Unless you've been living under a rock for the past month, you have heard about the Coronavirus. It seems to be the latest trend to overreact to everything and this is no exception. My intention in this article is to give what I hope will be a shot of sanity to restart rationality and hopefully stave off your fear of impending doom propagated by the media who would like nothing more than for you to run around thinking your hair is on fire when alas, you are bald and there is no fire anywhere near you. Can you tell I don't trust the media much? So here we go.
The Opportunity Of Panic
Panic, especially widespread societal panic, has it's purposes. People rarely think rationally when they are in a state of panic. Rationality and sanity seem to be in short supply these days, in large part because we react all too predictably and obediently to whatever media outlet or agenda serves to benefit the most from our panic and thus perpetuates it. That suits them just fine. They don't want rational thinkers. They don't want sane actions. They want chaos and fear because it gives them power, and the general public tends to play into their hands as marionettes on strings, with their overlords pulling them in whatever direction they desire. We have proven all too often that we are more than willing to be led from one manufactured crisis to the next and are all too quick to forget the last end of the world crisis in favor of the newest one being placed on our plate and spoon fed to us, which we are all too happy to consume.
This creates opportunity. Panic and fear create opportunity, but never for the betterment of society of furthering of American principles. Remember how willing we were to let the government have unfettered access to private information and how joyfully we endorsed the surveillance and espionage of American citizens, all in the name of security. Fear did that. Fear creates opportunity. It sells newspapers, garners viewers, generates likes and makes people all too willing to listen to the last people they should ever listen to. At the same time, these nefarious and irresponsible entities that instigate this fear, silence and demonize rationality. Those who should actually have a voice and to whom we should actually listen are drowned out by the chaos of the mob crying out in panic and fear "what should we think and do". This is opportunity. Not for public service and the good of society, but for selfish ambitions, personal or political gains, and a host of other less-than-noble motives. Some people just want to watch the world burn.
A Parable Of Contemporary Society
What if you turned in the news and were told that there was a wolf in your neighborhood? It would eat you if you came outside and if you opened your door, it would overtake you and eat your family. Under no circumstances should you go to the door and open it. Oh, and by the way, it's really strong and very motivated to get inside so you probably need to reinforce your windows, and then lock you and your family in an interior room. You happily comply because, well, an authoritative source in your life told you. They must be telling the truth. Not only that, but you also call all of your neighbors and tell them that there are ravenous wolves running around the neighborhood and they need to take the same actions as you. As this spreads the whole town begins to respond in kind. Stores close down because no one would dare risk being eaten by a wolf to go to work.
Other networks pick up the story and inform people in other towns that wolf packs have a range of 50-1000 miles so the same precautions are advised for every town within 1000 miles in every direction of the epicenter of this crisis. You call the local government and rip them for continuing to host the scheduled softball tournament this weekend and scold them for their lack of concern for the safety of people. They respond initially by saying they are looking into the situation but after endless calls, they cancel the tournament and give official directives to the community to stay indoors until this crisis has been mitigated. This makes you feel safe and secure and continues until some brave and intrepid soul has the courage to look out their window and sees that this wolf that has shut everything down and caused so much terror is, in fact, an angry poodle. This person calls you and tells you actual facts, but in your terror, you have no ears to hear. The media and the government have told you there is a wolf that will kill you and your sense of self-preservation as well as the panic and fear that have been instilled in you as you have read blogs (like this one) about the dangers of wolves, how wolves kill people, etc... has ruled out any kind of notion that the person calling you with information might be right. What is that? Is that rational? Is it in any way a sane response?
Yet, because of the widespread and irrational panic that has been produced, one feels the need to jump on the panic bandwagon. After all everyone else is. We don't want to be the odd man out. We don't want to seem indifferent to something that is clearly serious because after all, everyone else is losing their minds over it. Why shouldn't we?
So, as a less prominent and likely to be minimized (hopefully) rational thinker, I went to some actual experts (not the media or politicians which are experts in nothing but stirring controversy for their own selfish purposes) to get real quantifiable facts in the service to my fellow rational thinkers. However few you may be. As John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things".
1) From the Harvard Medical Journal (dated Feb 27th): "The original information from China likely overestimated the risk of death from the virus. Right now it appears that the risk of very serious illness and death is less than it was for SARS and MERS. In terms of total deaths in the United States, influenza overwhelmingly causes more deaths today than COVID-19."
2) Those who are high risk are older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes). Source: CDC
3) Basic hand washing and hygiene are good ways to protect from Coronavirus. Source: CDC
4) For those in the US, the flu is much more threatening than Coronavirus. Source: Harvard Health Publishing
5) Children are at low risk to have serious symptoms. Source: Harvard Health Publishing
Don't Mistake A Poodle For A Wolf
Here is the point. I'm going to go on record and say that will blow over with minimal fallout just like every other public crisis has over the last 10 years. That's what the evidence points to. Remember Swine Flu? Bird Flu? Ebola? SARS? West Nile Virus? Maybe we need to be cured of our short term memory problem and learn from our past. My guess is the mass hysteria in our country has more to do with political advantage and mudslinging than any real threat to the public.
Here is the other point, and one we should all take to heart. We are way too trusting and lack a significant amount of discernment as a society. We seem way too inclined to get wound up, nay... we look for reasons to get wound up, even if nothing of any real substance exist. We have become a culture that is governed by fear, due in no small part to the non stop fear mongering that is the water we swim in. We don't even know we are wet. Why does this happen? I guess that reporting that there is a poodle loose in the neighborhood doesn't get ratings, likes and generate the results that our overlords want. It doesn't keep you coming back. Yet at the end of the day, it's still a poodle. So the moral of this story is don't mistake a poodle for a wolf.
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh, Ainsley, and Olivia, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast