Once in a Lifetime
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Shit is real… just got the call my uncle passed this am. In Arizona. With just 15 deaths as of yesterday. Today it’ll be over 30 for sure. You think it won’t come because you’re young or you live in Yavapai county or whatever.
You are undoubtedly right Ben, and thanks for another superb article. A question I always end up asking when I contemplate empathy or the lack of it across the top echelons of our economic and political leaders is whether empathy and compassion are in some way an impediment to the kind of ‘success’ we laud in our modern societies.
Empathy and compassion the characteristics of the cooperative game (like you say), but are the rewards of breaking the game are so large now (and the costs of breaking it so low) that we can’t find a cooperative equilibrium without external enforcement. Rebuilding via the pack works on a smaller scale, I am less sure that membership based social conformity (with the payoffs in modern society as they are) is enough to keep the empathetic and compassionate equilibrium stable. I really hope I’m wrong.
Thanks as always for the constant wonderful writing.
With you Ben.
Completely agree on rebuilding on a smaller scale. With economy built on just in time combined with lowest cost labor offshoring, we are now seeing the downside. The fix isn’t to wait for DC. Communities should be 3D printing masks, making PAPR hoods from vaccum hoses and clear plastic. We have to fight this virus and most injustice in packs, communities that are (or can become) flexible, nimble, and adaptable.
I am so, so sorry for your loss…sending many virtual hugs.
As I often am by your posts, I’m so moved by this…but this reached another level for me, you express so eloquently what I’ve been feeling. Thank you, Ben.
I was gonna post on my Facebook: “eli eli lama sabachthani” but after reading your post, I aint got time for that now. Gathering my pack.
And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention.
-Nothing But Flowers, Talking Heads
First responders, health care workers, supply lines. I was a NYC Firefighter 9/11 and was dumbfounded how wonderful people pitch together when called to be human. Less Individualism more Humanity. Empathy need not be learned. Ben you are right,it is unlearned. We can do this.
This is terrific. Thank you. It reached me down, ‘where the soul meets the bone’.
Midwest Elderberry (Grower) Cooperative (my pack) is working together to add many more acres of native elderberry. We sold out of all native elder ingredients and many retail products nationally over a month ago, due to explosive surge in demand. Research, as incomplete as it is, suggests that this native plant helps the body to resist inflection, slow age-related health issues, and promote healing. To learn a bit more - including an article specifically focused on COVID-19, go to: https://midwest-elderberry.coop/health-nutrition/.
In the simplest of terms…Love is NOT a zero-sum game.
On the other side of this, I hope we become a better people, disabusing ourselves of the notions that one can consume one’s way to happiness and that one can borrow one’s way to wealth. Rather, let us hope that we embrace a generosity of spirit.
I’ve used the expected value equation to explain this to people. If the expected value of your near-term death is negative infinity, the only mathematical possibility to ensure a positive near-term outcome is for the probability of that event to be exactly zero. Not close to zero, exactly zero. Just stay home if you’re fortunate to be able to. If not, limit as much contact as possible.
We’ll sort out the economy later. Jubilee was common in biblical times. It will just look different this time.
So clearly thought out. Wow and thanks. Friend just lost an aunt to Covid-19 in Seattle area. 80+, she didn’t take seriously and ignored offers of help.
The sound of gunfire, off in the distance, I’m getting used to it now.
Such a shame.
Ben – Thank you very much for putting such personal expression of feeling into words. But which leaders are you thinking about? Who lacks the empathy and wants us all to become sociopaths? Are you thinking of Trump and his previous wish to get the economy back up and running by Easter? Xi and his treatment of Hubei as a gulag? Di Blasio insisting just eight days ago that public schools in NY must remain open? The governor of Oklahoma (or was it Nebraska?) who took a selfie of himself in a food court and telling people he will never shut down retail establishments?? The Kentucky Congressman who forced representatives to come back in Washington on Friday? I honestly am not sure. All I know is that lockdowns are spreading and economies are coming to a full stop in an effort to gain control over this scourge. Yes, mistakes were made and our leaders should have been more aggressive from the start. Trump truly says crazy stuff, but Fauci is still there to set him right. For the most part, I don’t see the a concerted effort to convince us that letting the old die is worth the price of restarting the economy.
To the sociopaths in D.C. and in corporate America:
“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28
Just because the bureaucrats give your company money doesn’t mean that you should keep it…
Well said, as always, Ben. I think we all appreciate, and in some way identify with, your personal perspective.
A personal note myself. I was at an event a few months back where Scaramucci was the featured speaker. Bear with me here – he said, “I want you to think about the worst person you’ve ever met. Worst one, whether when you were a kid or now. Got it? Well that person would be the best person you’d meet working in politics in DC.”
Not a novel concept, but enlightening given the source. They’re sociopaths, and there’s a better way.
Thanks for all you do.
Thank you Ben,
I think that I find myself so strongly in agreement with you as we have a similar background. We are both sons of physicians. My dad’s wisdom informs me to this day. My dad carried something else with him, antibodies to the 1918 flu. He had it when he was nine years old and forever told the story about being quarantined in Boston and after the quarantine his dad taking him for a haircut and there being two chairs but now only one barber. And my dad always ended his 1918 flu story with “it will happen again.” In addition to his old-school GP practice, he had a side gig as a prison doc. That gig lays claim to ‘all lives matter’ like no other.
The internet seems filled with a ‘save the economy or save lives’ debate. It should be obvious, save the fucking healthcare system and the rest will sort itself out.
I’m glad to be part of the pack.
Heartfelt, phenomenal, wish I could share and believe that everyone would read. Unfortunately, they won’t. So I’ve been sharing the picture with a bunch of skittles and a caption in the middle? Here it is:
Dumb people: it only has a 3% kill rate.
Smart people: if I gave you 100 skittles, & told you that 3 of them would kill you, you would avoid all the fucking skittles.
So those family pics are beautiful! As a physician, I am very optimistic that your family will be just fine! We, too, had 4 children 6 or less, and now we have 7, soon to be 9 grandchildren, 7 or less, and so we have skin-in-the-game. I am not worried at all about any of my pack. I do worry about Nanny and a bit about myself because we are 65+.
For me the ‘crisis’ is not about health and is not about finance. It is not about ABT tests, N95 masks, PPE’s, O2, ventilators, remdesivir, chloroquin, hydroxychloroquin, or vaccines. It is not about the DOW, QQQ, TSY, QEillion, or Repomania. It is not about Narrative.
It is about freedom and its corollary - personal responsibility, the latter in the largest sense.
We drink a little elderberry juice every day!
Thank you, Chris. I’m so glad to be part of YOUR pack.
The skittles metaphor has been making the rounds. It’s great!
I have a libertarian streak a mile wide. More than that, I have a liberty and justice for all streak that’s 10 miles wide. But I think (or hope) we can all agree that if there is one task that governments are uniquely suited for and absolutely necessary for it is the coordination (and if necessary the enforcement) of collective action to mitigate a plague.
Jordan Peterson talks about Nietzsche writing “God is dead” and Nietzsche being deeply concerned about the loss of the moral/ethical framework taught by the Church. I wonder if that is one of the reasons that we have become somehow accepting of corruption in political leadership and business leadership.
On the other hand, the fact that the people who claim to be deeply Christian seem to be the people who vote for Trump seems (a) bewildering given his track record with women and his constant lying, and (b) seems to be evidence against my thesis.
Perhaps it was always corrupt, only before the internet it was hidden behind controlled media.
One gets the impression that there was an earlier, more ethical age, but then Slavery, Segragation, Lynchings, McCarthyism, and the assassinations of JFK, his brother Bobby, MLK, Malcolm X, Bay of Tonkin, Watergate, Iran/Contra affair.
When was Camelot, and where?
Liked that one Ben, I’m a fan of that Rumsfeld quote, him not so much. My personal favourite for navigating through this world is John Maynard Keynes “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do.” Oh yeah, I’m 82 in Aug.
Stay safe, Lorne.
Yes - I totally agree with centralized planning to mitigate a plague, although I think (or hope) that such mitigation could still be done without force. The question boils down to which word applies: panic, pandemic, plannedemic, plague, or pseudo-plague. (P value vs P factor)
3-31-2020: Today’s CV-19 Task Force conference was a disgrace. Previously, we were told that ~95% of tests were negative. Today we learned that slightly more than 1 million tests have been done. Let’s round up to 2 million tests. So 100,000 tests have been positive at the same time that nearly 200,000 cases are confirmed. Maybe my math is wrong That’s funny - my senior thesis was about complex deformations of n-dimensional torii but maybe percents are too complicated?
Wisdom literature is called such because it accurately describes reality. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is the first commandment in Hebrew scripture, I believe because it is a clear statement of reality. When I make an idol of myself, or my job, or my success, or my money, or my stuff (and I have done so with each of them), what really happens, what I really experience is lonely emptiness. When I look at myself as objectively as possible, at my worst I am being selfish – it’s all about me. And when I am selfish, there is no space (time, head room, heart room) for love. And empathy springs from love.
Ben, the most compelling thing about your invitation to be a Pack is the connectedness that happens with the Pack, for it is only in community that I can move from “me” to “we”. Thank you for continuing to write and engage with us.
Just wanted to say…Best. Post. Ever. Thanks!
John, Great article, very thought-provoking as usual. I went ahead and sent in a contribution.
On a side note, you may want to amend you statement that 100% goes to the effort. Classy.com collects a fee for administrating the donation and it was not possible to find out how much that fee is. Hopefully, it is reasonable. Other donation admin sites often give the donor a choice of providing a “tip” to support the effort but this one did not.
Nice Vega pic. That’s a serious throw back.
‘This is Spahr- tah!’
Is it actually 3% of the 100, or 3% of the misshapen yellow ones?
I too enjoyed the article and agree with much of Ben’s points, however I am not certain all the facts are in. The analogy of the poker hand I find interesting but I would add that the room is dark and your prescription isn’t up to date and it is hard to make out whether the card is a diamond or a heart or differentiate between a 9,8, or 3. The better the information, the more sound the measures taken.
I too have empathy to those most vulnerable, whether it is a vulnerability to the Covid-19 or a vulnerability to 25% unemployment rate.
Calls for empathy that don’t segue into learning Esperanto ring as hollow as the rings of Saturn.
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