Saturday, March 21, 2020

Quarantine, Week 1: Just Getting Started

I have had a hard time blogging (or doing much of anything else) because both so much and so little is going on and I am in high state of distraction.  But I thought one way to blog my way through the pandemic is to at least mark each week, either to show how I managed to get by or to chart my descent into madness. 

To build on an old semi-spew theme, I feel several things right now: sad, angry, frustrated, and somewhat proud. 

I am sad.  I am sad for myself--that my cool trips to Hawaii, Copenhagen, and South Africa are cancelled.  I am sad for member of my extended family who have COVID-19.  They are both doing well, with a mild version of the disease, and they are young and resilient.  I am sad, of course, for all the folks who are stricken with the virus, and I am sad for all of the health care workers that are literally risking their lives and working endless hours to save those who are stricken.  I am not depressed, but I think I can see depression from where I am standing. 

I am angry.  While this epidemic was likely to spread no matter what, it is clear that we have failures of leadership around the world.  China shouldn't have lied.  The US should have led. Canada could have acted sooner.  Watching the Trump Administration gaslight itself and everyone else through this, refusing to take the necessary steps (perhaps motivated by corrupt intent), with the most incompetent people (Pence, Kushner, Trump) in charge.  It didn't have to be this bad. 

I am frustrated. I am frustrated with myself as I have been very slow to get work done.  I have a job where I can and mostly do work out of the house.  I should be able to do this, but it has been hard to get going and hard to keep going.  Maybe the old saw about conferences being necessary for pushing academics to get their work done is true--certainly, the current paper, which was supposed to be presented next week at the ISA, would be done by now.  I don't have a kid at home, so I don't really have an excuse.  My friends who have kids at home should have no expectation of getting work done.  I am also frustrated that I can't help my daughter in LA except via texts and skypes.  Anyhow,
if I think I am distracted now, wait until my new playstation makes past customs.... 

Yet, I am also proud. I am proud of my daughter for how she is handling this situation.  I am proud of those who crowded the Ottawa blood bank so much that I couldn't give blood despite having an appointment.  I am proud of my friends and family for emphasizing the distancing in "social distancing" and not the social.  We are all closer now and will be keeping in touch regularly to deal with the separation and the anxiety it produces.  I am proud of those who are giving their all to this.  As both the real Mr. Rogers and the fake one (Tom Hanks) have said, watch the helpers.  It does make me feel better to watch those who are working so hard in this crisis. 

In other posts, I will put on my Poli Sci hat and think about:
  • the comparative politics of pandemics.  One reason why I like Max Brooks's World War Z so much is that it displayed really well that countries will vary in how they address a common problem.  We are essentially living his book, except with a respiratory disease rather than the zombie virus.
  • the International Relations of pandemics.  I have started thinking about how the old hegemonic stability theorists were right--cooperation is hard if there is not a single dominant actor willing to do what is necessary.
  • the civil-military relations of pandemics.  Aid to civil power is what they call it in Canada--what role do militaries have in all of this?
  • the ethnic politics of pandemics.  Trump is using the source of the disease as a way to foster xenophobia and hate as distraction sauce.  Will it work?  Hmmm.
Right now, the real problem facing all of us, especially the markets, is the uncertainty.  How long will this go on?  Eight weeks until we can reduce some of our extreme measures or thirty-two?  I have seen both estimates this morning.  I am currently doing planning for the CDSN Summer Institute which is to take place in August.  That might be wildly optimistic.  Or it could happen if we keep it to Ottawa based people?  I have no idea.  I was asked yesterday what date I set as the deadline for when to cancel it, and I have no idea. 

So, yeah, it is normal to feel anxious right now.  How do we get through this?  One day at a time, just like everything else.  Today, I am making apple pie--not just because I am stress eating, but also because it will occupy an hour or so.  Plus I was going to be eating badly this weekend--finding all the vacation desserts Maui had to offer.  So, I am really not going to be eating worse than I would have. 

I hope you and yours find ways to entertain yourselves, to find some solace, to indulge in those things that one can still indulge in.  We are all in it together, and the internet, for all of its warts, allows us to be social in this time of social distancing.  Take care and, yes, wash your hands.


Frances Woolley said...

Thanks for writing this, Steve, and capturing what a lot of us are feeling. Hope your family members pull through just fine! I've been thinking about the role of militaries as well - our health care system isn't built for pandemics, but militaries are built with spare capacity/reserves. In the meantime, if you're worried about the future and need to stock up, milk in bags freezes really well!

Steve Saideman said...

Well played, Frances!

Militaries vary--the Canadian one does not have as much in the way of spare medical capacity compared to the US one. I will write about the civ-mil of all of this soon.

We are doing ok thus far. Hope you and yours are doing alright.