The Apocalypse Nobody Wanted
The Coronapocalypse is the most adequate way to describe what has happened so quickly to change our lives so absolutely. A few weeks ago, the virus that has now spread to every continent seemed like someone else’s problem. When people were quarantined to their homes in China, that seemed normal because — well, hey. It’s China. Then people in Italy started to be confined to their homes. That seemed a little more frightening. Italy is, after all, that place so many of us dream of going. That land of adventure and study abroad opportunities forced into their homes under threat of imprisonment and hefty fines? Suddenly, the virus did not seem so distant.
Often when artists and creators and entertainment producers imagine what the end of the world would look like, they come up with something exciting. The end of the world is going to look like zombies trying to eat us. We will have to band together in order to defeat them. But at least we will have each other.
This apocalypse, however, denies us all that. And it is something more insidious.
Self Isolation — The Worst Form of Apocalypse
Prison life, for example, sucks. You have to deal with other criminals every day. Horrible happenings between inmates are commonplace. You can be beaten, raped, mocked, and abused. However, there is one form of punishment in prison that is even worse. That punishment is self isolation.
Today, our apocalypse is not so readily apparent. There are no zombies coming after us — no marauding bands of enemies, foreign or domestic, either. What we do face, however is an inevitable, lengthy isolation.Shelves might be empty and people might be running around in masks, but for those of who are not yet infected by the virus or at the front lines of helping those who are, the most present danger we face is an inevitable, lengthy isolation.
Many have pointed out the positive sides of this unfortunate turn of events. For example, people point to the chance we now have to reinvent ourselves. To connect with family and mend broken relationships. That is entirely a plausible outcome. However, such an outcome is entirely contingent on this phenomenon being a short-lived reality. But there is no way to know that this will be a short-lived thing.
Flattening the Curve Takes Time
For example, many are touting the government for taking action in order to “flatten the curve”. What most people don’t realize, however, is that flattening the curve also means extending the lifecycle of the pandemic. Instead of the virus spreading like wildfire, taking its effect, and then us moving forward in the chaos of what would ensue, we spread out its infection over weeks, and months. If only this were a temporary lockdown. But why would it be? There seems to be little reason to believe that this contagious substance will go away in a few weeks.
Solitude — Not the Apocalypse We Wanted
Ultimately, the apocalypse we all thought was going to come looked much more like Mad Max or the Walking Dead than what we have now instead. How do you function under the current laws now put in place by the California government? Yes, for now there are many allowances given Californians denied Italians — we can go outside, we can go for walks. But we cannot have visits, or make visits. We can’t travel. Instead, we are confined inevitably to our homes. To say that this will be a time of just a little “soul-searching” I think misses the reality.
Ultimately, this is a new way of life. No more commuting (for many) no more friends. No more eating out in order to ease the blues of the work week. No more weekend trips to the beach. This could be our reality for the foreseeable future. The government is easing us into this by telling us that this will be the case only for a few weeks. But why would it stop there? Will the healthcare system be able to spontaneously handle an influx in the numbers of severely ill in a few weeks? Too much is uncertain. It’s nearly impossible to know where things will go.
Death by Boredom
What I do think people will find, however, is that this kind of an event — one of isolation, is perhaps more soul crushing than the physical danger you would expect from any other sort of apocalypse. It’s one thing to say that we will save lives by ordering our citizens to stay home. But what else will this cause? How equipped for isolation are most people? My guess — not very.
However, the deeper into this thing we get, the more it seems certain — the apocalypse brought on by COVID-19 is real — an apocalypse of one form of life. And it’s not the apocalypse that any of us wanted.
Originally published at https://www.josephwriteranderson.com on March 20, 2020.