Comments on 2020-10-21 Saving friends and family

And I’ve fallen into the trap again. Instead of calling somebody, I wrote a long reply, talking about the pandemic being something we all dislike but no amount of wishing is going to make it go away. Instead we must be responsible adults and deal with reality as it presents itself, that is: stay at home if we can, wear masks if we cannot; to let go of the belief that masks are there to enslave us because surgeons aren’t enslaved either; to not like or share such messages on Facebook because the algorithm is going to serve us more of the same, thinking that we like it, trying to maximise our attention; recommending that they watch The Social Dilemma, even if I disagree with the Silicon Valley boys now being asked for the solutions to the mess they have made instead of asking the critics that worked tirelessly in obscurity – and remain obscure because they’re no … Silicon Valley boys! But a good movie is better than no movie, I guess.

Anyway, what I’m trying to tell myself: Alex, pick up a phone every now and then for heaven’s sake and call your friends and family instead of writing a blog post. 😭

– Alex


The idea of reaching out to people and forming friendships to better convince them of something is always a good idea, but I think it’s especially important in the present circumstances. I don’t think most anti-mask people start off thinking Bill Gates is trying to microchip them, but rather that they get there because they keep looking for excuses not to wear a mask or worry about the pandemic. The more reasonable arguments (it interferes with breathing, it’s just an overhyped flu) are also the easiest to disprove, so gradually they shift to more and more ridiculous theories until... I don’t think they’re too far gone or anything like that, but it gets exponentially harder to convince them that they’re being fooled.

But I think the reason people feel that way about this pandemic is because the way we’re supposed to fight it is by staying at home. Washing our hands, wearing masks, and keeping our distance are all easy to do, but it’s the not going out with friends or to your grandkid’s birthday or to in-person classes or work that drains people’s energy. We’re social creatures. In the opening to the Decameron, Bocaccio describes the people who tried to isolate themselves during the Black Death as “[tending] to a very barbarous conclusion”. We know that it’s the best way to fight this, but it’s also the antithesis of one of our deepest desires - to be around other people. So when people can’t find a way to disprove the usefulness of such measures, they try to find a way to disprove the necessity of them at all, but that would require scientists to be lying about the disease being dangerous, which would require a grand conspiracy, which is where we get people thinking that it’s being spread by 5G.

So reaching out isn’t just a better way to convince someone they’re wrong through getting them to listen, it probably also helps by easing the problems that push them to hold such beliefs in the first place. Suddenly the measures being put in place aren’t as scary as they were before, and sober heads can prevail. That, and it’s just a good way to cope with the general anxiety everyone’s feeling now.

Malcolm 2020-10-21 17:50 UTC


Yes, all of that!

I did call the person in question, and we had a long chat about the weather, the job situation, eating in restaurants, wearing masks, the injustice of lock-down measures if the state is unwilling to foot the bill. Even here in Switzerland, some people had a hard time getting their compensation; and it’s much worse in poorer countries. We talked about leftist governments failing to help the people and how disappointing that is, about the iron framework of the European Union, the need for reform, the state of health care in the US, the numbers of new infections in Switzerland and in the US, the upcoming elections in the US, and of a great many other things. It was a good phone call.

– Alex 2020-10-21 19:41 UTC


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