As a pre-pub beta reader, I loved this book and am starting to live by it. It got me thinking about story theory and what we've all just been through in the pandemic.
Covid is unquestionably a devastating disease. Not only has it killed lots of people, I think the real story of this age will be "long covid", which, at the moment, they don't understand too well yet. But something like 30-40% of people who get Covid also get long Covid, which means it stays in their bodies damaging all kinds of organs, like the brain, heart, lungs, etc. And who knows how long it stays in peoples' bodies. Maybe forever?
Covid-19 could have been banished from existence in less than a month, and we could have all gone on living our lives normally afterwards. Covid-19 dies in a couple weeks if it can't find a new host to infect. It's almost entirely transmitted from one person's breath to another's. It's very easy to keep someone's breath from getting to you. The physics couldn't be more basic: keep at a distance, or block the particles with a mask.
Covid-19 was a very easy problem to solve. But we failed dismally. And the ramifications to society are almost as if we've had another world war.
This failure says terrible things about humans' ability to survive as a species. When the next very virulent virus comes along (like Ebola, for example), the way we responded to this one probably is all the evidence we need to know that the next one will largely wipe us all out. And given Xi Jing Ping's clear desire to dominate the world, I'd bet dollars to donuts he watched our pathetic response to Covid-19 with glee and set his bio scientists to work on creating a new virus and a vaccine that will be administered to all Han Chinese only before setting the virus loose on the rest of the world. Why wouldn't he? It would be perfectly consistent with all the other aggressive things he does, like putting back doors into semiconductors he sells to US companies, having Huawei gear track us all, putting the Uyghurs in concentration camps, trying to claim the international South China sea for his own, and even muzzling his own tennis star when she got raped by a Party. member.
But the upcoming ramifications for our patheticness aside, why were we so pathetic in the first place? Virus are easy. We know how to stop them, and all it takes is the most basic blocking of the particles. Why does something we could have wiped out in a month years ago still ravage society?
Because people don't take survival-relevance seriously enough. They tell themselves stories that make themselves feel good but that are horribly anti-survival. Like masks don't work. Like the whole thing is a government fake. Like that vaccines somehow track people or are the government trying to poison us and take control.
Many peoples' response to Covid-19 is equivalent to standing at an open window on the second story of a building, telling themselves they could fly, then jumping. Young people may come out unscathed. Older people are in big trouble. People in the middle are rolling the dice. They may just twist an ankle, or they may injure their back and deal with it the rest of their lives. 30-40% of covid survivors have long covid.
When all we had to do is just use the stairs to go down.
Yes, I know that getting the world to act in unison on something like that is, to say the least, easier said than done. But that's the point, isn't it? It should have been easy for us, but instead it's clearly impossible. And we paid dearly and will pay even more dearly in the future.
Don't forget: one of the most powerful things the book says is that the more survival-relevant something is, the more important knowing and abiding by the truth is and using mode 2 to do the right thing.
If scientists who have dedicated their entire lives to understanding disease say to wear a mask, get vaccines and keep distance, just do it. Not for them; for you.