A Journal of the Plague Year Day 55

Tuesday 12th May 2020

J got sick, feeling back pain and a headache. Then he woke up drowsy as if a hangover, enough to have to get me to do his shopping. No runny nose, cough or fever, taste and smell fine. But still.

So we had to have that conversation, something we should have had way before any of this, months ago: what to do if anyone gets it.

Standing 2 metres away from someone at all times is pretty awkward in a flat like this. J cocooned on the sofa in blankets while we stood in the opposite corner by the door, I might as well have gotten a stick to prod him with, maybe a crucifix.

So we’ll isolate him in his room, and do all the feeding and tending, though J’s idea is to go his partner’s place and sit it out there. I advised against, considering there are other flatmates on that side to consider, who may get infected.

We then awkwardly retired to our bedrooms for the early night; the living room feels a bit in bad taste now.

Next morning we checked up and no sweats, chills and headache had gone, no blue ‘Covid toes’ and the pain had moved down his back. We think it’s been back pain all along.

Lockdown is easing now across the country, people now allowed out for as long as they can exercise, and commuting set for tomorrow. Life is starting again, but it remains to be seen how fast and how large a second wave will be. In Seoul, one super-carrier out at the newly reopened nightlife, visited 5 clubs in one night, infecting dozens. They’re now trying to trace nearly 2,000 other punters.

Greece, a vision of how to do things, with 2,700 cases and only 150 deaths, will reopen for tourism in June. Brits will be allowed by our government to partake.

In contrast NYC is still hammered down, whose death toll is now past 26,000. By contrast San Francisco, who locked down on the same timescale, has only 35 deaths. That’s no mistake, not even a week’s difference, and change in population density take into account such a discrepancy. They believe more strongly it’s due to different strains, NYC infected from a more lethal, contagious mutation from Europe, California a milder one from Asia.

The bungled efforts of the government has doomed much of the nation -epidemiologists say 60% of the 83,000 deaths (about 50,000) so far could have been avoided if they’d lockdowned a week earlier – a clock has been set in Times Square advertising the fact. The BBC has looked in-depth at the response, comparing it with other nations, and finding that Democrat governors locked down on average after 2.5 days when deaths hit 1 per million. Republicans locked down on average 13.5 days – nearly two weeks later.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p08cx0s7/52622037

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-52622037/coronavirus-the-lost-six-weeks-when-us-failed-to-contain-outbreak



New York is currently the world’s deadliest place per capita
. The global Top 20 at the mo:

New York – 1,397
San Marino – 1,208
New Jersey – 1,074
Connecticut – 853
Belgium – 756
Massachusetts – 746
Andorra – 621
Spain – 576
Italy – 511
Louisiana – 505
UK – 482
District of Columbia – 476
Michigan – 468
Rhode Island – 419
France – 414
Sweden – 328
Netherlands – 322
Pennsylvania – 306
Republic of Ireland – 301
Maryland – 290

The excess deaths in New York are six times the average, and very likely c-19 is being undercounted. The same for the UK, which if connected would almost double our current total of 33,000 dead. Both New York State and the UK are now seeing a decrease in cases and deaths, but in Italy they are rising again. Russia now has the second highest amount of global cases.

In other words, we’re knowingly opening up again, knowingly killing. Like at the start of the pandemic, we can see it coming, we can work it out personally. But we’re trusting our government to take action despite.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 40

Sunday 26th April 2020

Donald Trump is a sociopath.

The more one looks at his behaviour, the classic signs of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder appear.

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes himself ‘special’ and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people /institutions.
  4. Requires excessive admiration, regularly fishing for compliments, and highly susceptible to flattery.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement.
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative.
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling or unable to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes them envious in return.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes.
  10. Highly reactive to criticism and can be inordinately self-righteous or defensive, often reacting to contrary viewpoints with anger or rage.

Outta the way ProMo of Monto-nogo!

^That btw is also the 101 on standard business practice. Think about it: does a business apologise for bad customer service because it’s genuinely sorry, or a ploy to keep you spending, and unraging on Twitter? Does it give discounts/ deals because it genuinely wants to benefit you, by imparting a loss in profits? Does it ever cut costs from the top to bottom? And does its pay structure reflect this? Does it ever, ever give back to the customer if getting nothing back?

For that would be bad business sense -the lowest common denominator, the shareholder value, the constant demands for growth, and the pyramid schemes for those at the top they soon start to resemble, well until the next financial fall-out. They say psychopaths are 1 in 200, or 1 in 60 for those on the spectrum (so about 60 of the nutters running amok on your regular cruise ship). They tend towards positions such as doctors, surgeons, lawyers, the clergy and business. By the time you’re hitting higher finance management they say it’s as high as 1 in 7.

Trump appears somewhere between textbook sociopathy and narcissism. Tom Schwartz, the ghost author of his bestselling biography, The Art of the Deal, said if given a second chance he’d rename it The Sociopath.

Before all this applied to the dictators and aristocracy, then banking, then multinationals, the military-industrial complex, and now the US government. And it’s impossible to negotiate with this kernel of supporters behind the grand plan, not just for their vastly vested interests, but their condition. Everyone it’s said ‘has their heart in the right place’ -not so much this cabal. And neither is it them we should blame -they are after all pathologically inclined to behave as they do, and for most part cannot help it. What we should be looking at are the enablers, and blimmin eck, what an army that is. The droves of downvoters, upvoters, voters, rallyists, tweeters, meme-makers and story sharers (which of course we are as guilty of in our own camp).

Thus Trump appeals to those on the spectrum, and frankly, the stupid, taken in by their visions.

What is interesting is those stricken with sociopathy, psychopathy and narcissism, are deficient in the same part of the brain as those who are a bit shit in critical thinking -the frontal lobe responsible for reasoning, decision-making, empathy and regulating emotion.

There was a time when right wing politics attracted normal people (having friends n everything!), who maybe preferred a different tax structure (notably paying less) or a different policy on say dentistry funding, park management, the way their local rep behaved, or simply envisaged a different approach to help others.

One can see as late as the 1980s the traditionally Republican heartlands today of the southern States and prairielands were openly voting for the Democrats. In short, sides were interchangeable, and not as partisan and set into stone as it is today, the age of the algorithm, social media and fake news.

1984 election results – blue centre left, red centre right. Heartlands such as Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Lousiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, the Dakotas and Virginias, all voting Democrat:

Today is another story entirely. Donald Trump’s 2016 win:

A word of warning: this does not mean all those who voted for Trump that year still currently believe in him, nor that they aren’t just voting for their ruralised or industrial sector interests as promised. Also despite the large blanketing of Trumpian red, more people actually voted for Clinton by 2.5 million, who was better represented by the smaller but more densely populated urban areas.

It’s just a strong shame so many don’t any longer hear the opposing side. It is how a democracy is not necessarily functioning as one.

s

The current Benny Hill show that is the White House has given democracy a bad name, and increasingly invalidates it. It gives equal power to ignorance (if not more so) than facts, patriotism over charity, xenophobia over universality. The Dunning-Kruger Effect won the Nobel prize by showing that stupid people are more believing in their capabilities, and thus more vocal, while those with a higher EQ/ intelligence were less so -and adversely more liable to give platform to the belligerent and shouty. Listening politely and attentively -discussing, engaging, and thus allowing batshit crazy views onto the table, and the vote. Dunning and Kruger won the prize as they showed how the world gets changed:



“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.”

“…voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Hermann Goerring 1946

In short our world has long been a shitshow of keeping the sociopaths and those on the spectrum in power, enabled by legions of the easily led and patriotic, and who lack critical thinking.

It can be summed up by:

Do not understimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

The great man also said: “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 7

Tuesday, 24th March 2020

Lockdown. As of last night, PM Boris Johnson came on to let us know that we’re no longer allowed out other than one exercise (type) a day, to go shopping (only food, pet stores and pharmacies) or to work (essential workers, or if you ‘absolutely have to’). The Telegraph of course emblazoned its headline this morning as ‘The End of Freedom’.

We’ll get fined otherwise, and if we hang out in groups of more than 2 it’ll get broken up, similar to the days of Thatcherism where more than 8 people around a radio constituted an illegal rave. I don’t however see myself joining a Reclaim the Streets brigade.

TOPSHOT-BRITAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS

It’s not so much that the lockdown is now in place, but why it took so long, given the track record of not acting quickly enough in Italy and Wuhan, alongside the proven benefits that South Korea, Singapore and the rest of China managed to pull off (for the time being -reinfection is still a fear, albeit with standard testing at every corner). Opinion posits this late joining to the party has been BoJo’s long championing of personal liberties; he famously wrote in his former Telegraph column that the ban on public smoking was akin to killing Iraqis to free them.

Well after the droves of people witnessed across the country’s parks and beauty spots over the sunny weekend, he had to bite the bullet. It sounds like in the West that’s exactly what is needed in order to keep the population indoors: guns, with the army having to be called in across the continent – Italy alone has had hundreds of thousands of people fined already. The army helicopters did a flypast over our estate last night, spotting some chinooks out of the eight before we stopped counting.

As mentioned before, us Brits are a libertine bunch, a bit too entitled since the days of Empire, and in contrast to a Germany where the death toll per capita is lower than its neighbours, perhaps due to a more heedful populace in a regimented Germanic stereotype. Albeit Austria -more specifically the apres-Ski resort of Ischgl -has now been pinpointed as a main source for infecting much of Mitteleuropa, notably a majority of the spreader Germans and Danes and as far away as Iceland. All thanks to a sick barman (who blew whistles to clear the drunken droves engaging in body fluid beer pong), and an ensuing cover-up, the management and council in cahoots. Austria had consistently denied the link until it became too obvious, with hundreds of patients sharing that same hand-warming, shoulder-rubbing vector-point.

s

The US too appears ever hassled, with its right to bear arms in a similar cultural quandary as the UK, whereby it’s populace may now prove to be its own worst enemy. It’s one thing to have 165 million people left with a month’s worth of money before facing homelessness and destitution, as the current fiscal roll out is promising, it’s another to give them guns to go with their desperation. The Stateside press is fervent with calls to take out Nancy Pelosi, who undid the emergency draft of economic measures after noticing it did nothing for the common man and a lot for uncommon, big business. Predictably so -barging into DC and plonking down her 1,400 page amendment as a rebuttal to much more rebuttal. Going by what the Republicans had intended your average white collar worker would get $1200 a head, while blue collar families $600, as a random example.

s2

Meanwhile the Democrats took the opportunity to attempt a sea change in policy to come with the draft, from affirmative action rolled out into the corporate echelons to gender/ minority equity in the payscale, from halving greenhouse gases to increased union power, freer healthcare to free internet. This has of course stymied the fast-tracked path of the bailout, as businesses continue to fold and a large chunk of the population waits in limbo, attack rifles readied.

The fact that for most Americans keeping yourself in work is vital to paying for your healthcare, has become a vicious Catch 22 in these climes, whereby even the threat of illness negates work which in turn negates any chance of proper treatment, or will further indebt you for decades. This is what Obamacare, increasingly indentured, attempted to bypass. It seems the end is nigh for the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even if that entailed for some, the white picket fencing off from community and a God-given right to bear arms. And it has come not in the shape of the Red Scare, foreign attack, immigrant takeover, economic overshadowing, nuclear war or a Hollywood alien race, but a mere virus exposing the flaws in every society so far. Plus a global, capitalist system utterly reliant on unceasing spending, no matter whether you’re in Louisiana or Lusaka.

s

The fact Trump is now seeking to reinstate this system to the tune of untold dying is a sign of our times, and the monster we’ve nurtured, whereby dollars > death. The House Senate is now looking to shorten lockdowns, if even have them in place, which isn’t exactly democratic in any way given the commercial lobbying (read: corruption) and the lack of people voting on their own fates.

Yesterday we watched Doomsday Preppers straight after BoJo’s speech, which wasn’t the best choice in hindsight. I ended up yelling at the screen after having every button pressed repeatedly in seeing grown men (all terse, overweight and suburban) bring up their kids and inveigle other families and long-suffering wives into a life of unputdownable threat and big boys’ army games. Which got me triggered, so to speak. Watching white-socked wannabees bowling round pristine lawns armed with uzis and a well-tended fear of cityfolk, or the sweaty ranch-owning narcissist who puts his kids in life-or-death scenarios as per norm, in preparation for a terrorist takeover. His hiring of local law enforcers -constructively nurturing more trigger happiness -to stage a shouty ransoming of family members, guns to heads was especially revealing. All in aid of seeing what the 7 year old would do (he caved and put the shotgun down, bless his little warm, living hands).

I honestly think there is an unsaid link between our sociopathy spectrum levels with a hangover from our predatory evolution. That those on the far right have been shown to share nightmares of being hunted, hounded by constant threat (darkies chasing them with machetes, feminazis throwing tampons, trees getting hugged) -and that we ourselves demonstrate when put in the corner. When forced to defend our loved ones the last feelings of empathy or concern for the Other (side) goes well out the reinforced window. It’s a certain mix of cold disregard with wheedling attention and premonition that is a pathological condition methinks, and the series is making the most of it. I was shocked to find it was from the National Geographic, though of course majority stakes went to Rupert Murdoch a few years ago, and the channel’s always been in bed with Fox since 2001.

s

Anyhoo they must be loving life right now. So I am not convinced this world deserves us, and that we deserve the world, regardless of how glossy a cover it makes and how, like most relationships in life, we pretend to care and support each other.

More commuting horrors of the tube were snapped this morning – but before we tut our middle class tongues, look again at the pics and note this is just the normal 5-7am rush hour for the poor as it is every day – construction crews, supermarket shelvers, carers, caterers, cleaners, transportation workers who have to come in from far to service the centre. Take away their trains and frequencies and it can only get worse -it’s a telling sign that somewhere like Denmark puts on more trains to enable social distancing, and we do the opposite to systemise it. Is that plain stupidity or just the usual punishing of the poor, at best callous, at worst intentional?

These people are not wilfully there, they are not congregating at sunrise for a latte in the park. They are trying to survive, and running a new gauntlet to do so; choice being a luxury we may have and they do not.

In short this is more a picture of desperation than disregard.

s

ss

There is always an underlying economy beneath our everyday, the background workers shunted into fruit picking, manual labour, cleaning and human exploitation from nail bars to prostitutes to garage workers to sweatshop droves in territories beyond. The fact most Londoners have no idea there is a peak travel time at dawn, where it’s standing room only on buses and trains, so long as you live out in Zones 4-9, and are up early enough to witness it, perhaps when catching our flights to more aspirational destinations.

s

You can actually work out how many slaves work for you here; take note that by namedropping you live in London you actually entail more indentured labour than if you opted for Dubai, pariah of a vast underclass behind the steel and glass, just less hidden. This appears to be our question in these days of our lives, do we look out for that unseen economy? Do we worry for and change habits for the untold numbers at the edges of society, the shadows in our peripherals, blocking the sun? The old, the sick, the alone, the homeless, the vulnerable who will be dying soon in forgotten wards and warehouses across the country in the next few weeks.

Italy has seen a fall in deaths again today, though still in the hundreds. It may be over the worst, though Spain looks soon to take that mantle. The UK waits in the wings, and a judgement on what our policy of half-arsed mitigation has sown. When push comes to shove, and for all our navel-gazing entreaties, how much will we look out for others, or take up arms against them? There’s a lot to be said about being alone in a crowd.

2

In other news J, who was a photographer and artist in another life has had his image on valuable items, for an upcoming auction (online of course) added to the Chiswick house feed where he works. Very apt, and a sign of the times. When I saw it, jaw-dropped, I did actually ask where he got them from. What is it that we hold dear, no really?

s

John Rogers, @durbinlewis

“Right now in today’s world our perception of value might have shifted somewhat since 1766, when Sir Thomas Broughton and Mary Wicker had their coat of arms engraved upon this soup tureen as part of their marriage silver. Nevertheless the timeless quality of the silver sold through the Wakelin partnerships continues to captivate collectors and aesthetes alike.

Lot 580 on the 25th March Silver & Objects of Vertu auction

Just saw two of our neighbours from the window, coming up with their shopping (Sainsbury’s looks like), and proving life can be normalised despite. The sun is out and it almost looks a vision of lost mundanity, with their produce and smiles and nice clothing, all satisfaction arising in a time of want. They’ve even managed to find loo roll.

The stairs, that’s where we’ll get them.

Yesterday

Tomorrow