Discover more from The Next York Times
Three Years Ago Today
This advisement was circulated to physicians in Wuhan. By a few months later, based on the reaction of the media and that of many around me, I knew what to expect, and began to plan
That was 12/30/19. SARS-CoV-19 was suddenly on the menu.
By a few months later, based on the reaction of the media and that of many around me, I knew what to expect, and began to plan. I had seen it repeatedly before, having been through several massive crises since being born in the late 70s. The reactions seemed to have gotten worse each time, even though the crises became much less violent.
Less violent, from my vantage point of someone who was surrounded by the drug (crack cocaine), disease (HIV and tuberculosis), and ten-times-as-high violence pandemics that were urban life in the late 80s and early 90s, especially in Brooklyn. That was followed for me by September 11th in NYC, and the Great Financial Crisis in NYC.
Following the pandemonium of the actual crisis, there would be several years of people spinning out of control and making it worse. There would be those who demanded more control, exerting pressure, antagonizing those whom they saw as the “problem,” (which was a highly transmissible virus), and turning a mess into a catastrophe. This is what a Next Yorker’s experience had taught them by early middle age: our way of trying to solve problems, and the conflicts that ensue, are often even bigger problems.
I knew the politicization from this crisis was going to tweak all the most dangerous operators in my network, and they would work to tweak others and lash out. They would default to accusatory hate from their position of fear, and they would start looking to squeeze wherever and whomever they could, to make themselves feel more in control and fruitlessly try to assuage their overpowering anxiety.
This spelled bad news for marginalized communities, and I knew exactly how my own source demographic of privileged white urban residents contributed to that. Hate and suspicion against the marginalized and under-resourced would increase across the board, just targeted differently in different places. The urban affluent would become more deceptive and rapacious, trying to blame their own role in their local problems on their distant foes, in a cycle that destroys us all.
Their foes would respond with something so much worse, I shuddered at what was coming. The most dangerous people, for me, would be both Republican and Democrat, it didn’t matter: the problem is behavioral disorder, not something to do with a voting machine. It plays out on both sides of the political spectrum, the fear reaction causing some people to become, essentially, insane and predatory.
A major concern was that we had already been hostilely politicized to our breaking point by early 2020. I knew, starting from that base, the pandemic response would break us. That meant intensified media Identity Warfare, our mode of hyper-politicized, persecutory communication while competing for resources in crisis, which had already been cresting. And, it would be happening in the medium of our current Internet Quagmire, not 1990’s, 2001’s, or 2008’s.
I also knew I had better get to work, because the tweaked and predatory go for their most vulnerable traditional scapegoats to do their control work with first, when they panic. They get predatory in service to their fear, and it’s hard to defray hostility when you’ve been set up the way I had been, socioeconomically. So I would have to become less vulnerable to the control of predators, plain and simple.
This had already been the plan, and it was a year in when the pandemic started. It’s now been three more years since then. I did become less vulnerable, much less so, and I was opposed every step of the way by the exact people I had expected it from. I also found unlikely allies, saw some dignified behavior, and had some exceeded expectations.
I also lost some lost causes forever, of their own statement and accord, thankfully, simply by standing up for myself. I can’t recommend this screening process highly enough, even though it will draw you real and dangerous ire.
That’s how I spent the pandemic. When you know people in your network are going to be out for blood, and it’s been yours before, and you see it coming, you may be able to stop predation and pathological fear-based outburst, permanently.
This is to say: adversity can strengthen, but the predators will be trying to weaken, every step of the way. Just like walking around in the hood as a prepubescent: don’t listen to the words that come out of the most deceptive mouths, watch their hands to see what they do. This is much, much more true of the affluent than the wannabe affluent when they feel threatened.
Their jealousy during crisis—or fear of loss and irrational, anticompetitive feelings of rivalry—are unparalleled in danger in my experience, because they have so much to work with.
Be strong, and skeptical when you hear people suggesting otherwise.▪️