We’re still fighting the last wars

With me so far? Conspiracy thinking emerges out of a deeply human desire to find patterns and discrepancies. It’s critical thinking that hits a brick wall and skids sideways.

But the problem doesn’t end with actual conspiracy thinking. All of us are confused when it comes to that conspiracy topic du jour, the pandemic. We’re confused by the right amount of cautions to take, and which ones will do us good.

It’s like that George Carlin bit about drivers: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” Anyone taking more precautions than you is paranoid, and anyone taking less is reckless.

Fortunately, I am happy to report that I myself have found the *exact perfect amount of risk to take.*

Credit XKCD. https://xkcd.com/2395/

Anyway, something that’s interested me over the last few weird-ass months is watching people acting like the generals of legend as they fight Covid: they’re fighting the last war.

Some people are responding to the virus as though it’s 9/11 all over again: the remedy, they think, is to stay brave and keep living life, as though this will frighten the virus away. (It will not. The virus will enjoy it.)

Likewise, I read about one woman who was quoted as saying that she fully intends to keep visiting with her extended family, because “if the zombies are at the door, I want us to go down together,” or something to that effect. There might be safety in numbers when it comes to zombies, but again, the virus will love this strategy and it may well harm your family.

It makes me think: are some of us going to ineptly respond to future non-medical emergencies by donning masks and standing six feet apart, when really we ought to duck and cover or something?

It’s like we have a big red EMERGENCY beacon in the brain, and we know we’re supposed to do *something* when it starts blaring, but we’re not entirely sure what, or why, so we just default to our Favorite Emergency Behavior and hope for the best.

Like conspiracy thinking, so much of this incorrect reacting is a failure of wisdom. It’s a failure of discernment.

Getting people to do the right thing is clearly not just a matter of having the right experts say the right things loudly enough (although that wouldn’t hurt!) To my mind, it has a lot more to do with our need for clear frameworks for our thinking. We need people to think straight, dammit. We need bowling-alley bumpers for the national discourse.

So next time, let’s talk about how well that works for us in my field of law.

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