Fear and Loathing in China - Part I -
Hmmm. Watch more garbage on my laptop? Refresh that webpage with the scary numbers for the twentieth time today? Browse the headlines again? Maybe a quick 30 pushups will set me straight. Nah, more coffee seems like the best way forward.
Why am I wasting this amazing opportunity to be productive and instead I'm just fidgeting with my computer? My wife and son are stuck up in the mountains of western Yunnan for the New Year and I’m left with no parental responsibilities for the first time in more than three years. My businesses are under mandatory closure and I’m left with no work responsibilities for the first time in sixteen years. For so long I’ve been waiting for free time like this to do all the things I’ve long convinced myself I’m too busy for. At last I’ve got an opportunity to get on those writing projects and maybe take the dog for a long run.
Now is the time to get inspired. Now is the time to get shit done. But first, more coffee, and then maybe another peek at the headlines. Hmmm, I wonder what the best television series was from 2011. Maybe I’ll download that real quick as I’ve already watched everything back to 2012.
With this sudden lack of responsibility thrust upon us all, I just don’t know what to do with myself. Now is when I should finally get to that old to-do list, but I just can’t muster the motivation. Everything going on is so emotionally draining, and the uncertainty of it all is so distressing. Just getting out of bed takes an hour or two longer than usual. But as we all walk into this unknown future, there is a part of me that keeps rethinking one thing over and over again. This could only happen in China.
I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world that could abruptly freeze nearly 1.4 billion people in the biggest game ever of Red Light/Green Light. And I don’t think there is another population of people in the world who could handle it with such efficient calmness. I’ve heard some accusingly call it sheepishness, but I’ll take sheepishness over Mad Max any day. And even if this did go all Fury Road, it would only be fought over hand sanitizer.
The streets are quiet and calm, other than the occasional cluster of fireworks. The wet markets are operating efficiently with only slightly higher-than-normal prices. Everyone is lazing about in their homes with their families watching too much television. And kids are playing badminton in the courtyard and tossing around those Styrofoam airplanes that crash into everything. On the outside its exactly like a typical Chinese New Year; quiet, empty and few places open to get any decent food. So why does it still feel like a zombie movie without any of the good parts?
This shit is scary, and that’s understandable. We’re not all virologists. Most of us didn’t know anything about viral transmission, incubation periods, mutations and mortality rates; even though now many of us talk like we are experts. Moreover, there’s so much clutter in the media as sensationalized garbage dominates the web. It’s snake oil salesmanship of a different sort. Only this time it’s paranoid clickbait instead of false medical cures. Now it’s difficult to keep an even-keeled perspective amidst all the fear-mongering and speculation. When some of us can’t even agree upon the spherical shape of the planet, obviously not everyone is looking to the science journals for their news.
Ah, that reminds me. News. Let’s check those headlines again. But maybe I’ll grab a beer first and then dive into season 6 of The Office. The pushups will have to wait.