If the typical stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, then the stages of coronavirus grief in China are fear, anger, depression, acceptance and then just a little more anger thrown on top for good measure.
Pants-Shitting Fear: There was no avoiding that initial wave of anxiety that washed over all of us in China when it became evident that this virus was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Police showing up in surgical masks at your home and business to tell you to stay away from all other people for an indeterminate amount of time is a surprisingly effective laxative.
Blind Rebellious Anger: Google has a way of making everyone an expert. And when you have a boat full of “experts” someone is going to get thrown overboard. The government’s reaction feels like it's gone far beyond the pale of necessary action, especially in perspective of past outbreaks like China’s SARS in 2003, the North American swine flu pandemic from 2009, and even seasonal influenza. Just wash your dirty hands and don’t sneeze in anyone’s face and you’ll be fine. Closing everything down is an over-reaction that threatens to cause more problems than it solves.
Spiraling YouTube Depression: I know I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel when the only things I can find to watch are videos of podcasts. That is how bored I am and how much I seem unable to do anything at all productive. It’s a miracle I can even muster the motivation to chew my food.
Fuck-It Acceptance: Alright, I’ll put a damn mask on. I still don’t think it does much to protect my health, but I understand that it makes everyone else around me feel safer. And right now, how we all “feel” might be an even bigger crisis than the virus itself. Maybe it’s also time to start waking up before ten a.m. I should probably clean the house up a bit too. And while I’m at it, maybe I should finally wash that shit out of my pants from those initial days. I can’t just become a lazy slob and expect someone to tell me everything is going to be alright. Truth is, even with the most likely of worst-case scenarios, everything is going to be alright. And with the most likely of best-case scenarios, this will all be old news in a few months.
Defensive Anger: Look here outside world! I’m sick of your fucking headlines about how upset you all are for the ten cases of the virus that have soiled your oh-so-pristine countries. Your sensationalized headlines gleaming with racist undertones need to stop. I don’t remember the world banning Americans when the 2009 swine flu killed 150,000 people around the world. How about a little sympathy for the people here instead of this blanket blame? You appear more interested in making this about yourselves while demonizing the “others” who are actually suffering most right now. And that’s not to mention the herculean effort this country is now taking to contain the spread of this virus. How about a little bit of gratitude instead? China has sacrificed its economic concerns for the health and safety of its people, and for those of you around the world. There’s no question that were this to happen in another country no such sacrifice would even be an option on the table.
Okay, maybe I need to add another stage here. I’m obviously a bit riled up in level five and it’s time for a glass of wine. Let’s go ahead and call stage six, Chill-the-Fuck-Out. If the 1.4 billion people here sacrificing freedoms and businesses can manage to attain this level, then how about the rest of you out there follow suit.
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