The Covid reality versus death & denial
19 November 2020
ADELAIDE - I think that most of you will agree that 2020 has been the most strange, disruptive and, in many respects, disturbing year of our lives.
This has certainly been the case for me, where two major medical events have occurred leaving me seriously frightened and, for some time, in considerable pain.
Of course, in the wider world, what has happened in my life is of no consequence.
After all, why should it be otherwise, there being over seven billion of us living on this planet, each dealing with our own crises, triumphs and tragedies.
What we all have in common is trying to cope with a world hugely disrupted by a deadly pandemic.
This task has been made all the harder by the great determination of many people to refuse to accept that anything out of the ordinary is happening.
The extent to which people deny the severity of the pandemic or, in some cases, its very existence, bewilders me.
Societies that were hitherto thought to be composed mostly of rational, educated and intelligent people have been revealed as something very different.
The United States has been prominent amongst the countries which have displayed exceptional ineptitude and sometimes sheer stupidity in their attempts to manage the worst public health crisis in a century.
A story published in the US Huffington Post illustrates this point. Jodi Doering, a nurse working in South Dakota, reported upon her experiences treating people dying from Covid-19.
Ms Doering was clearly both exhausted and exasperated by her experiences as she treated people who refused to accept they had Covid-19 and that it was killing them.
She said that many of their dying words were, “This cannot be happening to me. It’s not real”.
Ms Doering described working with these patients as “a horror movie that never ends”.
It is a struggle for me to comprehend how a refusal to accept reality can persist in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, not least the denial that what is killing you doesn’t exist.
But perhaps this phenomenon is not quite so mad or unusual as it may seem.
I recall that Monty Python brilliantly and hilariously referenced this bizarre human characteristic in the movie ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.
The movie is a parody of the medieval tale about the knights of King Arthur’s court on a quest to find the Holy Grail.
At one point, their journey is impeded by the Black Knight, who insists they may only pass him by means of mortal combat.
In the ensuing fight the Black Knight is progressively shorn of his limbs. When each limb is removed he is chivalrously offered the opportunity stand aside but refuses to do so.
Even when the Black Knight is reduced to having no arms and standing on the stumps of his legs, he continues to hurl abuse and threats. The bemused knights eventually choose to simply ignore him and go on their way.
My interpretation of this scene is that the Monty Python writers were referencing the bizarre human capacity for wilfully denying the obvious.
It was an allusion to people refusing to accept any reality conflicting with their personal beliefs.
It is as if some of us think that we can literally wish away reality.
This is an amusing notion in a film but not when it is manifested in a figure like the president of the United States who maintains that Covid-19 will disappear like magic and then ignores any scientific advice that conflicts with this belief.
It is impossible to trust the political and personal judgement of such a person, especially when he has the power to initiate a nuclear war or, potentially at least, trigger a civil war.
For me the most frightening revelation of 2020 has been that this characteristic exists in many more people than I imagined, some of them in positions of great authority.
It is a chilling reminder of our collective vulnerability to people who believe that what they think is more important than what is happening in the real world of observable fact.
History tells us that it is people like this who frequently lead their naïve followers into a world of death, destruction and ruination.
A world that, even as they seek to make it real, exists only in their imaginations.
Scientific reality brings us reports of the pathogens in Covid-19, wi.th science engaged in the pursuit of verifiable knowledge.
Proteins are made up of strings of amino acids that curl in three dimensions. By 1972, scientist Christian Anfinsen showed "that it should be possible to determine the shape of proteins". Now, computer technology enables amazing advances in that field of knowledge.
Why are the advances so grand? Well, being able to predict spatial curves at that minuscule scale may help to overcome effects of Covid-19 and much of other ailments that are intrusive to humans.
Today's generation of humans brings youngsters to education with hope of fulfilment in life and just possibly igniting interest in science that will enable lessening of sadness, so lending more to joy.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 01 December 2020 at 10:31 PM
I've been thinking for quite some time, and am of the opinion that Trump is labouring under a misapprehension of similar preconceived ideas that also led to the ascendency of Adolf Hitler in the 1920/30s. Now that's a real Beggoooragh!
Posted by: William Dunlop | 19 November 2020 at 11:08 PM
Not to make too fine a point of it about 'followers', just in the past seven days, did not PNG people find reports of a trooping of 'followers', first to the opposition benches and then to a national extreme location (and identification) of Vanimo.
Talk about being impressed, and lack of care in verification!
Pity those electors in almost half of PNG, when it comes to the next national ballot. Whom will they want to see as 'leaders' and whom the electors themselves might want to be known as 'followers'.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 19 November 2020 at 02:30 PM
Sorry tale indeed about heralding a coming of disappearance. Yet a small reference may need re-evaluation.
Apparently Trump "declared at least 38 times that Covid-19 is either going to disappear or is currently disappearing."
Yet the word 'magic' seems not part of that foretelling.
Is that not a 'must read'?
This distinction is noted because it is quite likely Trump, rather than give magic the credit, would have assumed all credit to his own sense of persona.
That is, if not, then at least to the possibility of implementing that sense in the minds of 'followers'.
As with Chris's point, to the "people who believe", it is they with whom humanity needs be engaged. A nation of pre-1939 Germany has emerged since with a collective sorrow for the tangible harm brought by a people who follow a belief that averts from stunningly stark reality.
And Phil, it's not the Christianity of evangelicals or other variants, but the stunningly insensitivity (selfishness?) of the 'followers' across humanity's broad reach.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 19 November 2020 at 11:52 AM
Ah, now Philip, you have a fine way with words when it comes to that edjit Trump. Beggoooragh!
Posted by: William Dunlop | 19 November 2020 at 08:13 AM
For some reason the last few paragraphs in your article immediately made me think of religion Chris.
And given that evangelical christians are big supporters of Trump I think I can see a link with what you write about the USA.
In the couple of weeks since the US election Trump has morphed from a ridiculous clown to a decidely repulsive human being in my mind.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 19 November 2020 at 06:44 AM