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Reblogged:The Other, Other 'Long Covid'

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Almost anyone who has been paying much attention to the pandemic will have heard by now of "Long Covid:" There are reports of sufferers from Covid enduring long or incomplete recoveries, or being left with other lingering problems. These problems are not well understood and may not (all?) be uniquely related to this virus in particular. But I am not a physician, and that is not the topic of this post, anyway.

Nor are the economic effects of the pandemic and our governments' panicked and tyrannical response, although they are horrendous.

The other, other "Long Covid" is the one only a few -- such as security guru Bruce Schneier -- are beginning to begin to talk about. And that is surely at least in part because that topic -- from psychology (an infant science) -- is at least as complicated as is physical "Long Covid" -- from the more mature, but very complex sciences of medicine and biology.

But there is no denying that this long, traumatic event has had profound psychological effects on many, and Schneier thoughtfully grapples with the problem, which reminds him of acedia, a depression-like syndrome reportedly seen among early and medieval monks:

acedia.jpg
Image by Hieronymus Wierix, via Wikimedia, public domain.
What we are confronting is something many writers in the pandemic have approached from varying angles: a restless distraction that stems not just from not knowing when it will all end, but also from not knowing what that end will look like. Perhaps the sharpest insight into this feeling has come from Jonathan Zecher, a historian of religion, who linked it to the forgotten Christian term: acedia.

Acedia was a malady that apparently plagued many medieval Christian monks. It's a sense of no longer caring about caring, not because one had become apathetic, but because somehow the whole structure of care had become jammed up.

What could this particular form of melancholy mean in an urgent global crisis? On the face of it, all of us care very much about the health risks to those we know and don't know. Yet lurking alongside such immediate cares is a sense of dislocation that somehow interferes with how we care. [bold added and link omitted]
As I noted (again) yesterday, the government has made this pandemic much worse than it ever had to be, through lack of forethought, evasion, and sometimes even overmuch gusto regarding its reckless abuse of power.

Ours has become -- or been abruptly revealed as -- a country of men, not law. Or at least it's much farther along that path than many of us believed. And a huge consequence of the current degree of lawlessness has been our inability to plan ahead. (This is either because our plans have actually been disrupted, or because we face the prospect of the same. See also: learned helplessness.)

We have, for example, been conscripted into the educational and child care industries, deprived of our livelihoods, and drawn out slowly on the Rack of Moving Goalposts regarding when we would again be "allowed" to perform as autonomous adults. In America. In a country founded on the opposite idea: That we own our own lives and are responsible for living them without harming others. Part of the shock comes from the fact that we, the once-fortunate, could not even conceive of having to try to live otherwise.

I don't agree with everything Schneier says, but he and coauthor Nick Couldry are on to something. Many people know on a gut level that something is seriously wrong, and I think that many people are handicapped by the fact that they are unclear on some level about what's wrong or what to do about it.

I will credit myself with understanding much of this better than many. Yet, although I wouldn't go so far as to say I suffer from the malaise Schneier describes, I will admit that I found these events -- particularly during the spring -- shocking and disorienting. That said, the constellation of symptoms he describes is a predictable outcome of this evil experiment in mass infantilization.

In fact, were I to rate how the government's response to this pandemic has felt to me, it would be one of the top three bad events in my life that wasn't the death of a loved one. To take one of these: Even with our government's bumbling response to the atrocities of September 11, 2001, the government did not cause it to become impossible for so many people to at least begin to cope or move on.

It is one thing to know that our life-giving liberty is in grave peril, but it can still be quite another to see it what that can mean on a day-to-day basis, in excruciating detail. This is the difference between knowing that a loved one is terminally ill, and seeing him on his death-bed, as I know from seeing my father alive for the last time, twenty years ago.

This is horrible beyond words.

But those of us who know the stakes -- and are neither denying that there's an epidemic nor cheering on the "lockdowns" -- are the lucky ones. We may well be the first to reorient ourselves and to become able to act appropriately and to the best of our ability.

That doesn't mean it will be easy.

-- CAV

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