All out of Consolation, probably a supply chain issue

This column by Rory Kinnear in the Grauniad made me cry.

I mean, a lot of stuff makes me cry these days, so maybe it’s not a big deal, but I found it really moving, particularly the bit where he talks about how, in that Spring of 2020, it felt like everyone was willing to make those extraordinary efforts to combat the pandemic. Not really everybody, of course. But so many people, all doing what needed to be done. Saving, almost certainly, millions of lives.

And I’m crying, in large part, because I would like to be part of that effort this winter, and I don’t know how. I don’t want to give things up just to give them up. If it’s not going to actually help anybody for me to avoid physical visits with friends or to wear the less-comfortable-but-slightly-more-effective masks, then I don’t want to do it just to feel like I’m helping.

I think that’s also why I’m so angry about the shift that has happened to relying on individual households purchasing their own at-home test kits and testing themselves all the time—obviously, I can’t actually purchase kits at the local store, so that’s an issue, and then I’m made aware that adding $150 a month on test kits is a very different proposition for most households, even if our household could manage it (if, of course, it were possible to buy tests for ready money). But also, it feels like a colossal, cultural effort to say: screw everybody else, I pulled neg for the night and I’m going to the club. And at the same time, I also feel like if I don’t participate in that culture, then all my favorite restaurants and theaters and hardware stores and bakeries and furniture stores will have to close.

And—I think there’s a real chance that we are at or nearly at the peak of this particular wave, locally. Not nationally, but in Connecticut, and maybe in the Northeast. And if that’s true, I will be relieved, for me and my workplace and my local shops and so forth, but I will feel even more selfish about that relief, as it gets worse in other parts of the country and the world.

And then… There’s a joke, in California, when the whole coastline drops in to the ocean, the last words said by the last person standing on the last sinking reef will be “Well, this wasn’t the Big One”. And I still feel like COVID-19, for all its death and destruction and whatever long-term problems we have no idea about yet, isn’t the Big One. Fifteen years ago, I wrote this in a bunch of places: “I think that the impact of climate change over the next hundred and fifty years will be on the same scale as the first hundred and fifty years of the Little Ice Age of the Thirteenth Century, together with the Great Famine and the Black Death that followed it.” What I saw in the Spring of 2020 made me think that maybe we could get ready for that and mitigate the worst of it, and now I think I was wrong. Maybe I’m wrong now! Maybe I’m wrong about the whole thing. I’m often wrong about things.

But my Lord, when Rory Kinnear writes about the consolation in the manifest absences—I just would like some consolation of some kind. You know?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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