Ye Madness Continueth

Here in PA life continues to be nuts. Supermarkets are… interesting. Items just drop out of stock seemingly at random – with the exception of toilet paper, which I’ve yet to see in stock. Thankfully we at Casa Paulk are well stocked right now.

The Husband is back at work, although we don’t know how long it will last. Shipping management isn’t exactly amenable to working from home, so obviously he doesn’t.

Meanwhile, the numbers being reported continue to resemble “flu season” rather more than “black death” (you can tell I’m surprised by this, right? (Yes, that is sarcasm)). Honestly, if I were an evil ruler, something like this would be an absolute delight.

Herein lieth the lesson in plotting…

First apply what would appear to be common sense restrictions based on a crisis. We can all see that happening – and the arguments on whether or not the crisis is as crisis-y as advertised and whether the restrictions are really common sense are pretty much moot because you’ve got a nice sense of panic going because you, being a would-be evil despot have control of your news reporting methods, right? Right.

Next, wait a month or so. With, of course, intermittent reports of how hard you and your loyal minions (do choose a better way to put this – that’s what you pay the propaganda department for) are working to fix things. It wouldn’t do for people to think you’re sitting back and enjoying the quiet, after all.

The next step needs a bit of judgment. You need to wait until people have adjusted to the restrictions as the “new normal” so you don’t get pushback. Then you announce the reason your restrictions have to stay in place. Britain managed to keep rationing going for nearly ten years after World War 2 ended, so it’s not exactly unprecedented.

After the extended restrictions are accepted, the rest is easy: you denounce any groups or people complaining about them as being against the safety of your citizens. If your propaganda department has done its job, your people will do the cleaning up for you.

Naturally, any problems that crop up are the fault of these horrible dissidents, so of course you blame them – and use them to slowly tighten restrictions as far as you want. If your propaganda department can swing it, having your loyal fools… er… citizens call for those restrictions themselves is the best option. The phrase “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have no reason to object” is a good one to keep in mind. It’s worked for any number of obnoxious and outright evil laws.

Eventually, you’ll have the tyranny you want, and if you’ve been careful, your loyal citizens will love you for it. They will even blame inept bureaucrats, your enemies, or their enemies for any misfortune. “Oh, if Uncle Joe knew,” they’ll bemoan.

You will, as a fictional villain, want to make sure no crusading heroes target you (since in fiction-land being targeted by a hero means you’re doomed), but other than that, you’re set.

Here endeth the lesson.

And for those of us who are sitting getting a severe case of “oh crap” thinking about the possibility, remember, our politicians are, with very few exceptions, too inept to manage something like this (I fear for Russia. Putin is a very clever, very dangerous man. If he chose, he could easily pull something like this off and make it look like he was completely innocent). And our bureaucrats are even more so.

Something I remind myself of on a near daily basis: “Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.” In these times of underpants-on-head crazy, it helps.


  1. Can stupidity really be “advanced?”

    Your diction in the above has elicited a tale from some years back. There was a retail establishment in my community whose marquee read “Ye Olde Gyft Shoppe.” It contracted with a local signmaker for a neon version thereof…and on the day after the new marquee had been installed, its owner was somewhat startled to receive an envelope under the shop door bearing the legend: “Pleafe fynde encloafed ye bylle.” Gotta watch that stuff!

    1. That signmaker was good! I love it!

      And “advanced” stupidity is the kind of thing that requires politicians or other similarly maleducated folk.

  2. Pray for the Russians and the Chinese. Because there may not be a whole lot we can do for them in this world.

    I’m not current on Winnie’s Achoo, so am taking a break from forecasting our own likely fates. Your thoughts are a comfort.

    1. The Chinese, at least the ordinary folks part of China, are probably screwed. Long-term anyway. They’re ruled by what I gather is a faceless bureaucratic collective which chooses the front-man, and their bid to get out of Communism jail was ruthlessly squashed.

      People forget the veneer of economic freedom that came afterwards was a deliberate attempt at bread and circuses style keeping the proles down. It more-or-less worked.

      Russians… Yeah.

      I don’t see good things happening for the ordinary Ivans and Yaos (or whatever the most common Chinese male given names are). Poor sods.

      And thank you. I’m trying to stay in a reasonable state of mind and not go full potato. Or even partial potato. It’s… challenging.

      When my sense of humor goes from “dark” to “black”, I’m in trouble.

  3. You’ve been reading history again, Kate, haven’t you? 😉 Frank Dikötter’s book about cults of personality shows exactly how that same pattern worked in Italy, Germany, the USSR, Haiti, China, and elsewhere.

    Oh, did you notice that the Virginia governor’s lock-down (until June 10) expires one day AFTER the date for the opposing party’s primary? To quote Bugs Bunny, “What a coinkidink!” Thanks be for those states with governors who are either ept or just incompetent (sorry NY), not vicious.

    1. I read everything. And I remember miscellaneous bits of what I read, that ultimately ends up getting turned into an overarching pattern that ends up correct more times than I’m comfortable with.

      I’m not remotely surprised by the VA guvna taking advantage. At least PA has rescheduled the primaries so they don’t happen until after the lockdown ends. Or they had the last time I checked.

      Ours seems to be “well-meaning but not that bright”, judging by his public statements.

    2. Amen – I’m giving thanks for Gov. Abbott of Texas; we do have cases of the Wuhan Corona-virus in San Antonio but thank god sensible heads are prevailing … mostly.

        1. You’ll like the Hill Country, then – my mother always said that it reminded her of the Pennsylvania farm country that her mother came from. Summers tend to be brutally hot, though – which might take some getting used too.

  4. The Rules of (Current) TP Acquisition:

    1. Learn what nights the store gets shipments in. The stockers (look for any “night crew” types – these are generally the ‘weirder’ employees, might be assigned to other things later in the mornings) will tell you. Earrings and tattoos are NOT now reliable indicators of ‘weirdness’.

    2. Go in as early as possible the next morning.
    2. a. Do NOT waste your time any other mornings. It’s GONE.
    2. b. No, there is NOT “more in back” – it’s out where it can SELL. Or it’s GONE.

    3. If the store has a reserved first hour or such for elderly/expecting/at-risk and you can take advantage of it, DO SO! (If they stupidly have it later in the day, don’t waste your time).

    4. If they have an on-line/home shopping option (even if only pick-up and no delivery) consider it. Sometimes they do the on-line stuff before opening, so you MIGHT (no guarantees!) have an advantage thus.

    Expect them to have mostly (perhaps ONLY) store brand, and a cheap not-store-name store brand. If you have normal plumbing, the store brand will have you happier than the not-store-name store brand. If you have… ancient or “sensitive” plumbing, get the cheaper stuff. It’s not as good, but is less likely clog pipes/septic systems.

  5. I learned when I was a pre-teen not to believe in widespread government conspiracies. First, NO ONE keeps a shut mouth. Second, most bad actors see nothing wrong with what they’re doing, so they leave their plans in plain sight; people with a remaining pang of conscience do the excusing or spout the it-can’t-be-happening alternate theories.

    My father was a civil servant assigned to areas where his predecessors had taken bribes from small business owners. In my childhood years, I was raised on discussions of the evils of bureaucrats and the exponential growth of “temporary” measures.

  6. Putin is KGB.

    They are scary good at making insane, stupid plans somehow function. (Seriously, have y’all looked at some of the things they actually did? That stupid “write a play blaming the Pope for the Holocaust” thing ACTUALLY F’ING WORKED.)

    1. Exactly. I believe P.T. Barnum nailed it: Nobody ever went broke overestimating the stupidity of the general public. Or as the Husband puts it, people are stupid. All people, although not necessarily all the time.

  7. Britain managed to keep rationing going for nearly ten years after World War 2 ended, so it’s not exactly unprecedented.

    Not to mention that income tax withholding was supposed to be a temporary measure to raise money for the war effort in the US. At least the Brits managed to get rid of theirs after a decade.

  8. Good post, Kate. Thanks.

    I’m in PA too and I’m watching our guvna do the “Close all the things!…oh, wait, let me walk back a lot of that…oh, and except for my own business, cuz it’s essential, of course.” dance. I really wish we had a governor’s election this year…

    1. You ain’t wrong.

      Being in Philly has to make it worse for you. I’m in one of those itty bitty country towns about an hour out of Philly – on a good traffic day.

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