Our victorious pandemic

25 08 2020

This is a terrific post by Ugo Bardi, tagging along with another by Charles Hugh Smith. you get two for the price of one! I have ZERO doubt that nothing will go back to normal, and just as well. There was nothing normal about the recent past. If you also want to listen to an interesting podcast, here’s another link for you…..: https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/the-book-show/the-book-show-monday-17-august-2020/12553710?fbclid=IwAR0DITpb_gYOqTLT29MNTiODg_x5D2EXkIzM-_z78me0mP_Ct8ijiK2tVnk

The Triumph of Catastrophism. How Greta Thumberg Carried the Day

Disclaimer: I am NOT saying here that the Covid-19 does not exist nor that people didn’t die because of it. If you react with the term “denialism” you are only showing that you have no rational arguments to produce.

Do you remember that weird girl from Sweden? Yes, the one with the braided hair. What was her name? Greta something…. It is strange that so many people seemed to pay attention to what she was saying about things like climate change. Why should anyone be worried by that? Nobody cares about climate change anymore when there are much more important matters at hand with the great pandemic sweeping the world? And yet, strangely, nowadays people are doing exactly what Greta had told them to do. 

Not long ago, I published on Cassandra’s Legacy a post titled “The Great Failure of Catastrophism.” In it, I argued that some 50 years of warnings from scientists had been completely ignored by the powers that be. I also argued that a relatively minor perturbation, as the one caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, had been enough to consign all worries about climate to the dustbin of the silly ideas that nobody should care about. 

But things keep changing and I am now amazed to see that humans are acting exactly as if they had listened to Greta Thunberg. Do you remember? She said we shouldn’t use the plane, that we should travel less, use less energy, consume less. Exactly what’s being done.

People are not flying anymore so much, they stopped most of their long distance traveling, the mass migration called “international tourism” seems to have disappeared for good. Some of the most polluting manufacturing operations are slowing down, and with that the exploitation of natural resources. The shale oil industry is dead and the whole extractive industry is going down the drain, too. Humans seem to have largely abandoned their beloved ritual of daily commuting and even professional sports have disappeared beyond the horizon of the events (although they weren’t the most polluting activity around). 

It is incredible: people would be howling their displeasure all the way to the moon if they had been asked to fly less for the benefit of the ecosystem and themselves, but now they are meekly doing exactly that out of fear of the coronavirus. 

You see, the young lady, Greta Thunberg, had been able to move a few things, but she was still operating within the old paradigm of communication. She was a leader in the same way as Joan of Arc was, long ago. The problem with leadership is that it attracts love and hate at the same time. Sometimes, a lot of hate. And the way to neutralize a successful leader is to pour hate on him or her. Do you remember what happened to Joan of Arc? That was what Greta Thunberg was risking and it is good for her that her cycle has been so short — now she can be a normal girl for the rest of her life. 

But now, it is no more the time of leaders. The change we are seeing is being created by impersonal forces. There is nobody to hate about the coronavirus: you can’t hate a small chunk of RNA that you can’t even see. Viruses have no leaders, they don’t care about anything, they are impervious to love and hate. What moves things onward nowadays is not hate, it is pure terror and you can’t hate terror, you can only resist it or be crushed by it. And it seems clear that most of us are being crushed by terror. Terror is a primal force, almost impossible to resist.

The overall impression is that we are seeing enormous forces stirring. Forces that will change the world so deeply that, right now, we can’t even vaguely imagine how. If you have time, do read the book by Shoshana Zuboff “Surveillance Capitalism.” She correctly points out how the new technologies called “profiling” and “targeting” are generating a level of control over individuals that never existed before in history. So far, these technologies have been used for relatively harmless purposes such as sales and influencing electoral votes. What we see now is deeper and wider: it is raw power over people’s minds. The enormous creature that’s raising its ugly head has a name, and it is the World Wide Web. 

It is a huge beast we have nurtured and raised. Mr. Zuckerberg or Mr. Gates, or some of their colleagues may still think they can control it, but it is too late. Nobody who is human can control this thing anymore.We’ll go where “it” will take us. And maybe, just maybe, this thing perceives that humans need to stop destroying everything on this planet, including themselves. Perhaps the head of the beast is not so ugly, after all? Who knows? 

Then, of course, all what I said up to now will turn out to be wrong if we see the famed “recovery.” Most people seem to think that once we have a vaccine for the dreaded little monster, everything will return to normal in the best of worlds. But that’s questionable, to say the least. Someone who understands that there won’t be a “normal” anymore is Charles Hugh Smith of the “Of two minds” blog. Below, let me report an excerpt from one of his recent posts where, among other things, you can find an excellent illustration of how the Seneca Effect works.


The New Normal is De-Normalization

excerpt from Charles Hugh Smith’s blog
What I mean by Denormalization is the complete dismantling of what was taken for granted as normal and the loss of any future version of normal. Consider sports as an example. We all know the Old Normal that millions hope will magically return: $100 million player contracts, millions in TV ad revenues, pro franchises worth billions of dollars, NCAA playoffs, etc.: a dominant kingdom in the nation’s media and mindshare. The dirty little secret that troubled the kingdom long before Covid-19 was a steady erosion in attendance at live games and in the viewing audience. Younger generations have relatively little interest in all the trappings and habits of Boomer sports manias. They’d rather watch the 3-minute highlight video on their phones than blow half a day watching games that are generally lacking in drama and are largely replaceable with some other game. What few seem to notice is that the Old Normal had become insanely expensive, irksome and boring, activities that were habits coasting on momentum. Those embedded in the Old Normal acclimatized to the absurdly overpriced seats, snacks, beer, parking, etc. of live events and the insanely long commutes required to get to the venue and then back home, as their happy memories of $5 seats decades ago is the anchor of their lifelong devotion and habits. The old fans coasting on ritual habituated to the cookie-cutter nature of the games, while those who never acquired the habit look with amazement at the seemingly endless dull progression of hundreds of interchangeable sporting events. Advertisers will eventually notice that younger generations never acquired the habit of worshipping sports and so there is nothing to stem the collapse of the Old Normal but older fans, some percentage of whom will find they don’t miss it once they fall out of the habit. Some other percentage will find they can no longer afford to attend live games, or they’ll realize they no longer feel it’s worth it to grind through traffic or public transit just to sit for additional hours and then repeat the entire slog back home. Another percentage will suddenly awaken to the artifice of the whole thing; they will simply lose interest. Others will finally realize the corporate machine (which includes college sports) has long since lost any connection to the era that they remember so fondly. This same Denormalization will dismantle fast food, dining out, air travel, healthcare, higher education and innumerable other iterations of normal that have become unaffordable even as the returns on the lavish investments of time and money required diminish sharply. How many of you deeply miss air travel? You’re joking, right? Only certifiably insane people would miss the irksome hassle and discomfort, from the endless delays due to mechanical problems (don’t you people keep any spare parts, or is it all just in time like every other broken system in America?), the seats that keep getting smaller as the passengers keep getting larger, the fetid terminals, and so on.Like all the other iterations of normal, the entire experience has been going downhill for decades, but we all habituated to the decline because we were stuck with it. What few seem to understand is all the Old Normal systems can’t restabilize at some modestly lower level of diminishing returns; their only possible future is collapse. Just as fine-dining restaurants cannot survive at 50% capacity because their cost structure is so astronomical, the same is true of sports, airports, airlines, cruise lines, fast food, movie theaters, healthcare, higher education, local government services and all the rest of the incredibly fragile and unaffordable Old Normal.None of these systems can operate at anything less than about 80% of full capacity and customers paying 80% of full pop, i.e. full retail. Since their fixed cost structures are so high, and their buffers so thin, there’s nothing below the 80% level but air, i.e. a quick plummet to extinction.