Stationary Waves And Coronavirus

The concept of temperance has been a feature of this blog for many years. When I talk about temperance, I'm not talking about eschewing alcohol, but the two ideas do have commonalities. Temperance, broadly construed, means having enough restraint to not just do, you know, whatever the hell you want to do, whenever the hell you want to do it. Temperance means keeping your hedonic urges in check long enough to make sensible decisions in accordance with your longer cognitive time-horizon. See this old post on the issue for a brief primer.

There are many articles and blog posts out there discussing the matter of what is the correct policy response to the coronavirus epi/pan-demic. There is plenty of criticism to go around. Who did what, and did they do it how soon? What aspect of testing or messaging did the CDC botch, what can be learned from the mass quarantines in other countries?

In one sense, I think it's natural that people want to look at it from those angles. I can sympathize with that inclination. It's much easier to have a debate about public policy and to get worked up about all the wrong things someone else did than it is to simply acknowledge that pandemics occur approximately once every one hundred years, and that using political machinery to stop the spread of viruses is ultimately a futile endeavor. We'd have better luck stopping an incoming asteroid.

The fact of the matter is that there is nothing that the government can do to protect you from communicable viruses. They will spread, because that's what viruses do. It's the circle of life.

On a personal note, most readers will probably have nothing to worry about with respect to COVID-19, anyway; the death rate for most people appears to be somewhere between 0.1% and 1.0%. Those are very good odds for a virus like this. But for me, it's different. I'm "immuno-compromised." I'm a type 1 diabetic. For me, the death rate might be something more like 9%, and the rate of hospitalization independent of death is much higher for me than it is for the population at large.

This thing can kill me.

On the one hand, we could say that coronavirus is a public health emergency. On the other hand, we should probably say that the public health emergency already exists. I see just how much other human beings spread their germs around on a daily basis. You people are absolutely filthy. I see multiple people per day walk out of public restrooms without washing their hands. I see people playing with their noses, mouths, eyes, and then putting their hands all over public surfaces. I see people cough without covering their mouths, I see people spit out of their car windows, I see people blow their noses by plugging one nostril, leaning to the side, and blasting debris onto the sidewalk. It's disgusting. And these aren't low-brow "others" in some "other" part of town. These are the middle and upper class people in "nice" neighborhoods. These are the normies. And they're filthy, filthy people.

Earlier this morning, I saw a Facebook advertisement for a bidet. The comments under the ad were everything I've come to expect from filthy Americans. They expressed incredulity and skepticism, they laughed, they mocked, they teased... This is happening during a global pandemic. Here we have a centuries-old device that can vastly improve American hygiene and reduce the spread of communicable illness, and even during a global pandemic Americans' response is one of mockery and skepticism.

That mockery and skepticism, combined with Americans' refusal to wash their hands, cover their mouths, and avoid blowing their noses on the sidewalk, is what will ultimately be to blame for the spread of coronavirus and diseases like it. It's easy to point fingers at the CDC for botching "testing," but the demand for "testing" would be decidedly low if Americans knew how to wash their hands, backsides, and faces, and knew how to keep public surfaces clean and disease-free.

Naturally, there's nothing I can do from my perch above my keyboard, writing on an unread blog about how Americans are a travesty of public filth. But maybe things could get a little bit better on the margins if we all thought a little bit more about temperance.

If you find it tempting to blow your nose on the sidewalk, exercise a little temperance. Find your way to the nearest tissue, and use that instead. If you find it somewhat of a hassle to wash your hands every time you use the bathroom, exercise a little temperance. The expedient thing is to skip the hand-washing step, but the right thing to do is to wash your hands. You might not see the point of covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze in the privacy of your own work cubicle, but I urge you to exercise a little temperance on the margins. Cover your mouth, then go wash your hands. And, for god's sake, get a bidet. They are $15 and install in seconds. Jesus.

Practically speaking, it's unlikely that you'll be able to prevent every cough, sneeze, and itch that needs scratching. You won't always be able to find your way to a bathroom in time to wash your hands or do whatever else you need to do. But if you can exercise a little temperance on the margins, then there's a slightly better chance that people like me won't die.

Please, I beg you, exercise a little temperance. Be a little bit more hygienic. This disease does not really need to spread widely in an environment in which people practice good hygiene.

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