Monday, June 29, 2020

The Final Solution: Pattern Recognition

Is there always silver lining? Murderous genocides like those perpetrated by Buddhist monks against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar have uprooted and devastated whole populations. Ice caps melt, sea levels rise and yet the Amazon rainforest continues to be despoiled. No pandemic has probably ever affected the world as greatly as the coronavirus, but it appears doubtful that lessons are being learned--particularly in the United States where the president refuses to wear a mask. Still, it’s always easier to prepare against the knowable than the unknowable. All the ventilators, face masks and hand lotion aren’t going to be a bulwark against as yet unthinkable diseases that are the product of a world that is literally beginning to tilt on its axis. There's an economic domino effect that occurs when supply chains begin to break. At the worst, businesses can’t pay taxes to governments who can no longer pay their bondholders. Mitch McConnell’s comments about letting states go into bankruptcy notwithstanding, it would be a catastrophe of the tax free municipals and even US Treasuries stopped being both a safe investment and reliable way for governments to meet their obligations. The problem is mirrored on a more global scale when dying infrastructures can no longer provide a bulwark against the incursion of maladies that may themselves be generated by a worn out planet. Oedipus famously brought about the prophecy he feared (and another plague--the one suffered by the people of Thebes) by trying to avoid it. And what if there were a way to see the future? Often the omens comes as riddles that need to be decrypted. How will anyone be able to act, when there's no agreement about the nature of the signs?

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