I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
–Frank Herbert, Dune
The Bene Gesserit litany against fear is something that has (sort of) stuck with me ever since I first read Dune. I say “sort of” because I never memorized the whole thing, but I did remember enough to remind myself to not let fear overwhelm me and remove my ability to think and act.
This pandemic and lockdown we’re going through right now has brought this litany back to me once more. I do not consider myself a particularly brave person, but I also like to think that I can face things that might be scary or frightening and still manage to function. Lucky for me, I was correct in my self-assessment. While stories about the spread and destruction of COVID-19 have multiplied faster than the virus has managed to infect people, I believe that I have maintained my cool.
This does not mean I am not concerned about the virus. However, I am becoming more concerned about the economic and other destruction that is being wrought in the name of keeping us free from this illness. The information is confusing, conflicting, and constantly changing (how’s that for alliteration?) Masks are for all; masks should be worn by those showing symptoms; masks are not necessary; wear masks any time you leave your house, even in your own car…you are never immune, oh, wait, yes, those were false positives; it will die down in the heat and humidity of summer…no, it won’t. It will come back worse than before…it will come back less than before…
You get the point. A law in physics says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It seems that in the case of media and government bureaucracy reporting, for every report there is an equal and opposite report. What the hell do you do?
Well, I’ve decided that panic and fear are not going to be in my list of possible reactions. I’m watching friends, who are intelligent people, react in outright fear to any suggestion that the economy should open back up. I had a colleague say, with complete sincerity, that she didn’t think that students should be getting jobs at McDonald’s because that was “just too dangerous”. She then amended that to say, of course, if they needed the money…good grief. There is an absolute lack of understanding as to how the economy and supply chains work. I guarantee, these will be among the first people to lament the lack of food in stores and yet still fail to understand how that happened.
First off, reasonable people should be able to realize that the virus, no matter what we’ve heard about lethality, rapidity of contagion, droplets, etc. is NOT hanging around in clouds just waiting for us unsuspecting humans to walk out of the house and into a virulent cloud of infection. Really, it’s not. If you or someone you know is vulnerable, stay home, wear a mask when you go out, avoid sick people. These are things that immune compromised people have been doing for years…most of them quite successfully. If you are sick…stay the fuck home and don’t drag your sorry ass to work no matter how important you think your presence is; we’ve all done that and it’s stupid. It’s how common colds (a corona virus) float around offices. Why do you think daycares tell parents of sick kids that they cannot drop the kid off at daycare? Why do you think daycares are petri dishes of every random illness known to man? If your kid is sick, keep ’em home. But, because YOU are sick, that does not mean I have to stay home for fear of catching it. It is incumbent on YOU to take precautions not to infect others. If I am vulnerable, it is incumbent on ME to take precautions. It is not incumbent on the whole fucking world to protect you or me.
This is a rambling post, but fear is a rambling thing, I think. Again, I don’t think I’m fearful. Rather, I am concerned. Concerned about food supply chains in the immediate and near future, about the economy tanking so badly it takes a decade or more to get back to where we were in January (hard to believe that four short months ago we were at the top of our game), about mental health issues in general, about possible riots and other unrest as governors tighten the screws just as things seem to be waning.
A protest today around City Hall (or as many locals call it Shitty Hall), was met by counter-protestors several of whom held signs and banners saying “Reopening = Death”. Really? You believe we can stay closed permanently? That demonstrates a complete lack of understanding not only of epidemiology (I’m fairly certain they haven’t been out protesting against business as usual during previous flu seasons or during H1N1 or SARS or Ebola) but also of economics and how life and society depends on being able to do business. The government can give you money, yes, but it cannot make food or toilet paper. Only businesses can do that. And, many of those, and those in their supply chains, are closed. What good is government money if there is nothing to buy with it?
We need to overcome our fear of dying, our fear of illness, our fear of life. We need to recognize that people die. And, please. None of this means I or anybody else advocating for reopening WANTS people to die. What we want is to be given a chance to work towards preventing MORE deaths and preventing more AVOIDABLE deaths. Every death is a tragedy for family and friends. But, believe it or not, the world does not, and cannot, shut down for every single death (and trust me…when my father died I was shocked to walk out of the hospital and find people laughing…did they not understand what had just happened??) Fear of death cannot be allowed to overcome and obliterate everything we do.
Do not let fear become total obliteration.
Face your fear.
Let it pass over and through you.
In the end, only you remain.