Monday, May 25: Pansplaining the Uncomfortable
By Jorah Kai CHONGQING, CHINA
Day 126. There are two kinds of people: those who read my blog and idiots.
No, that won’t do, they say. Too controversial. Too narrow a focus, can’t be a commercially successful writer if you tell people you think they’re idiots.
But better? I ask.
Yes, better than “you’re all a bunch of careless fools.” That one didn’t leave much room to garner a broader audience.
I had a dream, and I had vibrated so fast that I had stepped sideways through the Metaverse, and I was in New York City in one of the many President Bernie Sander’s timelines. I was eating the most delicious sesame seed bagels n lox, just melt in your mouth smoked salmon and creamier than thou cream cheese and listening to competent leaders listening to scientists and controlling a very small epidemic in NY state because they’d funded their pandemic prevention office instead of a chain-link fence on the southern border. It was a remarkable feeling, sitting in an America that made sense, worked for the people, and was reinventing itself daily to be a role model for the world. It was hard to wake up and see our own less than inspiring leaders mumbling through the nonsense. In breaking news, Canada’s top Dr. Tam said that “masks may offer some protection,” well great, this was obvious to anyone in Asia 126 days ago, but the smartest people in the room in the West are only now waking up to it. Not really, most of my friends got it four months ago, too, the politics are fuzzy. According to a US congressional testimony, the White House forced the CDC to downplay the use of masks to cover their lack of preparedness, and the snowball effect of the CDC’s negligent lies caught on through the whole western world. I hope some heads roll when this is all over.
It’s hard to be inspiring when I’m angry and full of contempt. Mother’s Day we cautioned video calls but people said, come on, it’s our mom, and they made some plans and did some things, and larger family clusters spent the day together. My home province of Ontario, Canada, just reported the largest daily totals yet — well over 400 — as a result of this lack of discretion, just as parks and beaches filled with happy go lucky folks who don’t believe rules or laws apply to them. Are they all members of the Trump family? Or the PM and Mayor of Toronto? No, these were big crowds, thousands. White people. Ok, not all, but if you had to pick a subsection of humanity that felt that laws were suggestions and expected their indiscretions to be ignored by the police, you’d definitely be looking at white people. But I am not here to rally and rage against the stupidities of our most vocal and visible idiots. Why?
Because it’s May 15, it’s Douglas Adams Day. So Don’t Panic. Wear a Towel. You’ve Got This.
Towel Day is an annual celebration, a tribute to Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Everyone in the universe shall proudly carry a towel in his honour. Towels are handy, for signaling distress, for sleeping under on a chill night, to wear around your head to ward off noxious fumes — even as a go-to mask to avoid cross-contamination in a viral pandemic. They can be used in hand to hand combat, and, if need be, you can use it to dry yourself off.
Starving rats are reportedly turning into cannibals and attacking each other as restaurant food supply disappears. This feels like foreshadowing for something significant. Still, don’t panic. Panicking isn’t going to help. So what can we do?
The things we can’t control, we can’t change, we shouldn’t sweat. There are COVIDIOTS around, and some of them are gonna make it out just fine. Others are gonna be carriers and infect people in their lives who might die, and some of them are gonna get sick themselves. That’s their problem.
Sure, it doesn’t make your life any safer to know they’re out there, but since you can’t control it, don’t sweat it. You can control who you let into your home, who you stand beside, where you shop, and what risks you take to live your life. Those are all things you can control, and you can find power in creating agency in your life, looking after your people and thriving in adversity.
I decide to channel the RZA again, to find my ZEN flow, my warrior state, and to let all those little asteroids sizzle in the heat of my focussed momentum. I am the sun, and nothing is going to stop me from shining my light. Sorry asteroids, better luck next time.
Mask use is working in some places. Austria reported a 90% drop in new cases since mandatory mask usage in public became law. So we are seeing a clear divide between science leaning countries and those that fight science and throw up their hands and just don’t know what to do.
Sweden is an example of utter failure with their heard immunity plan, as the death toll is verging on 8x that of their closest neighbors. The look of pure shock on their pandemic director’s face as he said, “I have no idea why this is happening” as he stumbles over bodies in his hallway is pure gallows humor, the darkest Monty Python sketch comedy. It turns out Sweden can’t always hide its head in a hole and be neutral when it comes to viruses, and they’re as vulnerable as any other nation.
I saw a wonderful video from Star Rapid, a foreign company in China, describing how they use Chinese protocols for sanitation and distancing to operate safely. It is effortless and easy to understand how it works, and I hope more companies in the West adopt these practices. The idea that some countries might be able to bypass subsequent waves through good precautionary measures and others mostly will bear the brunt of them through a lack of respect for viruses and protocols is a sad one, and absurd in the internet age. Yet, it seems to be the course our timeline is on.
That reminds me of an amusing argument I had with my wife, over microwave technology, and our disparate respect levels for this 20th-century marvel. We were making lunch after a busy morning of teaching, and she popped the food out without first turning it off. The door closed, and it continued to cook for a few moments— with nothing inside. I saw this as a gross violation of physics and a potential disaster in the making. She saw my reaction, leaping up and rushing to the microwave to turn it off, as verging on insane. I just don’t think she respects microwave technology the way I do.
In other news, I had some friends over, like old times, to drink beer, eat food and play video games, and it was great. Sean and Orlando hung out for the evening, for Orlando’s birthday, and we had a great time. Orlando told me about a graphic novel he’s working on, with very strange MIB shadowy characters that investigate paranormal investigators, but when they enter a kitchen, they will move around the room to avoid a microwave, going so far as to unplug it before they seem at ease. This, of course, sounds very odd, but it strikes me that they have a profound respect for microwave technology, and I would subscribe to this telenovela.
This socialization was just part of my new life here back to work in China. I now teach with my mask off, although I’ve told students who cough and sneeze in the open air that they will fail my classes. The hand coughers will get a B+, tops. To get an A in my classes, they’re going to have to cough into their elbows. The primary ask in my classes previously was just to do your best every day, but now it’s to make sure you don’t kill the teacher. I’ve been healthy since January when the lockdown started, and that’s amazing, really, so knock on wood, wear my mask in the streets, and I still lug my HEPA air purifier to every class before I remove my mask, standing in a cone of air purity.
It’s been more than two months since we’ve had a hospitalized case of COVID-19 in my city, so things are going pretty well. I’ve taken a few elevators, used a few public bathrooms and even rode the subway twice, although albeit only two stops, to our local mall, so we could walk around and have a nice lobster and sushi dinner. With our weekend tutoring classes, we’ve allowed them to remove the masks as well, but they still wash their hands when they enter, cough and sneeze into elbows, and I run two air purifiers on high for the duration of the classes and keep a couple of meters distance, just in case.
My first COVID-19 diary is almost done. I still get very funny questions from the Chinese edition translator from time to time, and snarky comments from the very impatient English senior editor, but all in all, I’m glad we’re ready to get The Invisible War: A Canadian’s Diary out in time for the second wave, and perhaps it will do some people some good. I’m working on a few fictional projects, and hope to publish an Amos book this year, as well as working on this Lighthouse project until it’s finished. I’m committed to seeing it to the end.
I made a DJ mix. It’s very silly. It’s edutainment, full of COVID-19 tips and raps, mixed with hip hop, drum and bass, trap, and hardcore beats. If this sounds suspiciously like the poppy KaiCore I used to play twenty years ago, yes, it is KaiCore 2020. I was blamed for inventing the final nail in the coffin of the rave scene and single-handedly ending the ’90s with this nonsense, so let’s see if I can end COVID-19 with this cheese-fest also. I hope you enjoy it.
Dr. Sachdev Sidhu of the University of Toronto believes he and his team have found a cure for COVID-19 in the form of synthetic antibodies. I’ll be keeping an eye on this. It looks promising.
For those people that aren’t in such great shape, where there are rampant cases in your city, and people are doing horribly stupid things to spread the virus, you must continue to do your best. It would be great, yes, if the response was a national, unified, and respected by all approaches, but failing that, you must think in terms of your self, your family, and your cluster. Choose your interactions mindfully and wisely. Shop at places where people respect distancing, mask use, and if you can, outdoor areas with good ventilation. Avoid people who go to big parties and seem unsafe at this time. Your personal choices will determine your personal and your families’ health, so make good ones.
It feels good to be on the other side of this, and I wish the same for you, soon, and a happy summer. Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay vigilant.