Looking for the Corona Canary
By James Harrison 3/22/2020
The year was 1999 and we were most certainly looking at the end of America as we knew it. At least that was the fear. The clocks would fail to turn over to the year 2000 and planes would suddenly drop out of the sky, cars and appliances would stop working and the economy would tank.
During this time period I was working closely with computer professionals and noticed a curious anomaly. Not one programmer or analyst was the least bit worried about the dire predictions of doom and gloom. How could they not know? Not one of them was stocking up on supplies!
But they did know. What they were stocking up on was overtime and incredible job offers, many of them doubling their salaries due to the fear of what might happen. Fear always has winners and losers – amen?
And as we all know America survived what was a certain turn of the century holocaust. Jets did not fall out of the sky, our cars and lives traveled along as if nothing happened. Well actually, nothing did happen with the only damage having been caused by worry and fears and not computer digits.
Those that forget the past . . .
So what have we learned in the past two decades? Perhaps not as much as we should have as we are supposedly looking down the barrel of yet another end of the world scenario. This time it is a mysterious virus that “could” threaten all of mankind with a certain carnage. As with year 2K, fears abound, markets are plunging and good folks are once again stocking up on essentials. But do the numbers even add up to the hype?
If one were to do a search of the CDC website to compare today’s current Corona virus to say the ‘common” flu they would be in for a very disappointing revelation. The CDC site informs us that as of October of last year there have been between 22,000 and 55,000 deaths from the flu. That extreme variance (23,000) is likely due to the fact that the CDC is only capable of making a mathematical estimate because of the lack of hard data available.
In other words, there is very little objective data to base numbers on for the common flu and even less so for the new COVID-19 virus. So now what? How can we continue to say the sky is falling if we don’t have facts to back it up – or is that the idea in the first place?
Canary in the cage, coal miners’ warning system
Up until quite recently coal miners would use canaries to detect toxic gases. If the canaries died from gas poisoning it was time to leave the mine. In the case of the year 2 K scare the computer specialist were the canaries.
So are healthcare professionals today’s early warning system or should we be watching our politicians more carefully? How about Big Pharma with potential new vaccines? Who stands to be the winner and the loser today? A good friend suggested it might be those who are gainfully employed on Wall Street. Perhaps it is they, like the programmers of Y2K that are our best barometer. What are they saying and more importantly what are they doing? So who is your canary or wait, maybe we should be looking more for buzzards like George Soros?
“I’m from the Government and here to help you . . .”
As with the year 2K threat, the potential disasters which preceded it and those that followed, including today’s Coronavirus, there is one common denominator = fear and the subsequent concentration of power. Look at who it is we expect to lead the fight. It’s not the doctor’s, the educators, the church and alas not the family stewards. Once again we look to big brother – the very institution that has likely caused the problem in the first place. Look at the amount of money that our government has already poured into the process and the amount of control they have taken over with regard to “we the people.”
Yet there is something special about this latest fashioned threat and that is quite simply our supernatural panicked reaction to it. We have had the Bird Flu scare, E coli, Swine flu, BP oil spill, Ebola, Zika Virus, yet we have been led to believe this latest menace is somehow different. We know more about climate change, yet this Corona threat has attained fearful heights that environmentalists can only dream about.
Of Perception and Reality
What we focus on folks is what we end up dealing with which begs the question. Is it healthy for us to focus on a nebulous threat by spending untold billions of dollars that we don’t even have while stealing time, resources and energy from other critical issues? Is recency and “what if” our only valid criteria? We do not have unlimited resources regardless of how fruited our plains may appear.
Is our yet to be justified obsession and fear peddling not actually creating more of a problem than the Corona virus itself? Year 2000 is the closest we can come to what is happening today but just looking at the time and the amount of focus we are currently expending that turn of the century concern pales in comparison. We didn’t shut down the economy with Y2K and we certainly shouldn’t justify doing so now.
“Just the facts, ma’am”
Over the next several months most of America and the world will have been exposed to the Corona virus and we would do well to make sure that we do not look back and find that we have made “fear itself” the most damaging side-effect of this still undetermined threat. It could easily be that this virus has been around for months, maybe years and is just now being noticed. With that in mind we as Christians must have enough faith and wisdom to make sure that we do not kill the patient in a panicked effort to stop an unproven threat. Everybody is going to get or be exposed to this virus and our true test is how we react to that fact.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said that “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears”. Maybe it’s time to take some advice from Ole Marcus — Amen ?