Knowledge Isn’t Always Power

When I was younger, I was easily flustered and had a temper to match. In Star Trek terms, I was something of a Klingon; only without the bellicosity, bad food, and rotten opera. I spent years trying to Vulcanize my temperament and have largely succeeded. I pride myself on being calm, rational, and never panicking. Better a Vulcan than a Klingon: I’m just glad that my ears aren’t pointed.

My resolve to stay calm has been sorely tested by the COVID-19 crisis. And not just by the insane reaction of a president* who thinks that ignoring the problem will make it go away. After an extended bout with a more conventional bug, the news has me jittery and on edge. My Vulcan resolve is shaken but I refuse to let it slip away.

Being well-informed is usually my armor against the crazy. The viral virus news has left me jittery and uneasy.  And the reaction of people who should know better has shaken me to the core. Denial is in, realism is out. There’s a fine line between underreacting to a problem and freaking out. It’s called the happy medium and we’re not achieving it as a society.

The first cases of coronavirus in New Orleans were announced yesterday. The city had a big weekend planned; full of large public gatherings including the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade. That parade is known for riders throwing veggies from their floats and walking groups of drunken men kissing women along the route. Mayor Cantrell quite wisely pulled the plug on this parade and other events. We’ll just have to buy our own cabbages.

The reaction to the Mayor’s decision flooded social media with a noxious gas of self-righteousness and downright stupidity. I’m not a fan of this Mayor but I am a fan of rational public health measures intended to limit the spread of this contagion. If it can be limited early, we have a chance to avoid becoming the Seattle of the South; something that in another context would be a good thing.

Watching the people in Washington state struggle to contain the epidemic is, to be blunt, unnerving. It’s a wealthy state with more competent state and local governments than we’re accustomed to in New Orleans, Louisiana. If it can hit them this hard, it can happen here. We need to learn from the mistakes of others, not repeat them. The virus doesn’t care that we survived Katrina and the Federal Flood and the daily hardships of living in TFC: This Fucking City. In Star Trek terms, it’s the Borg; only without the crazy rubberized outfits.

The only rational fears expressed yesterday on social media were about the impact of this public health crisis on service industry workers and the poor. Something must be done to help them on a state, local, and national level. Bailing out the oil companies and hoteliers simply won’t do. The latter strikes me as another slush fund for the Trump clan. Nice work if you can get it.

In the short run, I’m planning to hunker down and limit my social contacts. This virus is highly contagious, and I have no desire to be either an infector or infectee.

In the end, the post title is ironic. I still believe that information is power, but a surfeit of information presented hysterically is not. Beware, take care.

The last word goes to my main man, Mr. Spock:

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