‘I’ve implied the junction of the organic, the lively, the sweet – in other words, life, the orange – and the mechanical, the cold, the disciplined [the clock].’ Anthony Burgess explaining the title of his novel, A Clockwork Orange.
As the coronavirus sprang upon us in the first months of 2020, it seemed possible that this virus could undo some of the intense polarization that has gripped the nation since at least 2016.
It didn’t turn out that way.
The virus has actually thrown more gas on the fires of discord- something that would have seemed impossible back in the ‘quaint’ days of January 2020 when impeaching the President was all the rage.
Clocks and Oranges
There are two diametrically opposed views on this crisis. The first argues that it’s a catastrophic pandemic and we must drastically change the basic functioning of our civilization until we find a safe way out. Let’s call the folks who follow this view the clocks.
The clocks see nature as a beautiful garden that they’re charged with caring for, cultivating and molding. They are the masters of science, logic, and materialism and feel an obligation to drive nature toward the good, the just and the equitable.
The other view of the virus is that it’s just one more curveball mother nature has tossed our way. We have survived other pandemics and we’ll survive this one. Those who follow this view are sceptical of the science and feel empowered to embrace their mortality and move one. Let’s call these folks the oranges.
The oranges feel a part of nature. Not only do they accept her harsh realities, they feel empowered by their role in her epic drama. They are not here to change the world, but to be part of it.
The clocks want to convert the oranges into timepieces, creating a ‘clockwork orange’ while the oranges just want to be left alone.
The oranges are leery of change. The clocks want to change absolutely everything.
We all know who the oranges voted for in 2016, and since then the clocks have done everything in their power to remove him.
There is death by COVID-19, and then there is the regular old death and dying. For the clocks, there’s nothing worse than people dying of COVID-19. It has captured their imaginations and infiltrated their psyches.
At the beginning of the outbreak, I made a Twitter list of the most prominent experts on the topic in order to follow what I thought was the ‘science’- lots of PhDs from our most esteemed universities. But I soon noticed that their science was tainted with a heavy dose of ‘clock’ dogma.
Dr. Rivers from Johns Hopkins has her heart in the right place. She is sure, maybe too sure, that she’s doing ‘good’ and she’s baffled by anyone who isn’t terrified of leaving their home without a mask, sanitizer and a heavy dose of fear. The clocks are dumbfounded by the sceptical oranges.
Dr. Mackay tweeted a quote from a story about a pack of oranges, “They are the kind of person who isn’t happy with [what] they are told by experts and prefer to go and seek their own narrative.” He then asked, ‘Why do coronavirus sceptics and deniers continue to downplay the disease?’ He’s shocked that these people actually want to think.
The Atlantic reported that between 2000 and 2016 as many as 453,000 people had died of opioid overdose. Let’s remember that an opioid addict just doesn’t get sick and die, they spend years destroying themselves, their friends, families and communities before they pass on. But for some reason, people dying this way just doesn’t have the same effect on the clocks as COVID-19 deaths do. In fact, life expectancy among Caucasian Americans has been in decline since the late 1990’s.
In essence, the oranges have had the coronavirus for more than twenty years and the clocks haven’t paid much attention. Anderson Cooper & company have barely mentioned their plight.
Some other folks don’t seem to be very big on the clock radar either, from The Guardian:
The coronavirus crisis will push more than a quarter of a billion people to the brink of starvation unless swift action is taken to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions, the UN and other experts have warned.
About 265 million people around the world are forecast to be facing acute food insecurity by the end of this year, a doubling of the 130 million estimated to suffer severe food shortages last year.
These numbers are breathtaking yet go practically unmentioned as potential victims of COVID-19 policies; these souls exist in the shadows of the clockwork orange.
Clock Science vs. Orange Science
One would have thought, before 2020, that virology and epidemiology were inherently apolitical. Incredibly, even one’s views on antibody tests are highly correlated with voting preference and whether one prefers Tucker Carlson to Rachel Maddow.
By the time the now infamous Stanford led Santa Clara antibody tests came out, I could already predict how my blue check mark list of Twitter experts were going to respond.
‘I think the authors owe us all an apology… not just to us, but to Stanford,’ wrote Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.
Dr. Gelman is a serious clock and he was furious. How could anyone from a reputable university even begin to suggest that we weren’t facing the greatest threat to humanity since the black death. The first wave of antibody test results implied that the infection fatality rate (IFR) was lower than first reported and more carriers were asymptomatic as well. This was NOT good news for the clocks; it was pure heresy.
They wanted the IFR to be higher! Too low an IFR, say below 0.3%, would be far too close to that of the flu.
The formidable Dr. Marc Lipsitch is the Grand Poobah of the corona clocks. His quote from The Atlantic article of Feb. 24th really got the clocks wound up and they haven’t been the same since. This is pure clock speak.
The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”