There’s also some element of coming of age during the Reagan administration, which everybody has painted as some glorious time in America, but I remember as being a very, very dark time. There was apocalypse in the air; the punk rock movement made sense. ~ John Cusak
Please stand by, this has been a test of the Global Apocalypse Response System, this has only been a test. How do you know it’s been a test, well if it wasn’t a test, I’m pretty damn sure you would not be reading this on the internet. There is an amazing book by Laurie Garrett, written in 1995 entitled, “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance.” In this book she basically predicts diseases like SARS, MERS and COVID 19 nearly 25 years before they appeared. Is she a witch, a psychic? No, just a rational, logical scientist who looked at the way we’re disturbing the environment, saw the emergence of diseases like HIV and Ebola and did some simple extrapolation. The title really tells you the story of the entire book, but it’s still worth a read.
But those diseases weren’t the apocalypse, COVID 19 has done a decent impression of the 1918 Flu, but of course we have much better medicine, treatments and hospitals than we did 100 years ago. And of course we have recently mastered CRSPR, which combined with a decade of work to develop vaccines for SARS and MERS allowed us to far more quickly develop a vaccine than ever before. You see the CRSPR technique allows for massively faster and easier gene manipulation, which is why we were able to so quickly develop mRNA vaccines for COVID 19. COVID 19 is a good virus, by that I mean it does the right things to survive, sure it kills some people, but mostly it doesn’t, and it doesn’t incapacitate them, sometimes it’s even asymptomatic. All of that means there’s a high likelihood that once it infects you, you’ll likely infect someone else, this after all is the core requirement for a virus’ existence.
So this wasn’t Captain Trips, if you’ve read Steven King’s, The Stand, you know what I’m talking about. This wasn’t that rare combination of an easy to spread, slow to fully develop illness with high mortality. That combination is the death knell of civilization as we know it, the kind of disease that could wipe out 95% of humanity. But the Apocalypse, and I’ll define that simply as events, fast or slow that result in a monumental impact on civilization as we know it, the Apocalypse does not have to be triggered by one thing.
Much like a stacked dominoes tipping into each other until all the dominoes have fallen, a disease could trigger lots of other issues, or be triggered by other issues such as Climate Change. We all live, mostly for reasons of necessary sanity, with the fantasy that this can never really happen. It really is just something in dystopian literature and films. We have even moved people who think about and prepare for the possibilities, “preppers/survivalists” to the margins of society and deem them to be nutjobs.
Part of the stress induced by the COVID pandemic was while it was a test, it was a good enough of a test to pierce through our illusion of the impossibility of the Apocalypse. We’ve gotten a really excellent view into how are fellow humans would react to the real thing. One thing that was absolutely proven to us, is that our fellow humans will NOT act rationally. How can I say that? Let’s start with the first thing that became a really hard to find commodity as a result of the pandemic, toilet paper. That’s right, people starting hoarding, of all things, toilet paper! Sure they moved on to some sensible things like hand sanitizer, but toilet paper was first. At various times, the hoarding hit Top Ramen style soups, then meat, then dried beans, canned foods and this was all in response to virus, that while it has killed 600,000+ people in America, that was out of roughly 35 million infections or about a 2% mortality rate.
We saw lock downs, silent streets and highways, people in some instances didn’t leave their homes for months in any significant way. The way we worked completely changed and continues to have implications. Our economy was heavily impacted and we are still seeing global supply chain issues that are leading to at least temporary inflation. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer and angrier, as did people disenfranchised in so many ways. And the world as a whole got nuttier. Political unrest globally is climbing, murder rates in the US are climbing and the political rift between right and left in America is now a chasm. So much so that one side of the debate has decided to abandon science and health recommendations in order to make it an issue for political gain.
And this was only a test, and the test isn’t over, the delta variant has shown us that. I know it’s scary as hell to think about things like the possibility of the world collapsing. But let’s not be stupid, a test is a good thing, as I always told my students when I was teaching. A test tells you where you are and what you need to get better at. So what did the COVID 19 test teach you?
I’m one of those nutjob preppers, to a degree. When COVID madness hit, I had toilet paper, medical supplies, I have a month’s supply of food, had latex gloves, masks, bleach, hand sanitizer all on hand. Not a year’s worth but enough to get by for a time until I could figure out how things would work during the pandemic. Now I realized I need to do a better job on a few fronts, things like having a longer supply of my medications on hand, I discovered I need to do a better job of rotating my emergency supplies, but all in all, I was pretty prepared.
What my preparations did for me was put me in a position of locking down without having to go without, or be terribly inconvenienced until I had time to assess what the new rules of the world were and that gave me piece of mind when a lot of other people were quite frankly freaking out. But we have the vaccines and for the overwhelming majority of us this all worked out ok. It gave us all some remember when stories we can tell friends when we gather in the coming years.
But don’t let what you learned in the test be a waste. It might not be a pandemic, but a wildfire, a collapsed building, an earthquake, political unrest. All of those things have happened in America in the last year and all of them could domino into something bigger that could force you to be on your own for weeks at a time. One of the things that is pretty common in dystopian literature, is that moment when a character realizes, the police, or national guard isn’t just going to show up with food, water and medicine. That’s the panic reality moment, I’m hoping the test has spurred you into putting yourself into a situation where that panic reality moment can come later than sooner.
This has been a test, a test of the Global Apocalypse Response System, this was only a test. The next time may not be.