Sunday July 18, 2021
COVID-19 cases have started surging again, in places like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and the U.S.. Reports blame the rise on anti-vaccine movements, distrust of authorities, misinformation, and government incompetence.
If I were a coronavirus, I’d be celebrating all of those.
As a virus, I have only one goal – to get inside the cells of as many humans as possible, so that I can take over their cell mechanisms to make more copies of me, so that I can get inside more cells of more humans.
We viruses run the ultimate assembly line. All we need is victims.
There is one big difference, though, between our assembly lines and, say, Henry Ford’s. We don’t want identical copies. Perfect copies enable my hosts – people, like you – to learn how to deal with us. You develop “herd immunities,” although they take time. And lots of deaths, weeding out the crop, as it were.
Or you develop vaccines -- which, in my case, you have managed to do very successfully, and in an astonishingly short time.
But when the assembly line makes mistakes, we can produce variants faster than you can learn how to control them.
As a coronavirus, every hour that you stall on banishing me forever gives me precious time to develop variants that you haven’t even imagined of yet.
In Wuhan, my assembly line produced one kind of virus, now called the Alpha variant. But by the time I had spread to Britain, Brazil,. and India, my variants were running rings around Wuhan.
India was like a petri dish for incubating variants. One and a half billion people. If you required a two-metre bubble around each one, there wouldn’t be enough India to contain them. India is crowds. Lots of people breathing the same air. A H
So, not only the Delta variant. But then the Delta-plus variant.
And now the Lambda variant, originally from Peru, but now found in 29 other countries.
As a coronavirus, I wonder why you think we’re limited to the Greek alphabet. Every generation of every virus potentially carries a genetic mutation, which could become a wildly successful new variant.
The failures die off. That’s the downside of infinite mutations. The upside is that as long as we’re allowed to multiply, we’ll stay ahead of you.
You’re so committed to linear progression that you think one variant logically leads to another.
Viruses don’t work that way. We’re more like quantum physics. We try every option, all at once. Every new coronavirus particle that deviates in any way from our basic model is a possible variant.
Millions of us, billions of us, will die because we’re less infectious than our ancestors. But any virus particle that proves fractionally more infectious moves our overall mission forward.
That’s why we coronaviruses are delighted by deniers, right-wing governments, and protest movements. Especially anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.
The more of them, the more opportunities we have to develop new and more virulent diseases. When I make that claim, I’m not speaking only for COVID-19 coronaviruses .Also for chickenpox, SARS, flu, hepatitis A and B, and measles viruses.
Also, I suppose, for the bacteria that cause diphtheria, because they too are spread by aerosols.
Not only do anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers leave themselves without protection, they get together in groups to protest. We viruses love groups. Especially groups that shout and cheer in unison.
U.S. health authorities now state that 99% of new Covid-19 cases occur among unvaccinated people. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
When we do infect an anti-vaxxer, who refuses to wear a mask, we get turned loose in air that family members and children breathe. Whoopee! It’s like winning the lottery.
All coronaviruses support the Republican party. Especially Trump disciples. They oppose vaccinations, masks, and lockdowns. They believe that the economy matters more than people’s health.
They make our job so much easier.
Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, makes our point: “There are two Americas: the better vaccinated states and the less well-vaccinated states.”
Our survival demands close contact among breathing humans. In shops and cafes. In sports stadiums. Or at the Calgary Stampede.
Our heroes are Bolsonaro in Brazil. Modi in India. Kenny in Alberta. And for a brief glorious period, Trump in the U.S. Without them, we’d never have had enough time to develop the Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Delta-plus variants that have relegated good old Wuhan Alpha to medical history.
If I were a coronavirus, that’s how I’d see it.
Copyright © 2021 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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The responses to last week’s column broke into three groups, loosely: about old growth forests, about the unspoken mottos that mould our actions, and about credit.
So Dawne Taylor wrote, “Appreciate how you articulated the different viewpoints of the various generations on money, spending and saving. [And on trees]If you are looking for a good read about trees in general , the intergenerational perspective, and our relationship with trees, suggest you read Richard Power’s novel, The Overstory. Well written, won the Pulitzer Prize.”
Cliff Boldt: “For some time now, I have been railing at my premier and MLA suggesting that the forest industry is the ‘tail wagging the dog’. Like General Bullmoose in the auto sector in the middle of the last century – ‘What’s good for the forest industry is good for the province.’
“I don’t even get replies from either of them.
“The forest industry, like the oil and gas industry won’t stop until the last tree is cut and last barrel is pumped. And those who speak for the trees are condemned as criminals.”
Ruth Buzzard: “There is not much that I believe in but I have two absolute, without exception, beliefs. I am against the death penalty, and I am against cutting old growth forests. There are a lot of things in this world that can be fixed by future generations if they see the mistakes of their ancestors, but those two cannot. When you execute a person, no matter how terrible his crimes, you cannot change the verdict if subsequent evidence is found. And logging old growth forests cannot be reversed or the trees replanted by subsequent generations. These two are absolute, irreversible, final acts.
“Old growth should never be logged. NEVER!”
Isabel Gibson had a similar thought. She suggested a fourth motto worth living by: "If you can't fix it, don't break it."
She continued, “We're a little quick to take what we can't make; to use up what we can't replace; to break what we can't fix.”
Bob Rollwagen offered other examples: “Forty thousand oil wells have been drilled in Alberta, and when each one becomes unprofitable they have been abandoned, you wonder who is in charge. These dead wells are a blight on the landscape, leak oil into the environment and the public has to pay to clean them up. The Alberta Government has just ignored them for decades. They just take the revenue and provide a GST tax free ride for their citizens.
“If you look hard enough, there is probably a similar situation in every province. Ever since Seniors Care Homes have been needed, no one has ever provided the appropriate revenue to do it with care and dignity. I have been in many and witnessed it for decades. The best care is only for the privileged. This is why 70% of all Canadians killed by Covid were in these facilities.”
Ruth Shaver tackled the necessity of credit: “It is well-nigh impossible to operate in the United States without access to credit. I got myself in trouble and out again with credit cards, and then spent almost 13 years living in parsonages with no bills that count toward a credit score in my own name. I almost didn't get an apartment when I moved to take an interim position where the church didn't have a parsonage because I didn't have any open credit to have a score. I'm not sure how long I'll need to stay here making monthly payments before I have a working credit score again, which frosts me no end.
“Debt is a way for other people to make money and we should be able to live without going into it if we so choose...especially once we've known and overcome the dangers of too much monetary, petroleum, or arboreal debt!”
Mirza Yawar Baig sent along a story about one of his blood donations (the topic of a column two weeks ago). It’s long, and he writes too well for me simply to cite a few excerpts, but he gave me permission to give you a synopsis. At a tea plantation in India, one of the labour force, a pregnant woman, was likely to die without a transfusion. Baig sponteneously offered his blood. Later, a delegation from the workers came to him, thanked him, and said he was the first member of management who had ever given blood to a member of the working class, a woman, and a Dalit, an “untouchable”, at that.
Years later, he met the woman whose life he had saved by donating that blood. And with her, the woman’s daughter, now studying to become a doctor, to serve her people.
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