The Sheer Fatigue Of Whatever Wave This Is
We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired
It feels like nobody gives a shit anymore. Nose-dragging, chin-strapping, going to bars, having birthday parties, whatever. Even the government is like, be safe, you’re on your own.
Pandemic fatigue is real. It’s exhausting.
The opposite of solidarity is liquidarity
People just can’t on their own, so they don’t. Where I live, Sri Lanka is having its worst wave (a few hundred cases every day) but we’re definitely not on our best behavior. People are planning New Year’s, having birthday parties, going to the gym.
Our family declines the few invitation we get with the gritted subtext of why are you having this at all? But we’re the odd ones out. We don’t go anywhere, but we’re the only ones doing this.
In the first wave we did this together. Now it’s just us. In the first wave there was a sense of solidarity, of shared fear. Now it’s just here. Mandatory requirements have become voluntary, which is to say they’re not requirements at all. They don’t happen. The overwhelming pressure is towards social normalcy, not distancing. We’re alone (we have the privilege to be alone), and it’s tempting to judge.
There’s a sanctimonious anger you can carry around at people, but the problem is really leadership. It takes leadership to look into the future and say we need to sacrifice now to save ourselves later. Without leadership everyone just looks around at today, and everything looks fine, so we get on with it. In lieu of human leadership, we follow the virus.
In the first wave there was enough public fear that democratish leaders could represent our fear. Now they just represent our fatigue.
Honestly, I don’t even know what wave it is anymore. For us in Sri Lanka it’s the second wave. For some people it’s the third. For places like America, the waters never went down. What’s a wave to someone that’s already underwater? Just ripples on the surface.
The opposite of solidarity is liquidarity. Some people grow gills of indifference while those around them drown. I can’t even judge them anymore. We’re all just tired.
The Ant & The Grasshopper
Before bed I read my children the Ant & The Grasshopper and wonder why adults are so dumb. We get lost in models and AI and forget that human nature doesn’t change that much. I keep telling my children things I don’t even follow, in the hopes that they will.
There’s a time for work and a time for play.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Eternal lessons, forever unlearned. I guess they wouldn’t be eternal if we learned them.
I keep thinking of the Ant & The Grasshopper because we’re living it. China is the Ant. They worked and crushed their epidemic. The West is the Grasshopper. They kept going to restaurants and bars. Now winter has come, and the grasshoppers are dying, in droves.
Knowledge was ignored and experience has made no one wiser. It just made everyone more tired.
We repeat the same mistakes,
Season after season, wave after wave.
We have the same debates,
Reason after reason, grave after grave.
The West had a chance and missed it. They saw success and dismissed it. Why? More to the point, why is my country following them? We used to be with East Asia.
I’d say it was incompetence, but we’re also just exhausted and poor. The Western mantra of ‘new normal’ and ‘just get the disease’ seems attractive. At least it’s less of a struggle.
The Moral of Morale
I never understood what morale was, or why it was so important. Why don’t people just get up and fight? But I was reading history, not living it. Historians run a hot iron over the present, they make it a story. To the people living history, it’s just confusing and it sucks.
You can’t know the fear, the uncertainty until you feel it. And you can’t know the crushing weight of other people’s fear, their uncertainty, and, even worse, their ambivalence, until it hangs over you like a wet blanket.
Don’t it always seems to go? You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
The morale to fight the first wave was strong, the second wave was grudging, and the third is not there at all. Every country is always two or three months away from eliminating their epidemic, but you only really have enough morale once. Maybe twice, if you’re lucky. After a while you’re just like fuck it, I’m a fish, I live here.
I don’t know what wave you’re on. Maybe you’re just underwater and waves are things that happen on the surface. In Sri Lanka we squashed our first wave with a vicious two month lockdown, but we just didn’t have it in us for the second. Only 69 people have died (total), but we don’t have the same energy as before. We’re just getting on with it, letting public health workers and police take the brunt.
It’s not that we’re immoral. Our morale is just gone.
So here we are, chin-strapping our way into eternity. Treating today’s work as too hard, though tomorrow’s labor is dearer still. Treading water when we could just put our heads down, hold our breath, and swim away.
Here I sit in a household lockdown while I can literally hear the world moving outside. Talking about distant death while immediate life beckons. Talking about other countries while this one seems, on the surface, fine. The weird thing is that, for a while, giving up and winning feel the same. Like the grasshopper, you can fiddle while the sun is warm.
The danger is only in the future, a faint frost in the morning, leaves curling red around the edges. By the time you notice the leaves falling, it’s too late. Winter has come. And believe me, winter is coming, but how many times can you tell people that? They’re like we know, that’s why we’re enjoying the sun.
Aesop’s fables are still relevant because human nature doesn’t change much. We’re just jumped-up apes with a dim perception of time. We’re also traumatized apes, and being asked to take more of the same bitter medicine is, after a point, impossible. If you’ve ever tried to give a sick animal medicine it’s not easy, especially the second or third time. A dog will bite you after a point, even when you’re trying to help. Our body politic isn’t much smarter, and we’re exhausted.
Such is the sheer fatigue of whatever wave this is. It feels like people are being dumbasses, but I guess people are just people. We follow leaders, or in lieu of that, we follow the virus. We live for today, even if we die tomorrow. We follow each other, even if it’s off a cliff. Pandemic fatigue is real. And yet the virus is indefatigable. It’s exhausting.