Has anyone else noticed just how odd it is that so many people on the progressive end of our cultural landscape are frantically trying to convince everyone that the Omicron variant, the latest mutation of the Covid-19 cold virus, really is the end of the world? I freely grant that a lot of people are ill just now—that’s what usually happens in the temperate zone’s winter, you know, when the latest respiratory viruses make their rounds. I grant just as freely that hospitals are scrambling to keep up—many of them have laid off up to half their staff as a result of vaccine mandates, after all, and they’re being besieged by mobs of people who have been convinced by the media that ordinary cold symptoms mean they’re about to die.
The result is a collective frenzy being eagerly fed by a great many people. Of course it’s not surprising that the corporate media would push scare stories at full volume. Whoring out the news to sell advertising space is their stock in trade, and “if it bleeds, it leads” has taken precedence over responsible journalism since before there was responsible journalism. Still, this isn’t limited to the media. A great many people seem remarkably eager to insist that the pandemic can’t be winding down. In that eagerness I sense the approach of convulsive change.
Granted, a case can be made that there are practical if unmentionable reasons for this habit of sedulously cultivated panic. To begin with, as Freddie deBoer has pointed out in a trenchant post, being terrified of the Covid virus has become a venue for status competition among members of the privileged classes. It’s an old story, at least as old as that fine fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” Just as the princess in the story showed her royal status by being so hypersensitive that she could feel a single dry pea under seven mattresses, our current princesses—and princes, to be sure—display their status by insisting that they can contract a virus through seven face masks.
Another reason to cling to the pandemic is a phenomenon I’ve discussed in previous posts. One of the unintended side effects of shutting down the economy in 2020 is that a great many people found themselves with ample time and solitude to reflect on their lives, and realized that their jobs are so miserably paid, and made so intolerable by the humiliating petty tyranny that passes for management in today’s America, that it simply wasn’t worth going back to work. A significant share of the US working classes responded to this reality by finding other ways to support themselves, with impacts that are still ricocheting through the global economy.