By RICHARD KOSTELANETZ.
Prefatory note: When I wrote the text below in May 2020, I offered it to publications that had previously supported me. None of them accepted it. As some of my observations have since gained wider acceptance, I offer it now, under the implicit assumption of understanding how obvious now seem conclusions that were unacceptable then.
COVID-19 DEFINITELY ORIGINATED in China. Whether maliciously or not is a good question raised in lawsuits against the Chinese Communist Party. This quixotic effort deserves every American’s support. Even if no money is won, such a legal effort should unearth intelligence that might otherwise remain secret. Those who have, instead, so relentlessly regarded Russia as America’s principal antagonist in the world now look like deluded distracted fools.
The U.S. press was slow to acknowledge the virus in part because through February it was focused upon the ridiculous attempt to impeach President Trump. (Remember it?)
When Trump first learned about the threat, he was reluctant to shut down the economy, perhaps remembering that his predecessor hadn’t done so, during a comparable M1N1 outbreak almost a dozen years ago. Once the president kept people from doing business and earning wages, he felt obliged to initiate highly costly stimulus legislation, even though we know from experience that government stimulus, usually a Democratic scheme, rarely realizes desired effects.
May I recommend that everyone doubt all numbers, particularly about deaths, especially because few die of Covid-19 itself but from its exacerbating vulnerable preconditions. That’s the first reason why older people statistically predominate. Beware of efforts to inflate numbers. Some state “health” agencies have ruled that every death by someone testing positive will be counted as a CV-19 death, even if, say, it resulted from an accidental fall. I suppose the motive behind jacking up the death statistics is justifying a later request for greater government charity.
Given my own experience with the test for it, I would also doubt any statistics about positives. Simply, it took me and my primary physician twelve days to learn that I had indeed tested positive. Until then I was sent in circles by a website and human call centers. Does that mean I was never counted? I was told that I was no longer contagious, but also that the “test for antibodies” was not yet commonly available. So for weeks, I spent nearly all my time at home.
Beware of the media’s predisposition to inflate. Around the world went an overhead photograph of burials at New York City’s Hart Island, which has for decades been the final resting place for unclaimed bodies. It showed several workers lowering perhaps twenty caskets into earth apparently dug by a bulldozer visible nearby. Published on a Thursday, the picture did not say that Wednesday has always been the customary day for burials there. Considering the average of 25 interments per week at Hart Island, less represents a slow week. (Nonetheless, all would agree that twenty scarcely constitutes “mass.”) Additionally, since a body must be unclaimed for sixty days before it is send by default to Hart Island, the individuals in those coffins must have passed before the pandemic hit.
At various times in dissemination of news of this pandemic, purportedly authoritative organizations offered “models,” which is to say numerical predictions that were indeed scary. Most, if not all, have been revised downwards the last time I looked, reinforcing my general skepticism about predictions (beginning with weather forecasts) that are too often wrong to be trusted. Indeed, compared to those contracting other kinds of influenza (and even dying from it), the revised numbers for CV-19 are not particularly higher, even if no doubt terrible.
So much purported reportage that I heard on the media differed from my own experience. Residing on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, I’ve rarely heard ambulance sirens. (More often I hear the MTA subway that stops outside my door.) Given that New York City has several million people, the percentage of those contracting it has been low. Only one other person known to me tested positive, and my experience wasn’t so grim. No one queried by me knows personally more than a few people who have actually died recently from anything, making me wonder about the difference between reportage and common personal experience. As I had only one of the known symptoms (a painfully deep dry cough), I thought I didn’t have CV-19 until told that I’d tested otherwise.
In short, even someone my age, just short of eighty, got a flu so mild that I had no fever and indeed worked at my computer every day. The only medicine prescribed to me was Benzonatate 200 mg, a cough syrup that I took three times a day for seven days. Otherwise, I consumed a lot of Tylenol, vitamin C, and hot tea. Perhaps because I was getting better before I received the medicine, I suspect that I would have further improved. One human truth, preceding modern medicine, is that ill human beings usually get better (unless they die). That’s how human bodies have always worked. As two friends slightly younger than I with mild possible symptoms never got themselves tested, I guess they didn’t contribute to the publicized statistics.
One recurring problem is that government officials, as well as the president of the American Medical Association, have discouraged the use of hydroxychloroquine, which was developed and approved decades ago as anti-malarial. Others suffering from painful arthritis favor it. Some physicians have reported its miraculous beneficial effects with CV-19 — most visibly the doc regularly appearing on Tucker Carlson’s daily cable show — leaving the surprised host dumbfounded. Even if it was never approved by the FDA for this purpose, so what? Nothing has so far been approved for a disease unidentified until recently. Given hydroxychloroquine’s well-known limited toxicity, no one should be discouraged from prescribing or taking it. God forbid forbidding.
I’ve followed the extraordinary street reportage of the videographer Jason Goodman, who has posted on his YouTube channel Crowdsource the Truth his unedited documentary visits to the outsides of New York City hospitals where little seems to be happening. (On successive days, he would also return to an ambulance depot under the HighLine Park in Manhattan’s Chelsea to find at least ten parked ambulances going nowhere.) Such first-hand reportage suggests that even in New York City the “pandemic” might not be as hysterical as widely portrayed.
To my mind, the scariest move has been the government’s closing down the economy, forcing nearly all Americans to stay home from work, not to congregate, etc., even if they accepted that fulfilling their jobs had a possible increased risk — much as the government-exempted workers in, say, hospitals and public transportation necessarily do. The laundry across the street from me remains open, as are the nearby bodegas, small Latino grocery stores so tightly packed that the requisite “social distance” is impossible. The popular Dominican barber across the street wants to reopen; so do the proprietors of my neighborhood’s small restaurants.
Perhaps remembering his predecessor’s example with the M1N1 flu, Trump was initially reluctant to do this, no doubt sensibly calculating the probable costs, as a veteran entrepreneur should. However, perhaps because 2020 is a presidential election year and he needed to “look presidential,” Trump proposed releasing public funds first to individuals and then to institutions including corporations. This would have been unnecessary had the economy continued unobstructed.
Whether or not the perpetrators of the plandemic envisioned the result of American economic collapse we don’t know yet, but that will certainly be the expensive result whose ultimate cost may not be known for a while. (Again, distrust “models.”)
Consider, nonetheless, that no state should ever forbid anyone from pursuing his or her job if they wish to do so. All jobs are risky, as are all human contacts, to different degrees. People who still ride New York City subways have noticed an increase in the number of beggars, some of whom appear inexperienced, implicitly accepting risks underground because the government has forbidden their normal remunerative activity.
Nothing upsets me more, as a Democrat-for-life, than my party’s leaders advocating a state-enforced lock-out of employees because that has always been a corporate strategy to destroy unions and undermine the native working class. (So has unlimited immigration been, but that’s another story.) We can now judge that the anti-union fanatics of a century ago weren’t imaginative enough to claim the presence of some virulent disease.
Meanwhile it’s quite clear that the beneficiaries of economic collapse are larger enterprises that will survive the demise of smaller competitors with less financial foundation; employers who can drive down the wages of those needing a job, any job; government bureaucrats who desire increasing control our lives (and their henchmen, such as Bill Gates and his sinister buddy directing the UN’s WHO); and the pharmaceutical industry that can promise to develop “a vaccine,” even though one might not be necessary. In my judgment, greater nastiness, mostly caused not by the virus but by a government-enforced economic recession, is yet to come.
Consider these rules: Plagues represent a misfortune, even if intentionally generated, as CV-19 might have been, but human beings have learned to accept misfortune and to minimize its unfortunate effects. The sharp differences in death rates among the states reflect not just the uneven virulence of the disease but differences in states’ responses.
Governments closing down economies is not misfortune and thus not inevitable. The economic truth has always been that government policies cause depressions.
Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in American Art, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.