Monday, October 31, 2022

Extending Grace

I am not sure I am quite this nice. But as the author seems to have been at least partly on both sides of the Covid debate - too worried about masks early on, then incurring wrath later for wanting schools to reopen sooner - I am willing to stand down at least a bit. Let's Declare a Pandemic Amnesty. I think it is important that public officials be held to high standards of honesty.  That did not always happen.  Yet some mistakes were indeed honest, and made in uncertainty. So first, keep the attention on those who had official responsibilities, and if no formal consequences are possible, at least let there be clear statements that some of us will remember.

For most of the rest of us, we were yanked to and fro by our tribal loyalties and our priors.  As suggested in the article, it is fair to remember that if we were right, we may just have been lucky on that one, not wise. In every generation there are those who proclaim that the Second Coming is imminent, and always for reasons that are inadequate if not downright bad.  Yet one group will prove to be correct, just by dumb luck.  I doubt they will be given special credit in heaven for that.  I think most Americans at this point are content to just drop it and get on with life. Uh, so long as those bastards don't... 

It pays to remember that the worst offenders are the least likely to admit it, and waiting for that is going to be a recipe for personal unhappiness.  OJ never admitted he killed two people, the Japanese still won't apologise to the south Koreans or the Chinese for WWII behavior, and communists never seem to apologise for anything.  Decades too later, Pete Seeger wrote a song that sorta kinda called Joseph Stalin to task for being, er, wrong, and admitting that some people died about that, and then, with real conviction, was angry at him for letting all the good communists down. Which one can be infuriated about, or be glad that Americans do, eventually, cop to something, unlike everyone else in the world.

So one step further than just not bringing it up.  Even among the people who were dead wrong, including those who were a little insulting about it, most were just plodding along and guessing without thinking too hard. Those who covered for Wuhan Virology and the CCP for whatever reason, do what we can to move them out of public life for good. For those who swallowed the lie that a deadly virus could not possibly have come from the nearby lab that dealt in deadly viruses, because bats in a market, blame for the journalists whose job it was to see through these things.  For those who believed them, less blame. Noting for future reference that they don't do their homework and are unwilling to buck the tide is fair. 

I got a couple of things right that only a minority of others did at the time - probably mostly lucky.  The things I got wrong were probably on me, willing to take the word of tribesmen rather than put in the effort myself.

BTW, Ed Driscoll's piece only confirms what I believe. Thank you, sir.  You could almost be a plant.  He cherry picks things he is upset about and blames everyone who disagrees with him as if they all must believe exactly all those terrible things. He is the intended audience for the piece, and he can't understand it.  Let him stand in debate rather than merely insult if he knows so much.


james said...

When it comes to authorities discovering themselves wrong, I think I'd be satisfied with them silently changing direction and pretending that Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia, rather than clinging to the tactics that didn't work. For my wife's book we've been going over a lot of WWII history, and the amount of clinging to obvious failures, and after-the-war self-justification, is incredible.

Grim said...

With exceptions for public officials who used the emergency to exercise unconstitutional powers far outside our traditions of liberty and self-government, I think I've already forgiven everybody. Some such officials should be removed from government, but mostly they won't be, and won't be punished in any way; that's the way things go. The powerful are protected by their powers.

For the rest of us, forgiveness is easy for me. Partly that's because I'm still not exactly sure what I did get right or wrong myself, so how can I blame another for guessing differently? I supported school closures early, and devised a plan to have cafeteria workers ship food on the buses so poor children in the mountain communities wouldn't go hungry without schools to feed them.

School closures seem to have been one of the most damaging parts of the lockdowns; education has really taken a severe hit, and it is not showing much sign of recovery. Wildly, Alabama is leading the way in recovery efforts.

However, I still kind of think that was a wise idea just because we didn't really know what we were dealing with; it could have been a lot worse, and the idea that public schools would be an obvious vector to move disease throughout the community was plausible. As you say, it was a decision made in uncertainty -- even ignorance -- about what was really going to prove out.

By the same token, vaccines proved less effective than hoped but also less harmful than feared; and that, too, was a sort of luck. Injecting most of humanity with experimental medicines on an emergency basis is the kind of thing that belongs in a science fiction plot. We got lucky that it didn't go very badly. My skepticism of the idea caused me to choose for myself the only vaccine, J&J, that is currently receiving a warning for negative health effects. That too was reasoned: it was the one based on proven technologies. It was just luck that these things went well or badly; mostly we did our best.

Cranberry said...

I'm not inclined to lie. It would be a lie to agree to pretend that "oops, we were wrong."

Normal people lost their jobs, their education, their property, their independence, their family members died alone. There is an enormous amount of rage out there--talk to anyone who works a physical job, who was required to mask up while doing hard labor.

People were fired for refusing to take a vaccine that was not fully tested that did not stop transmission.

Governments coerced social media companies and media companies to enforce stories the governments knew to be untrue.

There was a foresighted opinion piece some months ago that forecast that all the governments in power during the pandemic would be voted out of office. So far, that seems to be coming true. That's the good part of functioning democracies; sooner or later the voters get a say.

Did I suffer any of the above ? Not really, but then I'm extremely privileged. I can extend the grace of understanding that we did not know enough about the virus in March of 2020. However, the public health authorities had already planned how to handle a flu epidemic, á la the flu of 1918. But when faced with a respiratory viral pandemic, they chose to follow China's lead. I can quite understand why normal people are extremely angry.

An important part of being worthy of being a leader is admitting fault and responsibility. "The buck stops here." It is not, "oh, you can't blame us."

Zachriel said...

Cranberry: People were fired for refusing to take a vaccine that was not fully tested that did not stop transmission.

The vaccines passed Phase 3 trials. While infection is still possible after vaccination, the rate, length, and severity of infection is significantly reduced, which reduces community transmission.

David Foster said...

It seems clear that the vaccines reduce bad symptoms and deaths.

Here is some fairly recent data on covid deaths versus age and vaccination status. Reading the graphs for the most recent weeks available:

For people 50-65, unvaxxed .95 vs vaxxed .20
For people 65-79, unvaxxed 7.36 vs vaxxed .82


For people 18-29, uvaxxed .04 vs vaxxed .01

We only got the vaccines as quickly as we did because the Trump administration pushed them hard. In the normal way of doing things, availability would have happened sometime between mid-2022 and the Twelfth of Never. The fact that the vaxxes don't protect against transmission very well and may not work as well for more recent variants does not change the fact that they saved a lot of lives.

The deployment and marketing communications strategy, as it was implemented, was very counterproductive. It would have been much better to focus vaccines on those most-vulnerable, ie, those who are older and/or have conditions such as obesity, rather than demanding universal vaccination.

The tradeoff of Covid risk versus possible side effects suggests that it is an especially bad idea to vaccinate those under 25 or so, especially males

Thomas said...

I wish that I could ascribe benevolent motivation to persons whose policies and actions seemed focused on establishing and maintaining control. The best I can manage is sceptical mistrust.

Mike Guenther said...

There's no hope for anyone who doesn't understand that the general public were the lab rats for the efficacy of the vaccines.

And forgiving TPTB over their lying and hiding of the truth is a non starter.

Cranberry said...

The Germans allowed proof of recovery for entry.

Our government should have allowed proof of recovery. After all, many of the people fired for a refusal to take the vaccine were first responders who knew they had had the disease. Blood tests can confirm the presence of antibodies. Firing first responders was needlessly cruel.

About all the other restrictions on movement, etc.... It interests me when wealthy, influential people think that their actions are not observed by their servants. The people who cook their food, serve it, clean up after them, drive them around, etc. do notice hypocrisy. So their social equals may know less about their behavior than the service class. If you're publicly calling for those who do your manual labor to wear masks in hot kitchens, you'd better make sure your masking is above reproach.

Donna B. said...

@Mike Guenther - "There's no hope for anyone who doesn't understand that the general public were the lab rats for the efficacy of the vaccines."

There's also no hope for those who don't realize that the "unvaccinated" were also lab rats.

As Cranberry points out, antibodies were not allowed as "proof" even though that's the test that could 'prove' efficacy of any of the vaccines -- a piece of paper isn't enough. On top of that, even the presence of antibodies can't provide an absolute guarantee that a given individual won't contract a disease.

Because I'm old and my children and grandchildren love me, they went all in on the protect "Grandma" thing. That drove us all nutsy for a month or so. It's a bit ironic that one of the things that made it easier for us is that I smoke and already had a UV purifier installed to kill that odor. That UV probably kills viruses was a bonus. The other thing was turning my garage into a 'living space'. With the door open and some minimal social distancing, it was a reasonable compromise. In fact, it proved so useful that it's changed the way we do things even now.

Though I chose vaccination, I think that my method of avoiding the virus among the general public is what worked for me -- very few indoor places for a very short period of time. That method did not prevent visits to the liquor store.

Cranberry said...

At this point, I note that the tweet about the Atlantic article has reached a ratio of 32,800 responses to 2,339 likes.

That doesn't bode well for amnesty on the part of the general public. I have not read the responses, because I don't need that much negativity today.

That's what I mean when I stated that there is rage. It's something we are very careful about bringing up with any stranger. The response to the pandemic was handled very badly indeed by those who are now calling for an amnesty. I think the use of social media as a tool to manipulate the public was a grave mistake.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Cranberry, I entirely agree. But on the conservative side, the bad information from the counter-official side was worse. In an effort to not be told what to do, we allowed ourselves to be told what to do by renegades who were right only 20% of the time (up from the usual 10% we need to function as an open society). The response to the disease may not have been worse than the disease, but it might have been, and it was plenty bad. But the response to the response was also impossibly bad. Fauci is a smartish man who is has an arrogance of control by the Smart People over the rest of us. Except the Smart People are actually under the thumb of the Bureaucratic Smart People, who after a legitimate Mart Person start in their field, got promoted and rewarded for non-smart things. The best we could manage is that out Smart Controlling Idiots are actually, when the dust settles, way better than the Smart Controlling Idiots everywhere else, including most of Europe. Europe had some bright moments. Everywhere else in the world flat-out sucked.

To me this illustrates that there's not much hope that we get anything better, so we cut our losses and move on. Yes, I would love to punish a whole class of dangerous bureaucrats, but frankly, I fear what lies behind them as much or more.

In short, I just don't think you are cynical and skeptical enough. The rescuers might be worse. (Sort of a joke. "Ha ha" said Eeyore.) Come to the Dark Side, Cranberry. We have cookies.

Cranberry said...

Time and again during the pandemic, my husband and I have tried to talk with people about what vaccination is. It was very noticeable that many people who had doubts about the vaccine did not have a sufficient high school biology background. I mean basic, such as, what are antibodies? This could be remedied by a simple YouTube video.

These were not stupid people. They are small businesspeople, tradesmen and technicians. I tended to suspect that their high schools did not teach most students basic biology. Perhaps the schools focused the health classes on memorizing names of street drugs and videos of car crashes. And looking at the offerings in high schools nowadays, I suspect Biology has been crowded out by Environmental Science, Computer programming, and engineering in the academic science offerings. So younger people are not as well prepared to navigate a pandemic.

I think there is a hunger for knowledge about the world on the part of working adults who know they were not adequately prepared, but don't want to look stupid by asking for it. It's hard to remedy gaps in knowledge without coming across as condescending.

Also--it's not fashionable to point this out, but the restrictions on funerals, death beds, etc. cut against very deep human needs for connections to family and community. Every time a politician granted his people waivers from restrictions for political events, public trust and faith was lost. For example, when people are not allowed to attend their dying mothers, politicians can't have meetings in restaurants.