The pandemic changed me, why not anyone else?

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 24, 2024, 5:00 PM | comments: 0

Thanks to the Internet, music-association memory, and frequent reflection, the Covid pandemic is still very fresh in my mind. I think about it especially when I'm at the theater, or a theme park. I remember the masks and the weird feelings of emerging after vaccinations. I also remember the chaos of 2020, the protests, the election, January 6, the 1.2 million people who died (that's like the entire state of Montana dying)... it was a pretty weird time.

With that in mind, I'm often reminded about how the experience changed me. The passage of time and aging is certainly at the top of the list of things for me. You know, we emerged from the pandemic, and I got tattoos and planned to travel more. I legitimately figured out when I want to shift away from my current career (not sure I'd call it "retirement"). I became more acutely aware of the shortcomings in our healthcare system, especially around health insurance and how broken it is to be tied to full-time employment, not to mention the disparity in care quality and access along racial and economic lines. I was encouraged by neighbors helping each other out as best they could given the need to stay apart. We even saw a momentary drop in greenhouse gases as the efficiency of delivery services and remote work pulled cars off the road. The allure of authoritarianism has become a scary and real thing, and it sure feels like we need to take it seriously.

The experience, to me, introduce a fair number of critical action items that could make the world better. But I feel like I'm the only person who still feels that way. People of all political leanings are still spending a lot of time paying attention to the Trump shitshow, while ignoring issues. And I'm not talking about culture war nonsense either, because that's only about people who fear things they don't understand or like, despite them having absolutely no impact on their lives.

At the very least, what are we doing now to prepare for the next pandemic? It could happen next year, or a hundred years from now, but it's important either way. Congress can barely pass a bill these days, so I guess I'm not surprised.

I remember at the start of 2021, as the vaccines trickled out, it felt like we were on the verge of some kind of new enlightenment. The scientific achievement was largely taken for granted, despite the fact that it most certainly saved millions of lives and was the real driving factor behind restoring some kind of normalcy. If we could do that, what other hard problems could we solve?

What we have instead, at least in the US, is nearly half the population worried about immigrants that have no impact on their lives, which restroom people take a shit in and conspiracy theories unsupported by any evidence. Critical thinking and expertise are viewed as weaknesses. I don't even recognize this country half the time.

As a technologist, I think my default is to be optimistic. It's not that tech always makes things better, but it is possible that it could. I don't want to see more backsliding. No point in the past is objectively better than now, despite what it feels like sometimes. Forward.


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