选择的生活中最重要的事情是什么,你如何设定你的优先事项,以及你如何度过你的空闲时间。对于许多发达国家的人来说,也许我们在大流行前的生活已经变得过于舒适、过于复杂、过于肤浅。也许现在是我们回归基本生活的时候了。”我们去德克萨斯州的勒肯巴赫吧…” (如果你认识到该参考资料,则可获得奖励分。)


“真的 “的另一种说法来自于在流行病前的日子里听到的一个播客。

我们拿代沟开玩笑,因为每一代人总是坚持认为他们的经历与父母的经历不同。每一代人都声称,他们的父母和祖父母不可能理解他们,因为他们这一代人的问题和挑战是当前时期特有的。然而,大部分的冲突都是关于相同的独立问题,以及每一代人所选择的通往成年的门户经验的形式。(这些问题没有变化,表达的方式随着每一代人的变化而变化。当我弟弟带着耳环回家时,我父母吓坏了。好在他们不知道纹身的事)。) 换句话说,你的曾祖母和你的祖母有许多相同的对话,就像多年以后,你的祖父和你的父亲在他们的时代一样。而可能这些,基本上就是你目前可能与你的父母和祖父母的对话,你坚持认为你们这一代人的情况不同,所以他们无法理解你。

然而,今天,真的是 “物是人非”。最近,一位来自加州科学院的TED演讲者宣布,在过去的50年里。




因此,在一个人的一生中,世界的变化比所有人类历史的总和还要多。所以,是的,当你进行代沟对话时,你现在可以放心地对你的父母或祖父母说。当他们告诉他们 “现在情况不一样了 “时,你有事实站在你这边,因为他们真的不一样了。真的不一样了。



哗! 我写道,我们目前的情况确实与前几代人不同,有点先见之明。而且,自从这些话发表后,我们看到了第四个因素的巨大崛起。




同时,不要忘记 “大流行病现实检查#2 “的必然结果:不要相信那些向不小心的群众兜售的童话故事和彻头彻尾的欺骗。

A) 这场大流行会像被施了魔法一样消失。我们会用 “群体免疫力 “这样的词来形容它,直到突然间,它就会像暴雨中的森林大火一样迅速被制止。不需要人类的行动。


3)向任何问题扔足够的钱,一夜之间就能解决。这个办法对很多基于人的互动都有效,但无形的微生物就不那么配合了。一些政治家认为,更大的锤子(更多的压力和更多的钱)总是会产生更快的结果。用他们的推理。如果一个孕妇需要9个月的时间才能生出一个孩子 那么9个孕妇和无限的金钱只需要一个月就能生出一个孩子。


我们从窗外看到的东西,对我们期望的世界其他地方是什么样的… 以及其中的人,有着强大的影响。但是,反之亦然。我们经常只看到我们期望看到的东西… 而忽略了其他的东西。改变你的期望,你就会改变你看向窗外的东西。或者,就像戈登-麦奎利写的那样,”谁能说一个人的判断有多少取决于他自己的心态–又有多少取决于他的成功?” 记住 “大流行现实检查 “第2条。生活可以很简单很美好,但你必须睁开眼睛看看真实的世界。真的不一样了。

One Reply to “Pandemic Reality Check #2”

  1. Are you a writer? And a sociologist.
    (From Randy)
    Correct on both. Since I retired from teaching, I am a writer. Many years ago, I graduated from university with a degree in sociology. I guess that forms the basis for many of my observations about modern society.

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