I see panic, doom-n-gloom, ranging from ‘we’re all gonna die!’ to ‘they will take away our civil liberties, forever’ all over the place. Well, who knows? But honestly, I doubt either scenario. I think we’re in for a rough ride. People will die, and economies will suffer. Whether any of that is as bad as those panic buying TP think… well, dudes, I’m relatively high risk (underlying condition), and I do work in a high risk environment (I’m a Volunteer Ambulance Officer- on a small island where we are all they have) and am married to and live with someone who also works in the front line. I don’t want to die, but I’ve had one hellva life, if God thinks it is my turn. I’m not giving up my Ambo work, nor stocking up on TP. I think governments loathe giving up control of anything. But… well, once a genie has been out of the bottle, it’s not that easy to push back – or once the scare is over, to keep back. Yes, it may require hanging or shooting a few politicians, but, think of it as pour encourager les autres.
And we’re in for turbulence, bad bits, lots of human stupidity… but there might be some upside as well as downside in the medium to longer term (and I may be dead –so serious upside for the worms. Until they get unhappy gastrointestinal tracts, because I would disagree with anyone. I hope they stockpiled TP).
We’re in for a social and economic reset… and let’s be honest, it’s probably about due. It’s rough as hell on those directly involved, but some things – like for example more (and better paid) ‘administrators’ than workers, have been like grit in the clockwork of productivity. Judging by my Ambulance service experience, all they do is generate extra paperwork and rules – not, of course for themselves – but for the people who do the work. Governments will probably (or at least the ones whose countries get back on their feet) be prepared to forgo some of the rent-seeking red-tape (I costed out a bathroom, with the red tape, and without it. It adds an extra zero onto the cost… multiplying by 10, and adds zero onto the value (same materials, same skills, same risks to yourself and others). Wealthy, booming countries can afford this nonsense, with legislation gluing up and adding multiple layers of expense and time for reasons that are totally improbable, with odds of millions to one. When the devil drives, however, common sense has a chance. And if it doesn’t, maybe it is time to think of ‘pour encourager les autres.’
It’s a well-established fact that wars drive human inventiveness. It’s a bitter price if you happen to be on the bayoneting or being bombed end of that: but war is probably why we’re not a now extinct species somewhere in Africa. Disasters – especially relatively slow-running ones – pit us against an enemy, too. I’m betting that the developments that come out of this will far outweigh its cost, medium term. Also, government and legislation tend to get out of the damn way, for a change. Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but, hey they’ll be busy legislating away like rabbits breeding as soon as they’re out from under. They can no more resist it than the rabbits.
Living in a small petri dish – or a remote island, does mean it’s sometimes easier to see what happens to a community under various conditions. My one has been under threat a few times – major economic threat when Australia had the ‘Recession it had to have’, and in 2007, when bushfires had families on the airfield and on the beach… The island pulled through both – but not without major social repercussions. These were NOT bad repercussions, but in fact exceptionally good ones. Gradually – over the ten years we’ve been here, some of the effects have faded. But two things really came out of it: in good times, money, loud mouths tend to get into positions of authority. They have the time, resources and noise level to play politics, at times when the working stiff is happy just to work. As neither are requirements for bad times – they tend to get winnowed by them. That isn’t a bad thing. The doers take over, and do, and when done, prepare groundwork for next time. Good times come again and gradually the noise and money creep in again.
The other thing that comes out of this is solidarity and a surprising degree of tolerance for all of those working together to fight it. I have a friend who told me he’d never had much time for homosexuals… until he found himself fighting the fire with one, and suddenly realized they were just people, and some of them good ones. I’ve been through various disasters (on the small scale) and necessity makes strange bedfellows, and it also strips away a lot of illusions and delusions. You get to see people as they really are, and it is not always nice… but sometimes it is. The herd pulls together. The key is making sure you have a herd. Multiculti ain’t going to cut it – but they really don’t care what you look like or what your sex or choices of that are, if you are there when they really need you. One does not forget that binding or those times, easily. That’s not a bad thing for communities, or indeed, nations. Of course, if you’re a freeloading parasite who puts in nothing and demands everything, it’s not going to end well. Don’t be that. I can see all of this spilling into the writing and fan world, because, thanks to the internet, we too are communities.
It is said: ‘When there is plenty of food on the table – we have lots of problems. When there is no food on the table, we only have one problem.’ And I think that will be true this time. Many of the ‘problems’ that were major issues yesterday, fashionable causes to virtue signal about… are going to be shown as how ‘important’ they actually were. That, even when things improve, will take some years to slide backwards. As much of this has been choking sf and fandom, that’s going to be a good thing.
Another reality is that if President Trump and Brexit did not kill globalism, but merely started its demise – the Wuhan Coronavirus killed it stone dead. And because an alliance of little groups who would otherwise have little in common – from Muslim fundamentalists to Vegans all hitched their wagons together with it, all its allies and bastard children lost a lot of their wagons over the cliff too. Nations, borders will be back, and countries are going to think long and hard before ‘outsourcing’ a lot of industries. I’m putting both the loss of the big wagon and the rebirth of national redundancy being an overall good. And it might make for more cheerful books!
My parents lived through the Great Depression. It shaped them for the rest of their lives, making them more careful with money, and sure to have what we nowadays would call ‘prepping’. There was ALWAYS lots of food stored, bought in bulk, rainy-day money, and they lived well below their means – and were always very involved in helping out those who were worse off. Dad literally gave away tons of fish. Getting to that state of mind – especially for my father who came from relative plenty, must have been hard. But it kept them well, and rubbed off on me. So a 90 year repayment for that hard time. I don’t want anyone to do it tough, but it made a positive impact for their lifetimes. I suspect this will too.
Finally: Humans recover and rebuild. There are millions of examples, especially when we know what can be achieved. And sometimes we do it better the next time around. I believe that both liberty, and the economy can and will thrive. And we’re not all going to die. I’m 30 K into the next book, so I’d like to personally put it off a while.
Because I think we’re heading into economic rough water I dropped the price of all the books I have control over by a dollar. The shorts are already as cheap as Amazon will let me make them. Quite a few of my fellow MGC members have done the same. They’re all here