Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Mongols and turnips: coronavirus roundup

Jerry Stratton, April 16, 2020

Mongols and Turnips

Yes, those whiners who want to be able to feed their children while you whine on about needing a total lockdown against a virus that can supposedly be defeated simply by walking six feet away from everybody else.

The Mongol and the turnip farmer

There must be a version of l’esprit d’espalier that describes someone making a social media post you wish they’d made before you wrote your blog post.

The meme went like this: two people on the walls overlooking a Mongol invasion, except that later we discover that the Mongols aren’t there all the time, and some farmer is complaining that he needs to harvest his crops. The other guy says, no, the Mongols will kill you if you try to harvest your crops.

The point of the meme is that it is silly to try to harvest your crops while there might be Mongols outside.

It’s very apt, because in real life, the Mongols got through the walls without any help from turnip farmers. Walls aren’t meant to keep the Mongols out on their own. They’re meant to divert and delay. They’re meant to divert the Mongols to areas more easily defended, and to buy time until we can bring a defense against the Mongols.1

But the crops… the crops are meant to feed us, and without the crops we die.

I will give this meme credit: it neatly encapsulates the tradeoff that I was talking about in Deadly Perfection between the unreasoning fear we’re asked to accept at the cost of the civilization we’ve built. The Mongols are an immediate threat. It might be possible to fight the Mongols hand-to-hand, or to attempt to build up a resistance against them slowly. But the crops are the future. Without the crops, we die when winter comes.

The Mongols are barbarism, the crops are civilization.

The barbarian at the walls isn’t the virus. The virus is the excuse for the barbarians to act. The barbarians are the politicians and the media who want to destroy our civilization. Everything that is made is made for a reason. Every week we don’t build, every week that we let what we’ve made rot for lack of use and distribution, we increase the chances of a deadly winter.

And when people start talking seriously about the tradeoffs involved, and how we’re killing real people in the future to prevent deaths predicted by models that have failed spectacularly, we’re met with fearmongering about Mongols at the walls.

The Mask of the Red Death

And while on the subject of things I wish had happened before a blog post, the media is still acting up, and badly. Since I wrote Media Scare Machine: The Sky is Falling they’ve only been getting worse. For example, Georgia has a well-intentioned but very poorly-written law that bans wearing face masks in public.

$ 16-11-38. Wearing mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer

(a) A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.

(b) This Code section shall not apply to:

(1) A person wearing a traditional holiday costume on the occasion of the holiday;

(2) A person lawfully engaged in trade and employment or in a sporting activity where a mask is worn for the purpose of ensuring the physical safety of the wearer, or because of the nature of the occupation, trade, or profession, or sporting activity;

(3) A person using a mask in a theatrical production including use in Mardi gras celebrations and masquerade balls; or

(4) A person wearing a gas mask prescribed in emergency management drills and exercises or emergencies.

Klan members wear hoods

“I blame it on Karen.”

I call it well-intentioned because it was, supposedly, meant to fight the Ku Klux Klan. But there is no mention of the KKK in the statute. It applies to everyone. And there is no exemption for wearing a mask during a contagious disease outbreak. Anyone following the advice of the medical profession is breaking the law in Georgia. Georgia’s governor decided, rightly, to waive the law until the legislature can get around to fixing it.

But Georgia’s governor is a Republican. So the media reports this as:

Gov. Kemp signed an Executive Order waiving a 1951 law that banned wearing KKK hoods amid the spread of COVID-19. Is it okay for Klan members to wear hoods to prevent spreading the virus?

And then media talking heads complain that people think their profession is filled with ghouls who feed on suffering and spread death.

Isolation causes deaths

While on the topic of l’esprit d’escalier, I forgot, in Deadly Perfection, about one potential result of deaths that comes directly from the lockdown. Research seems to show that married men live longer than or are healthier than single men. There are lots of explanations for this involving psychological and biological reactions to nearness and affection, but the simplest explanation is that when you’re alone there isn’t anyone to see when you’ve had a stroke or a heart attack, or you’ve fallen off your bed.2

When you’re married, your spouse makes sure you get to the hospital quickly; when you’re married, your spouse notices that you have a minor medical issue and brings you to the doctor before it becomes a major medical issue.

When you’re alone, no one sees you.

But of course if this theory is correct there is also a middle ground, people who receive visits from friends and relatives every day, and so are discovered within 24 hours, or more likely within 12 hours. And those people are no longer receiving visits every day.

In response to 2020 in Photos: For photos, memes, and perhaps other quick notes sent from my mobile device or written on the fly during 2020.

  1. And in some cases, such as Rome, there’s an argument that the walls weren’t meant just to help keep the barbarians out but to slow the barbarians down when they tried to escape with all the loot they’d stolen. Because they can get over the walls easily to get in, but can’t get over the walls to get out when their hands are full. But that’s getting well beyond the analogy.

  2. This theory also explains the reason that the effect is nonexistent or much smaller among women: women live longer than men anyway, by a lot. So when men get sick, their wife is around to notice, but when women get sick, their husband has already died.

  1. Jurassic Ghostbusters ->