Collectively bad

Trailhead: Audrey Dutton. "Idaho man thought ‘the virus would disappear the day after the election.’ He was wrong." Idaho Statesman (2021-03-09).

Honestly I thought I would have some negative things to say about this, or at least negative things to think—maybe not publicly, maybe only privately. Local Dingus Learns Hard Way That Respiratory Virus Does Not Care What Tribe He Affiliates With. Or something—something casually rude, witty, and cutting.

I'm not feeling it.

This guy belongs to a class of people who did the wrong things and kept the virus in heavy circulation. But he's also going to live an expensive, health-impaired life. It's—I don't know what it is. It's inevitable, yet avoidable. It's unfortunate, yet not unexpected. It's a shame that someone has to live like that when there were other options.

As an outsider—someone with an embarrassing wealth of luck and health—it's frustrating. This is one more grain of data in a beach of data. How many chains was this guy part of? He got it somewhere, and where did he pass it, and where did they pass it—and on and on. Links in the chain, chains connected to chains connected to chains.

The virus is funny. The level it can be understood on, at least viscerally, is on the individual level. If one person gets it, it's a calculable misfortune. It can be chalked up to personal responsibility or bad luck or a bad decision, or something in discrete, understandable terms. Chains of transmission are wrecking balls—simple machines that allow a single person to do much more damage than a single person alone can do.

I don't talk much about the virus. There's not much to say. It's a game, and we're collectively bad at it. We have no goal. We have many players who undermine the ad hoc process to win. Even if many players are trying to win, the presence of many players effectively trying to lose makes it unlikely to win. It's fascinating to watch in the same way that it's fascinating to watch the guy at the next pump at a gas station light a cigarette while filling his tank.

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