Now Lanser stood up. “I told you I’m very tired, sir. I must have some sleep. Please co-operate with us for the good of all.” When Mayor Orden made no reply, “For the good of all,” Lanser repeated. “Will you?”
Orden said, “This is a little town. I don’t know. The people are confused and so am I.”
“But will you try to co-operate?”
Orden Shook his head. “I don’t know. When the town makes up its mind what it wants to do, I’ll probably do that.”
– Steinbeck, The Moon is Down
I’m just a guy eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.
I know there’s a list of counties in Washington who are now (graciously) permitted (with suprememe benevolence) to apply for the privilege of embarking on phase 2 of reopening their businesses. I am no revolutionary, but I am no idiot, and while neither am I a Constitutional scholar, I don’t think that’s the way it works. I’m pretty sure these people – The People – can hang their shingles and throw open the doors whenever they damn well please, without begging for permission from those elected officials who serve because we allow them to do so. Not the other way around.
I’m saying nothing new here, of course. Nothing novel (haha). I don’t spend enough time thinking about it to be particularly long-winded or effective in the defense of liberty. I just know what my gut and my eyes and my ears tell me, which is that this whole thing is a parade of garbage that continues without flagging, not because of the extant danger of pervasive disease, but because of the extant disease of pervasive vanity. If a leader somewhere were finally willing to appear small and pedestrian, then that is where you would find a place well-governed.
But the people are broken, too. And I don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg. I know many people who are talking about the future and saying that it could be a decade before we’re traveling and taking vacations again. There’s simply nothing in me that can accomodate that level of pining for the worst-case scenario. When I listen to people talking about the state of the Wuhan Flu, there’s an unmistakable note of pleasure, of excitement, in every number they can cite that makes it seem like nothing’s improving. People want to be afraid. Since the beginning of The Great Woe, I’ve flogged this notion so much that it’s going to need a safe word, but the fact is that people choose to target, for some reason, misery as the way to experience an elevated sense of personal importance.
I think that, for a lot of people, if they hear about a plane crash or an earthquake that happened on the other side of the world, they feel left out. They feel that the victims have gained a notoriety that will never reach them. That’s why we have the trope of “where were you when…” that pops up with every major malady the world has ever known. Assasinations, terrorist attacks, space shuttle explosions. We’re jealous of anyone who gets to enjoy a horror to which we were not invited. Primarily, probably because a tragedy bestows notoriety in the most desirable way possible – the unearned way. When an earthquake hits your city, well, you were just sitting around doing nothing extra, nothing above, nothing that required effort or ingenuity, and suddenly something happened that made you important. Tragedy is the treasure of the terminally unexceptional, sought out and dug up by someone else, and left on the doorstep.
But here we have the best possible hell – a global one! Nobody is left out. It is literally everyone’s 15 minutes. Except that as the coronavirus sputtered along, the perpetually mediocre and eternally aggrieved masses started to realize, with a rising sense of panic, that they weren’t going to get sick. And neither was anyone in their families. Obviously, some did, but the numbers turned out to be disappointingly low and so full of asterisks and predictable concentrations in nursing homes that this global nightmare was starting to look like a date with fame that was going to leave us sitting alone at a fancy table and repeating to the waiter through stifled sobs that “she’ll be here any minute.”
The only thing we could do with that kind of embarrassment is to close the restaurant. And pretty quickly we closed them all, because that saved us from the shame of having gotten all dressed up only to have gone to the wrong place and sitting there feeling pathetic, while our thrilling disease was off dancing with someone else in the space we left on the floor by reading the invitation wrong.
And it’ll go on (already has), far longer than it should. It’s the only way to manufacture enough unwarranted fear to make us feel important. Worrying over the hell that might yet come is the best possible alternative to acknowledging the one that never did.
— Seek your happiness in joy, Comrade Citizen! —