NOTE: What we collectively think we know about the pandemic is changing all the time, and I am not a doctor or epidemiologist (although I did study it while in university). So what I have written about here is likely outdated when you read it and it’s not expert advice. They are just some reflections from my side.
The initial notes are on the top and the newer ones at the bottom. I chose to keep all to show changing views over time as the pandemic progressed.
Click READ MORE to see all the notes.
Note June 10, 2020: I have written about the Swedish approach to the pandemic here. For a long time, I thought it made more sense than the full lock-down since many of the worst effects of the pandemic would likely be from locking down society.
Now, early June, I keep seeing articles saying that the Swedish approach may not have prevented those side-effects of the pandemic. If that’s true, and it’s also true that the virus itself is significantly less virulent than it was earlier in the pandemic, then it seems that the Swedish approach – although understandable – may not have been as effective as I thought.
I am happy to have been wrong about this since most countries did the full lock-down, and that may have been the best approach. Of course, we won’t really know until one or two years from now, looking at it with the benefit of hindsight.
March 12, 2020
A few words about the current pandemic
First, the world was and is not ready for it. Perhaps this will help us prepare for the next one (plans, coordination, medical facilities etc.). In most cases, it seems that something dramatic and near has to happen for things to change.
Second, I understand the need to “flatten the curve” and lower the infection rate so the hospitals will be less overwhelmed. Quarantines, closing schools and businesses, closing borders may help slow it down a bit, but it obviously won’t stop the spread of the virus.
In Norway, many people are already infected so the current closing of the borders is going to have a minimal effect (as shown by real-life studies and simulations). Many students are going to gather anyway (as last night’s big party next door is an example of). And a good deal of the transmission of the virus happens during the two-week incubation period, before symptoms appear. So although closing borders and schools and placing already sick people in quarantine may slow the spread, these measures may not be as effective as they hope.
Third, the main impact of the virus will be on the global economy and most of that will be from the measures they are implementing to “flatten the curve”. The medicine comes with its own obvious downsides.
I understand why the authorities want to do everything they can, in the short term, to slow the spread of the virus. At the same time, the ones at risk are people who already are in high-risk groups and are more likely to die from any infection. The measures they are implementing will have a significant impact on the global and local economy, and may lead to recession, bankruptcies, and even increased poverty and homelessness.
It’s obviously a dilemma. Should we take drastic measures to flatten the curve and perhaps give a few people – in high risk groups – a better chance to survive? Or should we implement more targeted measures (e.g. identifying and isolating the infected, isolation of high-risk groups) and lessen the impact on the economy and most people’s lives?
March 16, 2020
Virus and a more moderate approach
I see that Sweden are taking less drastic measures than Norway and some other countries. They seem to have take a more moderate approach. They encourage people to take common-sense measures while at the same time allowing society to function more or less as normal. (In Norway, almost everything – including the borders – is shut down.)
The reality is that (a) people will die from the virus as people die from all sorts of infections and other causes (nothing unusual there), (b) the most effective measures are common-sense ones with low cost and low impact on society as a whole, and (c) the dramatic measures some countries have chosen may adversely impact society as much (or perhaps more) than the virus itself.
In an interview with the chief epidemiologist in Sweden, he describes the rationale for this more moderate approach. He says that people die of the flu and other infections in four-digit numbers every year, and the current Corona/Covid19 situation is no different. Also, 90-95 percent of the people infected by this virus will have very mild symptoms. So although they encourage people to make common-sense changes to reduce the chances of spreading the infection, they are not going to use measures that will severely impact the functioning of society.
Of course, we don’t how all of this will unfold. Different countries are more or less prepared for a pandemic, they take different approaches in dealing with it, they will adjust their approach depending on how things unfold, and we’ll see – in hindsight – the effects of the different approaches.
Preparedness vs reacting
The dramatic measures Norway and some others countries are taking are meant to “flatten the curve” and spread out the infections in time to avoid overloading the hospitals. That makes sense, although it also shows our lack of preparedness. Why not invest in the facilities needed up-front, before the next inevitable pandemic?
There is an obvious upside to different countries taking different approaches to the pandemic. In a year or two, when things calm down, we can look at the effect of the different approaches. What worked to reduce deaths? What worked to reduce overall impact on society?
A reasonable assumption is that countries with a good healthcare system and preparedness for epidemics (Germany) will do better. It may also be that countries that take a more moderate approach, like Sweden, will overall do better. Especially if they combine it with a targeted approach emphasizing testing, tracking, and isolation of those infected.
Highlighting what’s already here
The current pandemic highlights many situations we already live with.
Poor around the world tend to me more impacted by whatever challenges we face as humans, individually and collectively. They are also likely to suffer more from this pandemic and the restrictions taken to slow down the spread of the virus.
People are dying from illnesses and infections all the time. A lot more people are dying from other causes than will die form this pandemic.
People are already dying in large numbers from preventable causes – especially in poorer areas of the world – and they are not receiving the help they need. This pandemic is no different, although it also impacts people who are not poor.
Pandemics are part of our life and world as humans. What’s unusual is that it’s been about a century since the last large global pandemic.
We have a fear of uncertainty and deal with it in different ways. Through intellectualizing – wanting to know the cause of the virus, wanting to know what will happen, going into conspiracy theories, wanting to know as much as possible about the situation to feel safer, and so on. Through wanting to know the future – by reading, going into astrology, and so on. Through acting on the fear and perhaps panicking. Through going into denial and minimizing. Through going into any number of addictions (food, movies, internet, work, exercise etc.). Or – by noticing and feeling the fear, and admitting to ourselves that, yes, there is fear here.
We are not prepared for low frequency events like pandemics, meteor impacts, and so on. (Climate change can be included here.) We organize ourselves for everyday life and tend to not prepare for the more rare events, even if we know they will happen and will have a large impact. Our lack of preparedness this time is no different. (For instance, in Norway – for efficiency reasons – they have just enough intensive care spots for what’s normally required. They are unprepared for pandemics, and they have consciously chosen – prioritized – to be unprepared.)
People tend to overdramatize acute and/or unfamiliar situations and not pay enough attention to what’s slow and/or familiar. This pandemic is obviously something we need to take seriously, but it pales in comparison with other – ongoing – issues that are far more serious. (Poverty, climate change, destruction of ecosystems, environmental toxins, huge gap between the few wealthy and the rest, a system that doesn’t take ecological realities into account, a system designed to keep the few wealthy wealthy.)
March 17-21, 2020
The upside of the pandemic
As with (just about?) anything, there are upsides to the pandemic:
It shows us it’s possible of us – nationally and globally – to act quickly and decisively on a common threat.
It temporarily lightens the load on Earth.
It reminds us of the upsides of a simple life. We don’t need to buy a lot or seek out all sorts of experiences to have a good life.
It can help us reprioritize. What’s important in my life? How can I devote more time and energy to what’s really important to me. And less to what’s less important?
It reminds us we are all in the same boat.
It can help us prepare for the next – and perhaps more serious – pandemic.
And, of course, the vast majority of those infected get well again. Most will have only mild symptoms.
I don’t really assume people will be much changed by the pandemic. If someone didn’t learn these things before and take them to heart, there is no reason to assume they will now. The main lesson from this may be that we – collectively – can change rapidly if we want, although we have to have very strong reasons to do so.
As many with CFS have pointed out, our lives are not really much different before and during home isolation. My daily life is much the same. The main difference is that now, I don’t feel so different! Now, other people are more like me.
Switching it around
Many switch the situation around mentally, which I like. Instead of getting too much into the mode of thinking I may get sick, why not turn it around and act as if I already have it and I don’t want to infect others. It helps me not getting infected, and it helps others in case I already am infected and don’t know it. It’s a shift from fear to service, which also feels much better.
It’s important for all of us to live AS IF we are already infected and don’t want to infect others. Especially since it may be true.
It seems that most who die from the pandemic are old and/or already have one or more serious illnesses. In other words, they are people who are likely to die from any moderately serious infection. And many of them are alive because of modern medicine. That doesn’t make the loss any less sad or tragic for those involved. But it is a sobering perspective.
As Naomi Klein points out, a global pandemic is perfect for disaster capitalism. It’s perfect for politicians in the pocket of big money to implement policies they otherwise couldn’t (under the pretense of protecting people and/or while people are distracted by the pandemic), and it’s perfect for big money to make more money
I notice that people – reporters, medical professionals, politicians – like to quote mortality rates from the pandemic, and they sometimes do it as if it’s only one mortality rate and it’s definite. That’s clearly not the case. The mortality rate so far is very different from country to country. (From – currently – Italy’s 8.3% to Germany’s 0.18%.) And what’s interesting is perhaps not the mortality rate itself but why it is so different in different countries.
The pandemic is obviously in different phases in different countries. Countries that do more testing will have a higher number for the group with no or mild symptoms (which brings the mortality percentage down). And I am sure how the deaths are recorded vary between countries. (If they have serious pre-existing illnesses, as most who die do, are they recorded as dying from these or the virus or a combination?).
Some of the reason for the difference is also in how each country is able to and chose to respond to the pandemic. For instance, in Germany – where the infection rate is high and the mortality very low – they have a large number of intensive care beds available and they do early testing to identify who has the illness, isolate them, and also trace how they got infected. In Italy, they have fewer intensive care facilities – and the proportion of old people is higher which also brings up the mortality rate.
Why not a more targeted approach?
Norway takes a broad and drastic approach to slow down the pandemic. It works to some extent. And yet, a more targeted approach would be as or more effective, and it could reduce the unfortunate consequences of shutting down large parts of society.
For instance, we know pandemics will come. So why not be prepared? Why not make sure we have enough intensive care beds and equipment? Norway is a wealthy country so there is no reason to not be prepared.
Also, why not focus more on testing? Why not take a strong approach to identify the ones who are infected, isolate them, test anyone who may be infected by them, and trace how they got infected and identify the source?
And why are those confirmed to be infected not isolated away from home? It seems a very bad idea to have them live with their family and infect them.
By doing this, it may be that we could have avoided the broad measures that – more or less – shuts down the whole of society and will have severe consequences for all of us.
There is no excuse to not be prepared and not focus more on testing. After all, other countries do it (Germany, South Korea, Singapore, China, etc.).
In the case of Norway, it seems they were poorly prepared and lack both intensive care beds and general equipment. They may also lack the possibility to do systematic testing (from what I read, it’s very difficult to get tested for most people), and perhaps the people to track down anyone who may have infected a patient and who that person, in turn, may have infected. And they may not have facilities to isolate those infected.
The lack of preparation has to do with priorities and mindset. I am not sure about the testing problems since other countries seems to be able to do it. And when it comes to not isolating patients away from their families, there is no excuse. (They could easily take over hotels as they do in other countries.)
What’s the way out of this?
Most countries are in lock-down to “flatten the curve” and avoid overloading the medical system. It’s an emergency measure. And yet, when will the emergency end? It seems that it’s an emergency without any end in the foreseeable future.
The only way it will end is when there is an effective treatment or vaccine, and either will take several months. (A vaccine will probably not be ready until next year.) Or if enough people have been infected and developed resistance. Or the governments decide that the restrictions to flatten the curve have worse consequences than the pandemic itself (which will only end some of the restrictions and not the pandemic).
There is no easy way out of this.
Most likely, a combination of those things will happen. Some will catch it, recover, and have immunity. Some medications will be approved for use. The preparedness of the medical system will improve. Some restrictions will be lifted (which will increase the new cases a bit). And eventually, sometime next year, there will be a vaccine. (Of course, there may be mutations that throws this off a bit.)
Social vs physical distancing
I understand why they call it “social distancing”. I tend to think of it more as physical distancing (to others) since the social part is still here, including through phone and internet.
The home isolation most people engage in these days can show us many things. One is that we don’t need to buy as much as we ordinarily do to have a good life. As we know, accumulating things we don’t really need doesn’t make us that happy (apart from an initial high), and what’s really important in life can’t be bought for money.
There is a different form of accumulation highlighted by this home isolation, and that’s the accumulation of experiences. There is nothing inherently wrong in it, and it can certainly enrich our lives to seek out a variety of experiences – food, travel, art, music, and so on. And yet, this too can be a compulsion (trying to fill a hole in ourselves), and what’s really important is something else and much simpler: Family. Friends. Love. Peace. Nature. Presence. Getting to know ourselves in the context of kindness.
An opportunity to heal as human beings
As with any situation that triggers something in us, the pandemic is an opportunity to heal. The current situation trigger old issues in us. Since they are on the surface, we can see them more easily. And – if we have the tools and inclination – we can explore them, find healing in how we relate to them, and perhaps even find healing for the issues themselves.
Why don’t we respond as decisively to other issues and threats?
The global community has responded quickly and resolutely to the pandemic, taken strong measures, and most people follow the guidelines even if they impact our lives to a strong degree.
So why don’t we respond as uniformly and decisively to other – equally or more serious – threats? For instance poverty? Pollution? Climate crisis?
The obvious answer is that these are familiar and/or slow and/or global threats. Some feel familiar, and some distant in time or space. And our tendency – built into us through evolution – is to respond more decisively to threats that are immediate, acute, and near.
That’s why it’s so important to translate the other threats into something immediate, acute, and near. To show that they already impact us. They too are threats we need to take seriously and act decisively on, even if it does mean changes to how we live our lives. (And, who knows, these changes may come with a lot of upsides – just like the pandemic guidelines we follow.)
I wrote earlier – before the pandemic became an issue outside of China – about the usefulness of science fiction. And I have been reminded of it since. What we are living now is a situation described by many science fiction stories. And some of us are a bit more mentally prepared because of these stories. The situation feels familiar.
How is my daily life?
What am I doing in relation to the pandemic? I stay at home and avoid physical contact with people. I wash my hands as appropriate. I reduce my grocery store visits to a minimum, and wash my hands before and after. I go for walks outside, keeping distance to others.
My daily life is not very different from normal since I have CFS. I learn Spanish. I make some music. I read. I watch some movies and TV series. I talk with friends on phone or over internet. I channel Vortex Healing (VH). I do some TRE. I notice and get to know things coming up in me. And so on.
In general, I enjoy myself since I am used to this sort of life and have found ways to make it enjoyable. Also, I know how immensely fortunate I am to have food, shelter, family, friends, a loving connection with a partner, he ability to connect over distance, live in a society that takes care of people with serious illnesses, and much more.
When I channel VH, I do some for myself and some for others. These days, I mostly, I energize, bring up the constitutional energies, work on the kidneys and lungs, and sometimes run the infection protocol.
March 23, 2020
One big upside of the pandemic for me, and probably many others, is that things that used to be done in person – talks, mediations, meetings, performances and so on – are now done virtually. For me, who is often housebound because of the chronic fatigue, it’s a blessing. Now, I am able to participate in things I previously wouldn’t have been able to. I feel more included.
Now, many live more like people with CFS. They are at home, unable to go out very much. And that’s why we see these changes.
On social media, I see a lot of people self-diagnosing as having Corona/Covid19 without having done a medical test to identify the infection.
In Norway, only a small percentage (ca. 5%) of those with Corona-like symptoms tested for Corona/Covid-19 virus actually have it. Most have regular colds or flus. It’s good to not jump to conclusions and think we have this particular virus as soon as we have similar symptoms.
I don’t know
I see a lot of people making predictions about the future: The lock-down will last a very long time. It will pass soon. Society will bounce back quickly. The epidemic (and the social lock-down) will bring economic devastation. And so on.
It’s helpful to explore possible scenarios for the future. It helps inform our choices to help steer us towards the more desirable scenarios. And it can help us prepare for the worst.
It’s also important to remember that we don’t know anything for certain. For me, it’s more peaceful to remember I don’t know. And it’s OK to not know. It’s always like that, and has always been that way.
Whatever comes is something I can relate to and deal with when it comes. I don’t need to pretend to know. I don’t need to tell myself I know in order to feel a bit safer on the surface, while the reality still is I don’t know.
Broad vs targeted approach
I still wonder if not the current Norwegian approach is too broad and lack focus. For instance, Sweden has not shut down schools and they seem to be doing as well as Norway. The head of the Norwegian institute for health (FHI) has also criticized the government for implementing unnecessary restrictions. For instance, banning people from staying at their cabins. In his words, it’s unnecessary and undermines trust in the measures that actually do work.
It seems that the German approach makes more sense: Ahead of any pandemic, make sure you have plenty of intensive care beds and equipment. And during the pandemic, do a lot of testing to identify who are sick, isolate them, test people in their network, and isolate anyone there who are infected. That seems especially important since we know that the majority infected were infected by family members or co-workers.
I guess I am an “expert” on self-isolation due to the chronic fatigue. I am generally happy in my own company. Have I learned something that can be helpful to others?
I am not sure if I can say anything that hasn’t been said by others:
Set a mission or goal for yourself. Use the opportunity to do what you have wanted to do but haven’t taken the time for. (Reading, cooking, learning, meditation, yoga, art etc.). Face whatever comes up in you.
A lot can come up – from the isolation and from the pandemic situation we are. Avoiding it can help a bit and for a short while, but facing it is the only thing that really helps, helps long term, and even can give us a lot and enrich our lives. The avoidance can take many forms, and facing it can take a lot of skill and practice, so it can be good to find help to do this. (Using the The Work of Byron Katie helpline, which is free, can be a very good start.)
I find it helpful to keep the whole situation in perspective:
Pandemics are normal. They have happened throughout human history and will – most likely – keep happening. They are a familiar companion for humanity.
Most of those infected will have very mild symptoms. Only a minority will have more severe symptoms, and that’s usually people who are old and/or have one or more existing serious illnesses.
We can do a lot to avoid infection. Avoid other people, as far as possible. Wash your hands with soap regularly and after any possibility of infection.
We will get through it.
Setting the pandemic in perspective can also be sobering:
A lot of people already die from hunger, illnesses, traffic accidents, pollution, and so on. We have learned to live with and accept this. So why not accept that this pandemic will kill some, just like all these others things we live with and accept?
For me, this also highlights that people in wealthy countries are far too complacent about the very preventable deaths of people other places in the world, or even in their own communities.
And we can see some of the gifts in the situation:
It shows us that we collectively can make quick and dramatic changes when we need to. (When the threat is close to home and obvious.)
It helps us see how interconnected we are and that we are in the same boat.
It temporarily lessens the load on nature.
It can help us find gratitude for the basics of life.
It can help us reprioritize and see what’s really important to us. (Friends, family, time, quality of life.)
It helps us appreciate those doing crucial and often under-appreciated work – nurses, farmers, grocery store workers, garbage disposal, and so on. We see that these are vital for the functioning of society.
March 28, 2020
I see some like to use war metaphors to describe our relationship with the pandemic. I guess it can highlight some aspects of it but don’t see it as very useful. The virus – although it’s not “alive” in the conventional sense – is just like us. It just wants to survive and allow its species to survive. Unfortunately for us, that tends to make us sick and – as with many infections – some die.
It’s a collision between species and we live with that all the time. Most of the time, other species suffer. This time, it’s us.
Finding meaning in the pandemic
When something happens that’s apparent undesirable, people often look for some inherent meaning in it. Perhaps in order to find a sense of safety. And yet, pandemics are normal. They are part of the human experience. It’s nothing really special. It doesn’t have any inherent meaning. And – as usual – we can make it meaningful for ourselves. We can make use of the situation in a meaningful way.
Mortality rate & cause of death
Since not everyone are tested for infection, the mortality rate number from different countries is inflated.
In Norway, where they have tested more than most other countries, they have found the mortality to be 0.4% and it’s likely much lower. Most of those infected have mild symptoms so they have not been tested and are not included in the statistics.
Also, since most who die from the infection have one or two serious existing illnesses, the cause of death is a combination of factors. If the cause of death is recorded as this virus infection, it only reflects part of the picture.
People vs economy
In discussing the lockdown, I see some who set it up as people vs economy. That’s clearly wrong. It’s about the impact of people’s lives. A near complete lockdown has a huge impact on people’s lives and especially those who already lack resources. Worldwide, and especially in poorer areas, the lockdown can easily kill as many or more people than the epidemic itself.
It seems that getting C19 is similar to a game of Russian roulette. Many get very mild symptoms. It tends to hit those in risk groups – older, existing illnesses, men etc. – harder. And, equally important, it can hit anyone hard independent of age, gender, or previous health status.
That’s another reason it’s important for each of us to take precautions. Not just to not spread it to those in risk groups, but because we – and anyone – can be among the ones who are hit hard.
It’s likely that the viral load – the amount of virus we are exposed to – plays a big role, and there are probably other factors as well.
It’s important to put this whole situation in perspective. The reality is that the majority of people – in all categories – survive. Only a minority, even in the high risk groups, actually die. And if you are not in a known high-risk group, it’s very likely you’ll survive.
The Norwegian government has decided to keep secret information about how well stocked they are with essential pandemic-related supplies and equipment. On the surface, this seems very misguided.
Their official reason is that they want to avoid fear and panic (!). And yet, keeping it secret can only make it worse. It suggests that the situation is critical enough so reacting with fear and panic is valid. It opens for speculations that the situation is worse than it actually is.
Most of all, it erodes trust in the government. And trust is essential in dealing with collectively challenging situations.
This looks like an amateurish mismanagement of the situation, although I suspect it may also be a way to avoid criticism for being poorly prepared for what they knew would come. We all know that pandemics happen and will continue to happen. So there is no excuse for not being prepared, especially not in a wealthy country like Norway.
Those who have the least will be hardest hit
In one sense, the pandemic hits us all and we are all in the same boat. And yet, that’s not the whole picture. It’s also true that those who have less – the poor, refugees, those with already poor health – are hit hardest. Most likely, they will be hit many times harder than those who are more privileged.
They may be less able to isolate. They will be much harder hit by being out of work. In some cases, they have less access to information. They have less ability to act on the information. They may have to work to provide for their families even if it puts them at risk for infection. They have less access to treatment and care. All around, they are more exposed and in a far more vulnerable situation.
This is just one of many existing situations highlighted by the pandemic.
Those with the least are hardest hit by any of our collective challenges and crises.
What’s the best approach?
I am no expert on this, obviously, and we can’t really know until all this has passed and there has been enough time to analyze the effects of the different approaches to the pandemic.
Also, it’s easy to have approaches that seem good on paper but do not take all sorts of real life constraints into account.
That said, I still imagine that a more targeted approach – if possible – is what makes sense. Widespread testing. Isolation of those infected in specially designated buildings (hotels etc.). Testing of the network of anyone infected. Isolation of anyone in the risk groups. Separate hospitals – or hospital buildings – for C19 patients. Working from home when possible. Virtual meetings.
In this way, it’s likely that society can function more normally – without massive restrictions – and we can still flatten the curve. It does, of course, require sufficient human and technical resources to do widespread testing and isolating people away from their homes.
April 3, 2020
Highlighting what we already know
The current pandemic shows us several things, most of which have really been clear for a long time.
We need to be prepared for a wide range of collective emergencies and disasters.
Most of what’s essential for a society to function needs to be publicly owned, including basics such as water, electricity, and healthcare. As an article today points out, that also goes for production of medicines. These are essentials for society and we need to collectively own it.
The “just in time” system for products works if every single link in the chain works. As soon as one or more link breaks down, it doesn’t work very well.
A certain decentralization – of hospitals, police, fire departments etc. – is crucial. It allows for local knowledge. Faster response time. More tailored responses. Access.
We need to be locally and regionally self-reliant as much as possible, including with food.
We need strong ties with our neighbors. We need to build these ties and connections in peaceful times so we can rely on them in more challenging times.
We need strong global connections. We are all already connected so we need to cultivate strong intentional connections.
The neo-liberal form of globalization has always mainly benefited the few wealthy. Globally challenging times highlights its weaknesses and flaws.
Social justice and ecological sustainability are not luxuries. They are essential for a functioning local and global society and civilization.
We have known from early on – and it seems to be confirmed – that most who are infected with C19 have mild symptoms or are even free of symptoms. That may mean that a lot more people are or have been infected than what it looks like. It also means that we need to do more widespread testing to get a better idea of the picture.
Most importantly, if a lot of people already have had it – without knowing – it may mean that we can lighten the restrictions sooner than expected. At least for the majority of people. The ones in the risk groups will still need to be careful until we have effective medications (can happen within weeks) or a vaccine (next year sometime).
WWII sobered up a lot of people in Europe and probably other places. We got to see what’s important in life. We got to see the importance of solidarity.
As we have gotten further away from WWII, it seems we – as a society and culture – lost our way. We got more focused on the individual and short term and individual goals. We got more focused on the things that are less important.
This was, obviously, encouraged by neo-liberalism and those benefiting greatly from having people supporting the ideals of neo-liberalism.
Will this pandemic help us sober up again? It will for some. But as a whole? I am not sure. It depends on how long it lasts, its impact on society, and many other factors.
April 7, 2020
The prime minister’s office is consistently downplaying the seriousness of Boris Johnson’s health condition. (He is currently in intensive care infected with C19.) In the short term, it may seem reasonable to want to downplay so people don’t get worried. But if they are misleading the public, it will erode people’s trust in their words and actions. And that seems very misguided in a time of crisis.
Of course, Boris Johnson and other conservatives have consistently mislead the public about Brexit so this is nothing new. They have consistently acted to erode people’s trust in the government and politicians.
The chronically ill
Since I have a chronic illness – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – I am very aware that the self-isolation many experience now mirror how daily life is for many of us with chronic illness. We stay at home. We are unable to get out much. We rest. We are on our own private retreat. We have to face ourselves. We depend on phone and internet for communication and staying in touch.
It’s good to see that society is creating opportunities to do more things virtually. (Doctor appointments, concerts, talks, etc..) And it’s also sad that it took a pandemic to make it happen. It wasn’t enough when just a portion of society – us with chronic illnesses – needed it.
Self-isolation is a kind of retreat. We are invited to face ourselves. Face the things in us – the discomfort – we typically run away from.
Of course, in order to find some sort of resolution, we may need awareness of the dynamic (running away vs. facing), intention to find a resolution, and the skills or tools to do so.
They know that C19 transmits between people and cats. There has been several documented cases of it already. And yet, the Norwegian veterinary association says to not worry and don’t do anything different. That seems strange advice.
It would be more honest to say: (a) Yes, we know C19 transmits between cats and humans, (b) let the cat out at your own risk although the risk is probably small, and (c) if you are in a high-risk group you may want to reduce your risk by keeping your cat inside for now.
In Norway, there is a two meter distance rule if you are out and about. I sometimes go for walks in the forest. When I meet others who walk, we smile and greet each other and keep the distance. But when I meet runners, they tend to breathe heavily while brushing closely by me. I don’t know if the virus easily will spread that way (nobody does right now), but I imagine I am not the only one who find it uncomfortable.
One of the upsides of the pandemic is creating new habits. For instance…. Going grocery shopping less frequently (good because reduces the amount we buy and helps us eat more of what’s already in the house). Mindful movement (yoga etc.) and meditation practice. Bringing presence to what’s surfacing in us. Taking better care of our health (exercise, teeth cleaning, diet etc.). Taking care of our immune system (diet, exercise, herbal medicine etc.). Staying in more regular contact with friends and family. And so on. Again, this reflects privilege and not everyone is able to do all of this or make the experience into something constructive.
April 9, 2020
I see that several people say Boris Johnson will get through the C19 infection because he is a fighter, is brave, and so on. We all know they are saying it to sound optimistic and encouraging, but it makes them look a bit stupid. They can’t know he’ll get through it. (He will or he won’t and nobody knows.) And his character, whatever it is, won’t help him much.
Why not instead say: I admire him for [whatever it may be], my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and hope with all my heart he will get through it. That is more honest.
April 12, 2020
The reason we have survived as a species is solidarity. We need to take care of each other – each one – because it makes us stronger as a whole. And, who knows, tomorrow I may be the one who needs help. Our situation can change completely at any moment.
In the age of neo-liberalism, solidarity became an outdated word. It was seen as old-fashioned, perhaps naive, not current in our modern world.
And yet, if the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that solidarity is as important now as it ever was. Local solidarity. Regional solidarity. Global solidarity. It’s kind and sane. And it’s also how we – collectively and individually – can survive.
For me and perhaps others, the pandemic is a reminder of the (obvious?) basics. What’s important in life is the simple things. We can have simple and good lives.
And we need a society has universal healthcare, good social safety nets, that is prepared for the next crisis and disaster, and is locally and regionally self-reliant with the essentials (food, medicine, energy). Now, more than ever, we also need a society that is capable of planning for the long term.
I assume there will be some changes after this pandemic is over, some for the better and some for the worse (result of disaster capitalism). I am also curious to see any of the collective reminders stay for very long. People seem to have a short memory. But some will remember – including the ones who has always known – and continue working for change.
One thing we learned
If we have learned one thing from this pandemic, it is that if we want we can. If aliens came and said “stop eat meat or we will exterminate you all”, we would stop eating meat the same day. If they said “stop buying and doing things you don’t need” we would do that too. If they said “change your economic system to take ecological realities into account” we would do that in a few months.
We have everything we need to live sustainably. We just need to want. We need a good enough, and immediate enough, reason to do it.
April 15, 2020
The Norwegian government said today that smoking is not a risk factor for C19. That seems odd to me. Intuitively, you would think that lungs damaged from smoking would be more at risk from C19 pneumonia. And some research directly contradicts what the Norwegian government says.
The smoking hypothesis was backed by a paper, published last month, that found smokers made up about 12% of those with less severe symptoms, but 26% of those who ended up in intensive care or died.– Men are much more likely to die from corona virus, The Guardian
The Norwegian government also said they won’t recommend using masks when out in public. Even if it’s obvious that it will help prevent the spread of the virus. (It reduces the chance of the wearer – who may be infected and asymptomatic – breathing or coughing the virus out and infecting others.) I wonder if it is because they don’t want to recommend something that’s not traditionally part of Norwegian culture.
April 17, 2020
Pandemic and anti- vaccine folks
This pandemic is reminding us of many things, including the importance of vaccines. If we are to stop it, at least before nearly everyone have been exposed to it, we need a vaccine.
I see anti-vaccine people still posting things on social media. This pandemic wasn’t going to change their minds, but I am still a bit surprised seeing their posts at a time when their views seem even more blatantly irresponsible than they usually do.
The anti-vaccine view is for the few privileged who live in a place and time of modern medicine and hygiene. It’s a luxury view that they can only afford because of modern medicine, hygiene, and decades of – yes –vaccinations.
If they lived in a society with regular epidemics and large numbers of people dying from preventable infectious diseases, I imagine a good number of them would change their minds.
I see several posts on social media saying that countries with female leaders do better with the pandemic. Yes, that’s probably true. And no, it probably doesn’t have to do with female leaders. More likely, it reflects progressive countries with good healthcare systems and perhaps higher levels of trust between the population and the government.
April 18, 2020
What’s the way through?
That’s the big question in this pandemic.
Sweden seemed to have had a longer term plan from the beginning, allowing society to function relatively normally, accepting higher death rates in the beginning, and knowing that the pandemic will slow down as more people have been infected and become immune. Of course, they rely on the assumption that people will develop immunity.
Norway locked down society in a far more drastic way which reduced the number of infections and deaths early on in the process. But what now? A gradual opening of society will bring the infection and death rate up again. Pulsing is an option. But in the longer term and big picture– until we get effective medicines or a vaccine – the total number of infected and dead may not be that different from Sweden. The main difference is that Sweden allowed society to continue more like normal and Norway did not.
There is an important factor here: If Norway was better prepared, it would have been easier for them to allow society to function more normally. They would’t have to do such a dramatic lockdown in order to avoid overloading the medical system.
I suspect anther reason for the Norwegian strict lock-down approach was political. They wanted people to see that they are taking it seriously and that they are doing everything they can. Even if they know that this will have a serious impact on society and that there is no easy way out of it.
Of course, all of this depends on several still relatively unknown factors. Do people get immunity after infection? Will we find effective medicines? Will we be able to develop a vaccine? What about different strains of the virus and future mutations?
Still, if I were to put money somewhere, it would be on the Swedish approach. It may look slightly worse now but I assume the Norwegian approach will look worse in the longer term.
It may be that the Swedish approach reflects foresight while the Norwegian reflects short term thinking and reactivity.
April 19. 2020
One World – Together at Home
I watched a bit of this online concert yesterday and had expected a real sense of global community with musicians from all over the world. There was some of that. But mostly, it seemed very US focused and also artificially serious.
Also, it seemed that a theme was that “this is not going to happen again”. Of course, it’s important to work on prevention. But it will happen again. Epidemics happen. Collective challenges of all sorts happen.
In the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago, the first wave was contained, people and communities relaxed the restrictions and precautions, and that gave way to a second wave that was much larger. That may well happen again, unless enough people have learned from history.
April 22, 2020
With the ecological crisis, and now also the epidemic, many of us are going through an ongoing adjustment process. And this may involve a lot of different emotions coming up at different times, including anger, sadness, and grief, and also a deeper love for all of us and Earth.
I keep seeing articles where people who have had and recovered from C19 say they are now immune and can live a normal life. But who said they can’t get it again? Why assume they are immune after having it? That seems like a big assumption before we know more about the virus and how the immune system responds to it. Yes, it’s possible they are immune but we don’t know.
Some people seem to see surgical or even dust masks as the solution to not be infected and not infecting others. It’s clear that it can reduce the changes of transmitting the infection, especially when the one infected is wearing it. But it depends on a lot of things. It depends on the type of mask. It depends on how tightly it’s fitted. It depends on us following all the other precautions.
April 25, 2020
Evaluating pandemic responses
Which pandemic response is the “correct” one? And what do we measure it by? There are too many uncertainties about the C19 infections to say which response makes the most sense, and it may take a year or three before we can. Do people get immunity? How many strains and mutations are there? If we get immunity to one, can we still infected with others? (Almost certainly, yes.) Can we develop “herd immunity”? (Perhaps not, we don’t know yet.) Is it possible to develop a vaccine? (If so, it will be the first for a corona virus.) Will we find effective medicines?
The scenarios go from (a) no immunity or herd immunity and no vaccine (bad situation) to (b) herd immunity and vaccine in 2021, and with several mixed situations (no herd but vaccine, herd but no vaccine, combined with effective medicine or not.).
Another factor is, of course, how many actually die from the infection. It’s most likely far less than the numbers we have seen this early in the pandemic since most of those with mild or no symptoms are not tested and not included in the numbers.
So far we cannot say anything for certain about any of this, or which social strategies for dealing with the pandemic make most sense. If we develop herd immunity (which is a big IF) and it will take time to develop a vaccine (2021 may be the earliest), then the Swedish model is perhaps the most appropriate. If there is no herd immunity but an effective medicine and/or vaccine relatively soon, the initial strong lock-down followed by pulsing lock-downs combined with isolation for at-risk groups may make more sense. In any case, precautions and isolation of at risk-groups are important, whether or not the rest of society functions more normally or not.
May 8, 2020
The Swedish model
In general, it seems that the Swedish model for tackling the pandemic works reasonably well. Their R rate (how many each infected person in turn infects) is below one which means they will likely gradually have fewer cases.
In contrast, Norway did a ful lock-down and is now opening up again which means the infections rates are currently going up. This means that the number of people infected and dying will likely catch up with Sweden.
Another side of this is that the infections in Norway are now less serious than before, perhaps because of mutations, so in that light the lock-down may have been a good idea. Who knows.
To me, the Swedish approach seems more reasonable in the long term but we won’t know for certain until we see studies some years from now.
The US situation
I have noticed the usual harsh debate in the US about which approach to take. Trump wants things to open up. The Democrats to keep things closed down.
That’s fair. But I also see some US liberals in social spread misinformation about the Swedish approach. Perhaps they do so because the Swedish example is closer to Trump’s approach so it becomes and threat in their mind and they feel they need to discredit it – even if it means abandoning facts.
The Swedish approach may work well for them and similar countries. And it doesn’t mean that it would have worked as well in other places, especially countries with more densely packed people, less trust in the government by the people, and less well functioning health care system.
Sweden has high trust in the government, is generally less densely populated, and has a good and prepared health care system. The US has none of those things. So the Swedish model is less likely to work there.
In general, it seems that countries with high trust in their government does better in the pandemic, and countries with low trust in the government does well. The obvious reason is that with trust comes a willingness to follow the advice of the government. They don’t need harsh measures for people to do what they are advised to do.
The complexities comes in when you look at the governments in these countries. In the Nordic countries, the governments typically has the best interest of the population in mind and there is less of a perceived distance between the government and the people. (When I first came to the US, I thought it was slightly comical how some people talked about the government as THEM. Growing up in Norway, I was the government as WE.)
In the US, people sometimes have good reasons to distrust the government. They do not always have the best interest of the people at heart.
May 12, 2020
A realistic response to the pandemic
I keep coming back to this.
We don’t know that we’ll have effective medicines for this virus. We don’t know if we’ll ever have a vaccine. (No vaccine har ever been developed for other corona viruses.) We don’t even know if we will ever have “herd immunity”.
So the only realistic approach is for us to learn to live with it. To keep society mostly functioning while also take a lot of precautionary measures like strong hygiene for businesses, limiting size of gatherings, quarantine for travelers, working from home when possible, isolation for high-risk group, and so on.
From the beginning, I have seen the Swedish approach as perhaps the most sane, grounded, and realistic strategy, and the one that takes the long view. Of course, their approach works because they have a good health care system, universal access to healthcare, and people are largely responsible and follow the guidelines from the government. (In other countries, other approaches may make more sense, depending on the situation.)
May 24, 2020
Collective vs individual risk
Many countries are easing up the collective restrictions these days.
And for some reason I don’t quite understand, some seem to think that it means the risk is over. They go back to their normal lives.
There is obviously a difference between collective and individual risk. Although the infections rates etc. may have leveled out, it doesn’t mean that the individual risk is gone or even less. We still need to take precautions at an individual level, also to keep the infection rate from increasing too much.
Notes, drafts etc….
This helps me see that just by existing, my life has purpose. A tree has purpose even if it’s just standing there being a tree. My life has purpose as it is, even if I am resting most of the time. My life doesn’t need to conform to my ideas in order to have purpose. And the idea of purpose in itself is an idea. It’s not inherent in life itself.
Mutations. The more the virus spreads (the higher numbers), and the longer it’s around for, the more likely it is to mutate. Many of these mutations will be milder, but some may be more harmful. That’s obviously one of the challenges.
Social vs physical distancing. I understand why they call it “social distancing”. I tend to think of it more as physical distancing (to others) since the social part is still here, including through phone and internet.
Virus and forms of materialism. Materialism is usually understood as being focused on accumulating material possessions. If we expand the definition of the term a bit, we can say that another form of materialism is accumulating experiences. We want to experience whatever other people experience – concerts, travel, cultures, food, different types of nature, and so on. There isn’t anything inherently wrong in that. It can give us a richer and fuller life.
And yet, there is a simpler and slower life that comes with its own rewards. There is silence. Time. Rest. And the current situation – with home quarantines and so on – can remind us of this.
I personally am reminded of it. Even if my ordinary life these days, due to the CFS, is slow and restful, there is a part of me that has bought into the accumulating experiences mindset. And now, with society and the world in a very slow gear, I am reminded of the value of silence, rest, and staying in place.
An opportunity to heal. As with any situation that triggers something in us, the virus situation is an opportunity to heal. Notice what comes up – of stressful beliefs and old issues (anything reactive). Invite in healing for it – using whatever tools works best.
For me, what’s been coming up is: Frustration that I had to change my travel plans. Some fear about the consequences of the government reaction to the virus. (How it will impact society.) Frustration that my brother keeps visiting my parents even if they are old and he has been with groups of people within the last two weeks.
When I look closer, I find that frustration is somewhat suppressed anger (which makes it take the form of frustration), and behind that fear. The shortcut when I notice frustration or anger is to find the fear behind it and feel it as it is.
How we respond to threats. Our ancestors mostly needed to respond to immediate and acute threats, and the ones who did survived and passed on their traits to us. When we respond quickly and decisively on immediate and acute threats – like the current virus – it’s because of our ancestors.
As many have pointed out, our situation today is different. The big threats we face are global, slow, and long term.
It may seem a bit bizarre that we collectively act so decisively on acute threats like the virus, and are willing to sacrifice a lot to do so, and fail to act on the larger and far more serious threats. And yet, it’s understandable. It’s how most of us are put together.
That’s why it’s important to take the big, slow, and longer term threats and translate them into something immediate, near, and acute. To show that they also are immediate, near, and acute. That’s how we can and will finally act on them with as much vigor as we currently act on the virus situation.
Virus and a simpler life. I tend to use these posts as rants (aka my mind showing itself its complaining side), with some exceptions. And yet, it’s good to look at the other side as well. With the corona/covid19 virus situation, there are some upsides.
It shows us what’s already going on, as mentioned in an earlier post.
It does temporarily lighten human’s load on Earth, although only a bit and only for a little while.
It shows us – at least in the wealthier parts of the world – that a simpler life is possible. We can live without traveling so much. Without going out to restaurants so much. Without going shopping so much. In some cases, it may open up for working from home (if that didn’t already happen). In short, it shows us that a simpler life is not only possible but may be desirable and come with a lot of upsides. (More time, less stress.)
It shows us that we can collectively and rapidly shift how we live our life. And that’s something we – urgently – need to do with the climate crisis as well.
It helps us reprioritize. It may help us see that investing time and energy into work, buying, accumulating experiences and so on are not really our highest priority, although we lived as if they were. Perhaps other things are more important – family, friends, community, kindness, care, presence, nature.
I am not saying that any of this will make a difference collectively (although it may, a little), but we can allow it to make a difference in our individual lives.
Virus and zero-tolerance? I notice a marked difference in how officials in Norway and Sweden (at least, the chief epidemiologist) talk about the virus situation. In Norway, they talk as if they have a zero-death policy about the infection and will go to almost any lengths to prevent deaths. This seems a bit misguide:d and unrealistic, and it tends to lead to extreme decisions that can harm as much as it helps.
In Sweden, they acknowledge that people will die from it – just as people already die from a wide range of causes. That, in my view, is more honest and realistic and a more sane approach. Of course, some will die from it. People die anyway from influenza, other infections, traffic accidents, and a number of other causes. When you are more realistic and honest about it, you can make more informed and less extreme decisions, as they do – at least so far – in Sweden.
Knowing a little. Knowing a little while not knowing how little we know can be a dangerous combination.
One example is the topic of researching the effectiveness of Vortex Healing (VH). In the VH group on Facebook, there is a widespread idea that researching the effectiveness of VH will cost millions of dollars so there is no point even thinking about it.
This is clearly wrong. They are basing it on information about medical research on medicines, vaccines, and so on. These have to go through a long and expensive testing – virtual, on animals, on small groups of people, and then hundreds or thousands of people. They need to be very certain that the medicine not only works, but – more importantly – doesn’t harm people. And that is a long and often very expensive process.
With Vortex Healing, the process is clearly different. Even a small study that shows that it seems to work – for something specific – can be very important, especially if it’s done by reputable researchers. And this doesn’t have to cost very much at all. It could be done by students at a university for close to no cost.
There is a big difference between research on medications and energy healing. For one, most people assume energy healing doesn’t work so a simple study – if done by a reputable researcher / institution – is important. Similarly, since most people think it doesn’t work, intensive research into possible detrimental effects is not a priority yet. Showing it works is, and that can be done in a far less expensive way.
Of course, since energy healing doesn’t fit the current mainstream paradigm, this research needs to be replicated by several respected institutions before it has any chance of being accepted in the mainstream academia or the mainstream medical world.
The challenge is to find institutions willing to do this research, and for the findings to be accepted. The challenge is not – at all – money.
When I have point out that the “millions of dollars” idea is wrong, it’s been ignored. And – on a personal note – this ties into and triggers one of my own issues… about not being heard, understood, and taken seriously.
Research into energy healing. Whenever the topic of research comes up in the Vortex Healing Facebook group, there seems to be an agreement that it will cost millions of dollars to do research
This is a reminder that any idea of purpose is an idea. It’s not inherent in life itself. And that my specific ideas of purpose is just one of a very wide range of possible ideas of purpose. For instance, I can see that my life has purpose even if I am resting. Just as a tree har purpose by being a tree.
different forms of meditation, prayer, and healing (Vortex Healing). A way that’s more aligned with reality. More fully from oneness. More from receptivity, presence, and trust. And less from an active sense of “separate person” doing.
If I do it my “old” way, with some sense of active doing, my system gets overwhelmed and fatigued. When I find an approach that’s more aligned with reality, my system has it much better.
This pandemic – where I know several who need energization and infection work – is an invitation to go even deeper with this. To align more closely with reality. To notice any “doing” on my part. To allow the divine to do the work, even if it happens through this system and body. To notice it’s all happening within – and as – oneness.
This seems to be an important key for VH, prayer and meditation, and perhaps for life in general. Who knows, it may even be one of the invitations for me in CFS – to deepen in just this.