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The Coronavirus Test - Are you a Clock or an Orange?

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange
‘I've implied the junction of the organic, the lively, the sweet – in other words, life, the orange – and the mechanical, the cold, the disciplined [the clock].’  Anthony Burgess explaining the title of his novel, A Clockwork Orange.

As the coronavirus sprang upon us in the first months of 2020, it seemed possible that this virus could undo some of the intense polarization that has gripped the nation since at least 2016.

It didn’t turn out that way.

The virus has actually thrown more gas on the fires of discord- something that would have seemed impossible back in the 'quaint' days of January 2020 when impeaching the President was all the rage.

Clocks and Oranges


There are two diametrically opposed views on this crisis.  The first argues that it's a catastrophic pandemic and we must drastically change the basic functioning of our civilization until we find a safe way out.  Let’s call the folks who follow this view the clocks.

The clocks see nature as a beautiful garden that they're charged with caring for, cultivating and molding.  They are the masters of science, logic, and materialism and feel an obligation to drive nature toward the good, the just and the equitable.

 Orange King
The other view of the virus is that it’s just one more curveball mother nature has tossed our way.  We have survived other pandemics and we'll survive this one.  Those who follow this view are sceptical of the science and feel empowered to embrace their mortality and move on.  Let’s call these folks the oranges.

The oranges feel a part of nature.  Not only do they accept her harsh realities, they feel empowered by their role in her epic drama.  They are not here to change the world, but to be part of it.

The clocks want to convert the oranges into timepieces, creating a ‘clockwork orange’ while the oranges just want to be left alone.

The oranges are leery of change.  The clocks want to change absolutely everything.

We all know who the oranges voted for in 2016, and since then the clocks have done everything in their power to remove him.




Death


There is death by COVID-19, and then there is the regular old death and dying.  For the clocks, there's nothing worse than people dying of COVID-19.  It has captured their imaginations and infiltrated their psyches.

At the beginning of the outbreak, I made a Twitter list of the most prominent experts on the topic in order to follow what I thought was the ‘science'- lots of PhDs from our most esteemed universities.  But I soon noticed that their science was tainted with a heavy dose of ‘clock’ dogma.


Dr. Rivers from Johns Hopkins has her heart in the right place.  She is sure, maybe too sure, that she's doing ‘good’ and she's baffled by anyone who isn't terrified of leaving their home without a mask, sanitizer and a heavy dose of fear.  The clocks are dumbfounded by the sceptical oranges.


Dr. Mackay tweeted a quote from a story about a pack of oranges, "They are the kind of person who isn't happy with [what] they are told by experts and prefer to go and seek their own narrative." He then asked, ‘Why do coronavirus sceptics and deniers continue to downplay the disease?’  He's shocked that these people actually want to think.



The Atlantic reported that between 2000 and 2016 as many as 453,000 people had died of opioid overdose. Let’s remember that an opioid addict just doesn’t get sick and die, they spend years destroying themselves, their friends, families and communities before they pass on.  But for some reason, people dying this way just doesn't have the same effect on the clocks as COVID-19 deaths do.  In fact, life expectancy among Caucasian Americans has been in decline since the late 1990’s.

In essence, the oranges have had the coronavirus for more than twenty years and the clocks haven’t paid much attention.  Anderson Cooper & company have barely mentioned their plight.

Some other folks don't seem to be very big on the clock radar either, from The Guardian:

The coronavirus crisis will push more than a quarter of a billion people to the brink of starvation unless swift action is taken to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions, the UN and other experts have warned. 

About 265 million people around the world are forecast to be facing acute food insecurity by the end of this year, a doubling of the 130 million estimated to suffer severe food shortages last year.

These numbers are breathtaking yet go practically unmentioned as potential victims of COVID-19 policies;  these souls exist in the shadows of the clockwork orange.

Clock Science vs. Orange Science   


One would have thought, before 2020, that virology and epidemiology were inherently apolitical.  Incredibly, even one's views on antibody tests are highly correlated with voting preference and whether one prefers Tucker Carlson to Rachel Maddow.

By the time the now infamous Stanford led Santa Clara antibody tests came out, I could already predict how my blue check mark list of Twitter experts were going to respond.

'I think the authors owe us all an apology… not just to us, but to Stanford,' wrote Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.

Dr. Gelman is a serious clock and he was furious.  How could anyone from a reputable university even begin to suggest that we weren’t facing the greatest threat to humanity since the black death.  The first wave of antibody test results implied that the infection fatality rate (IFR) was lower than first reported and more carriers were asymptomatic as well.  This was NOT good news for the clocks; it was pure heresy.

They wanted the IFR to be higher!  Too low an IFR, say below 0.3%, would be far too close to that of the flu.

Harvard's Dr. Marc Lipsich
The formidable Dr. Marc Lipsitch is the Grand Poobah of the corona clocks.  His quote from The Atlantic article of Feb. 24th really got the clocks wound up and they haven’t been the same since.  This is pure clock speak.

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”

Lipsitch predicts that within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Even the origin of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) falls clearly within this paradigm.  The clocks are desperate for it to have come from some hungry peasant chowing down on a bat burger.  Not the oranges, they're sure the clocks cooked it up with Bill Gates watching intently via Zoom.  But we should cut the oranges a break on this one.  Without ‘exacting diction’ or any higher degrees, they do logically (for once) point out that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been collecting coronaviruses for almost 15 years and they actually made a hybrid coronavirus that could infect humans.  Certainly valid evidence that the lab was at least potentially the source of the virus.

But none other than NPR, the 'voice' of the clocks, came to the rescue, assuring us that-

Virus researchers say there is virtually no chance that the new coronavirus was released as result of a laboratory accident in China or anywhere else.

And maybe in the most enlightening remark highlighting the worldview of the clocks,

"The real risk is in the wild in the way people interact with wildlife around the world," says Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance in New York City…

Of course he's not referring to folks in hazmat suits chasing bats through caves and combing through their excrement.  He's simply telling the oranges to stay the heck out of the woods.

So much for those beloved 17 agencies.

The true enemy is how we interact with nature, the very nature that impels us into the wild to hunt, eat and do all the other things people do in the forest.

Woman eating a bat
The New York Times went so far as to publish an opinion piece where Peter Daszak is oft quoted, titled, We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic - It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose.

Which brings us to how we eat.

The vegan movement perfectly distills the clock/orange divide.  The vegans aim to make a fundamental change in our evolutionary direction, and they might eventually succeed.  The vegan argument is an ideological one and it's being disseminated top down with a strong ethical case.  The oranges counter with the paleo diet, nostalgically harking back to our hunter-gatherer days.

The Great Divide


Most of the great minds have been clocks.  Pythagoras, Plato, Galileo, Newton and Einstein were  surely all clocks.  Without them we would still be running around in loincloths and living in caves.  For most of history, change came slowly enough for the oranges to digest it and adapt.  Of course, the oranges would occasionally rebel and burn a few clocks at the stake, but they would always eventually get with the program.

But as the change the clocks have invoked is starting to become exponential, the oranges are feeling overwhelmed.

The clocks say we are destroying the environment, the oranges see gold in 'them thar hills'.  The clocks say gender is a social construct, the oranges still want to live in a world of Bettys and Bobs.  The clocks want us to stay home until 'science' gives us a solution, the oranges just want to get on with it.


Though their innovations have decided the course of civilization, the clocks had always been a very small minority. But something has changed.  In the era of mass media, the clocks have been able to disseminate their ideas from the great clock bastions: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, academia and the press.  The world has become very 'clocky'.

The clocks are playing to win and the oranges feel like they're rotting away on the branches.  The orange world of gods, spirits, taboos and their ancient traditions of blood and soil are being torn asunder.  Alex Tsakiris puts it well- ‘we are biological robots living in a meaningless universe.’

The most important takeaway from the COVID-19 crisis isn't the science.  The 'science' depends entirely on one's politics.  Whether to get on with life and take our licks or hunker down and ride it out at home has nothing to do with empirical evidence or peer review; it's entirely about our ideological leanings and psychological profiles.

Thousands are dying, billions are locked down, business is shuttered; life as we knew it has basically come to a stand still.  The clocks and the oranges are in a standoff and the stakes are probably much higher than most realize.

This is not about a pandemic.  What we are deciding now is the kind of world we want to live in.  The clocks would love us to sit back, follow their sage advice and allow them to usher in a 'new age'.  Sooner or later they will get their way, but are the oranges ready to give in just yet?

So what is it kid?  Are you a clock or an orange?

4 comments:

  1. I disagree with the way the oranges are defined or perhaps another group needs to be defined.

    Covid 19 is not a radical threat itself from what I can tell. Marketing is all about lying that something is new. Novelty and progress are questionable ideas. This is the fundamental con humanity perpetually faces.

    All it takes is an attention getting action to shift a body from being at ease with nature vs a fight or flight response.

    It's the rich and poor vs the middle class - that's the dichotomy I see.

    While a Bill Gates nerd psycho probably keeps his distance from peasants, he depends on them like a Chessmaster needs pawns and pawns need leaders to tell them what is reality and how to behave.

    The problem with those of us who want to resist what is popular is that we don't have an alternative to society. We have social media which is the intellectual equivalent of pornography and is a form of creative/cooperative birth control.

    If we put up messages everywhere offline and created songs and memes and events, etc as well as engaged those in power with offers and threats then we could balance the desire to change and to render choice obsolete.

    It's essentially like we're all suffering from a drug addiction called consumer co-dependency so we should act accordingly and make it desirable to be like us and undesirable not to.

    There is no such thing as peace. There is only the struggle to live free vs be controlled by others.

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  2. This is one of the best reads I've enjoyed in over a year. Clever and very well written.

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  3. Isn't the "clocks" the same people who think they can solve our environmental problems by "adjusting" the CO2 levels in the atmosphere?

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  4. Here's a solution, the clock's go to there neck of the woods and the oranges go to theirs and we leave each other alone. The clock's can have their dystopian future and let the oranges live in peace.

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