COVID-19: The New Normal

December 21, 2021

Someone asked me recently when things will return to normal after COVID, and I only had to think for a bit before replying, “never”.

And the core reason, I suspect, is that our species is simply incapable of rising to the occasion at this point in history. First, our default systemic reaction to a looming disaster appears to be—by design—to protect the rich and powerful and sacrifice the weak and poor. While the rich get their shopping delivered, the poor are forced to choose between risking their life and not paying their rent.

Second, a large portion of the global population has fallen victim to disinformation, and will not vaccinate themselves no matter what. So far I have seen no effective outreach program to change their minds.

Third, even when people do want to get vaccinated, the cost and logistical barriers are high, to protect the profit interests of pharmas. The actual cost to vaccinate the world is $50b, according to OECD—7% of the US military budget—but we won’t cross the companies to do it.

We are now caught in the usual détente that arises whenever a common disaster threatens the wellbeing of the masses: A standoff between the wealthy and the poor, exacerbated by agents of disinfo, with the rich basically daring the government to do anything beyond protecting only them.

And I predict, governments (surely in the US, likely in other nations) will once again concede to moneyed interests, and sacrifice the masses in exchange for the minimum set of actions that keep the troubles just outside the gated properties of their wealthy patrons.

The best way to end COVID is obvious: vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible; give people money so they can afford to stay home; ban unnecessary contact worldwide until the disease is virtually eradicated; then isolate any new cases as they appear. But as a species, I don’t think we have it in us to do this.

And so we will live with COVID forever, always battling flare-ups, always overrunning our hospitals, always shaking our heads when we read about the next variant, and always locking down when things get bad. As long as the wealthy think their lifestyles can be made immune from the dirty poor’s disease, we will not solve this problem. And since the wealthy know only to demand protection at the expense of the poor, we won’t.

This is the new normal.