The coronavirus figures don’t add up

It seems like everyone’s in a fight these days. Brexit vs EU, Bernie vs Joe and now Lockdown vs Release. As far as Covid 19 is concerned there are only two corners to box your way out of — stay home until the virus has run its course or open up the country again. This issue is dividing both friends and family as each side dig in.

It’s a no-win situation, because like all our modern problems, it can’t be solved with black and white thinking. In school, maths was simple. Addition and subtraction produce one definite answer. The coronavirus figures don’t add up because they can’t add up. They’re too complex for that.

1. We can easily add up the number of people who die because everyone in hospital is tested, but we don’t subtract the people who had very poor health and were on their way to death anyway. If someone has three or four health conditions plus Covid 19, then Covid 19 goes on the form… as far as figures are concerned, there is addition, but no subtraction.

2. We don’t subtract the people who Covid gives life to… the thousands of people who would have died from pollution or road accidents that are not happening because of lockdown.

3. We can’t compute the number of people who die or are currently in danger of dying as a result of suicide or chronic illness, caused by the stress of economic collapse.

4. We certainly can’t calculate the long term effect on small businesses, relationships or children, either negatively (the poor who are struggling with ill health, domestic abuse, anxiety and depression) or positively (the fortunate who are inventing apps, taking long walks and spending more time with their children).

5. We can’t do the mass testing required that would reveal the ratio of people who contact the virus and people who die from it. It was originally thought to be about 20%... it’s now less than 2% which means that over 98% of people recover and of the small number who don’t, the majority have underlying health conditions. Infection rates are understated. Mortality rates are overstated.

6. Humans are not top of the food chain because there is no top in a chain. We have no large predator, so the circle of life has created one that is really small. By the time a vaccine is invented Mother Nature could easily come up with something even more complex, because nature is geared for complexity and holism, unlike humans who seem to prefer simplicity and independence.

Our best chance at defeating pathogens is the one nature gave us… an immune system. We could boost this immune system, by changing our lifestyle, instead of placing responsibility for our health in the hands of “professionals” who often have a vested interest. Lack of autonomy makes us afraid. Fear wrecks the immune system. How many Covid fatalities are fear related? We have no idea.

On top of these difficult maths equations are the moral questions. Lockdown lovers like to announce that “all life is precious”. Really? That’s not true. We don’t care about the thousands of people who die every day so that we can have cheap clothes and cheap food. An Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. Our desire to consume causes untold suffering.

Instead of saying “all life is precious” we could start living from that perspective, which means being prepared to make massive changes in our lifestyle… both in the way we look after the planet and in the way we look after ourselves.

Instead of black and white thinking – lockdown or return to normal, we could hold both points of view and rise to a higher both/and solution… return, but to a very different normal. We could fly less, consume less, eat less meat, buy less plastic, have less children. We could be more creative, more collaborative, more loving, more respectful of nature.

Polarised arguments just fuel fear, anger and irritation.

“Free market capitalism isn’t working”. “Oh, so you want communism?”

“Lockdown isn’t working”. “Oh, so you want people to die?”

Polarised arguments stop us from the creative conversations – how could we design a better life that works for more people? We all die, but what about the way we are living?

Polarised arguments distract us from accountability. We’re all to blame for the state of the world. Jeff Bezos is not a self-made man. Our desire for “convenient and cheap” made him the richest man on the planet.

As E.O Wilson said “The problem with humanity is that we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and God like technology”. We need an upgrade if we are going to rise to a more creative level of consciousness and that starts with critical thinking, emotional intelligence and conversations.

At times like these, we don’t need Boris Johnson or Matt Hancock, we need Dave Trott.

It’s time to grow up and learn how to do the hard sums.

The Freedom Project — how to find contentment in a crazy world

A version of this article first appeared on Rebelle Society

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