Facebook is fun. Apart from its many flaws, you learn things about your friends you’d never know. In the current crisis, I’ve learned this:
- The virus is real, it’s a global threat, the only hope is strict isolation.
- It’s no worse than seasonal flu.
- It’s a plot by Big Pharma to push a costly vaccine when there’s already a cure that’s cheap.
- The cheap cure is no cure.
- It’s a plot by China to undermine our economy.
- We paid them to do it.
- It doesn’t exist.
- It’s a plot by Big Pharma.
- If we let it alone, take no measures, and die, we’ll all become immune.
- It’s worse than anyone thinks it is.
- It’s a scheme by Bill Gates to force vaccination, implanting microchips in the world population to establish a totalitarian state under Agenda 21.
And so on, with variations. In a sense, I’m pleased that I have such variety among my friends. I haven’t yet heard that it’s caused by the aliens living in the bowels of Mt. Shasta to thin the human population so they can find a parking space in San Francisco—I fully expect to hear that tomorrow.
But this is not a post to belittle anyone’s theory. What I find noteworthy is the certainty.
I see it in this issue, in the primaries, in just about every issue on the face of my iMac screen. There are few doubts, few maybes, few on-the-other-hands, but there’s a buffalo stampede of rock-solid, absolute, butt-naked CERTAINTIES. It seems as if you don’t have that certainty, you might as well be going out the door without your pants.
I’ve seen almost no examples of an opinion being changed. Even if a hundred people tell you your mustache looks silly, damned if you’re gonna shave it off.
I would have been a good dentist. Not that I mistrust my notions, but I probe for the cavities. I want to make sure that damn tooth is going to do its job as long as I need it. I’ve always been more critical of experimental theatre than mainstream because I have a greater stake in it. I’ve been more critical of progressive political rhetoric than reactionary drivel because I want it to succeed. The best scientists are those who forgo the easy headline and do everything possible to disprove what they most hope to prove.
In all the thoughts outlined above in regard to Covid-19, the simple fact (IMHO) is this: nobody knows. Granted, predictions have consequences, and people, states, nations, have to make decisions based on probabilities, whereas all I have to do is to decide if I’ll wear a mask (which I do) and vote in November. I can express an opinion on whether there’s a sentient God, but my opinion is only an identity-construct, with little effect on the Universe.
So why the certainty?
I guess we need it. Apart from practical decision-making, I think most of us are addicted to predicting the future. Even those who’ve grown up in poverty in America have lived a privileged life. We haven’t suffered carpet-bombing. We haven’t had armed squads come into town and line us up—in this century anyway. Even in epidemics, we haven’t had carts through the streets to bring out our dead. We have hunger, but we haven’t had mass starvation, and our mass murders have been in the dozens, not in the hundreds of thousands. We haven’t had civil war for a hundred and fifty years. We have racial strife, but not on the scale of Rwanda. We’re really babes in the woods when it comes to suffering as experienced in the world.
So I’m not preaching a let’s-wait-and-see on any vital issue, only that we probe and prod our own firmly-held opinions and work hard to define the difference between “I think” and “I know.”