Institutions | No Mercy / No Malice

I grew up on stories of the second world war. During the aerial bombardment of London known as the Blitz, my mother, aged seven, had to sleep in tube stations for protection. She was given a mask against poison gas. It was difficult to put on, and frightening to wear, so a thoughtful designer had modified the children’s version with a rubber nose — my mother thought it made her look like Donald Duck. Sheltering underground with a gas mask was traumatic, but society was under threat and sacrifices had to be made. Today, when people refuse to physically distance or wear a mask at Walmart, I envision my seven year-old mother as a child, on a dark tube platform, with her awkward Donald Duck gas mask.

Once again, society is under threat — not from tanks and bombs but from an enemy one-400th the width of a human hair. The toll has been catastrophic. In America, Covid-19 has claimed more than 500,000 lives. Millions of people have lost their jobs and 40m face eviction. A generation of children have had their education interrupted or impaired.

Source: Institutions | No Mercy / No Malice

World-wide, there have been about 2.5M deaths from COVID-19. But, for comparison, World War 2 killed seventy-five million people. I’m not making the comparison; this guy is. So let’s really compare the figures, if we’re going to compare. Of course, 2.5M is tragic, but this is not the same thing. And you can throw in numbers of people who have been evicted or put out of work, but, again, are you really going to compare those numbers to the devastation caused by carpet-bombing Europe into rubble during the Big One?!

If you want to equate sitting in an tube station with a gas mask during a indiscriminate Nazi air raid, so that you don’t get blown to bits by a bomb, to wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of a slightly-more-deadly form of flu, then let’s at least be a little bit honest about the relative dangers being ameliorated by these behaviors.

He also starts to make some point about how America has suffered a disproportionate level of deaths, presumably because we responded to the threat so terribly, presumably because “Donald Trump.” But there are two problems with this. First, there are other countries who have been just as loosely “masked” and “distanced” as the US, and they haven’t had nearly the bad luck we have, so these measures are not the full story. Second, the world loves to rail on the US for being so relatively obese compared to other countries, and one of the biggest co-morbidities with COVID-19 is… obesity.

Of course, as always, people are free to draw whatever analogies they wish in order to make a point, but this level of moral equivalence and glossing over basic facts — especially from someone who supposes to take such a mentally rigorous approach to his subjects — will make me skip the rest of whatever he was trying to say, every time.