And if it is, are we ready to accept it?
“We still have a problem with COVID,” President Joe Biden told 60 Minutes Sunday night when asked about his administration’s battle against COVID19. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it, but the pandemic is over.”
“If you notice, no-one’s wearing masks,” President Biden continued. “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape…I think it’s changing.”
Mr. Biden’s remark hit the commentariat and media classes very hard.
“Biden Says the Pandemic is Over,” howled the New York Times amid a general media outcry. “But at Least 400 People Are Dying Daily.”
“The president made the remark in an interview that aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday night,” the paper of record stated. “By Monday, the backlash was in full swing.”
The NYT was right about the backlash. But part of the reason behind the uproar over President Biden’s recent declaration of victory over Covid19 may be psychological.
Human beings are funny about certain things- it’s our brains.
Poor Darwin: He was the overachieving kid in class who took attendance and forgot to count himself. Sure, the animal kingdom makes perfect sense. The natural world we see around us everyday is a symphony of harmonious perfection, adaptation and grand design.
Nature’s plan is so perfect, so complete; the adaptations of its creatures so intricate, a not insignificant number of humans- yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever- believe some supernatural force, some divine higher being, some dread hand, Einstein’s Clockmaker, the Prime Mover of the physicist, must be at work.
But one of the most prominent creatures on the planet is not like the others. One denizen of the natural world sticks out like a sore thumb.
These brains of ours are probably the most advanced bit of evolutionary hardware any person living today will ever see. Even in the Information Age, with more computing power in every pocket than NASA had to land on the moon, with A.I. striding along by leaps and bounds, and advanced-learning supercomputers powerful enough to map the human genome, there is nothing to equal the human brain.
Its power, creativity and ability to innovate are staggering.
But these brains have come with a steep cost: Our minds play funny tricks on us sometimes.
Logical fallacies are a major danger for us, a natural predator we do not share with other animals.
One of the many logical fallacies to which we fall prey is the Gambler’s Fallacy. When in its throes, someone betting at a roulette table who has just lost 6 rounds in a row will tell themselves they are bound to get lucky on the 7th.
In any given round of chance, the outcome of the last throw or spin is totally irrelevant, statistically speaking. That was then: This is now. That was past- this is a new spin, all new odds; utterly unrelated to whatever came before.
In the same way, we- erroneously- conflate an action with its reaction; the beginning of something to its end. We want and expect both to be equal in weight and in nature; well balanced, nice and tidy and satisfying.
When something terrible happens, we want- need- the cause to be every bit as profound and earth-shattering as the outcome it produced.
It’s why we love conspiracy theories so much.
The senselessness and banality of evil is harder to accept than the movie version, where everything makes perfect sense in the end.
President John F. Kennedy couldn’t have simply been shot by a disturbed man, acting alone. Kennedy’s assassination brought life to a standstill, changed the course of the nation, the hemisphere, the world. Many Americans still yearn for a bigger, more weighty explanation than a single disaffected loner could ever provide.
The same is true of the 9/11 attacks. Something so terrible couldn’t possibly have been perpetrated by a dozen men exploiting a U.S. national security risk loophole by turning commercial airliners into surface-to-air missiles. It had to have been orchestrated by a cabal of authorities at the highest level in multiple countries.
The same may be proving true with Covid19. Something that changed the face of our communities and society, which altered the courses of our lives and the collective destiny of an entire planet populated by 7 billion people couldn’t possibly just end one day.
Except it can.
The beginning of something is often useless in predicting its outcome in a complex system such as ours.
A milk cow can kick over a lantern in a barn and burn an entire Capital city to the ground. There doesn’t have to be some vast conspiracy behind it; sometimes it’s just stupid, blundering bad luck. Some tiny, insignificant action in the grand scheme of things can have consequences many magnitudes larger than the initial action.
Covid came into our lives with a big bang; it changed nearly every aspect of our days, weeks, months, years. It swept everything before it like an earthquake or a tidal wave.
None of that implies Covid19 will have an equally dramatic ending. That’s the movies, where stories make everything nice and neat: This is real life. The end of Covid19- if and when it can be said to have “ended” whether that is today or in the future- will probably look a lot like it does right now:
Public health authorities gradually relaxing guidelines and suggestions for mitigation and safety measures and elected officials acknowledging the progress, first tacitly then openly.
What can’t last forever has to end eventually. Those waiting on Covid19 to go out with a bang may be waiting forever.
(Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)