NYT: In times of global shock people help each other, while the elite panic

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/03/12/nyt-in-times-of-global-shock.html


It’s natural to feel guilt when you’ve been doing something wrong and are about the pay the price.


I see that the term “elite” comes from the source, so it’s fair to use it, but I hate it. The term is being weaponized (by Michael Lind, among others) to mean an adjunct professor of History who makes maybe $45k, while the new definition would not include the non-college educated owner of a plumbing company who makes $150k or more. So it’s being disconnected from money and connected with education. This is just a few steps from the Khmer Orange taking everyone with glasses and putting them in camps.


See also: A Paradise Built in Hell, by Rebecca Solnit


that’s generally how populist anti-intellectualism movements work out.


Waitaminute–you mean society didn’t immediately devolve into cannibalism and warlords and fortified homesteads recycling their own urine for tinctures? I’ve got a bone to pick with a certain prepper subreddit.


Well, they can if they want to…


There was a comment at Dezeen bemoaning people’s response to Covid - “I always thought in times of crisis people would shine” - that stuck in my head.

We haven’t hit actual crisis yet though. We’re still in panic pre-crisis. In my experience people were generally kind after Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Sandy. They were not so beforehand. I’m hoping we hit a turning point over the last day or so.


“You’ve got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists”

–G.K. Chesterton, from The Man Who Was Thursday.


Some of that is projection, because the wealthy imagine that the poor are as unscrupulous as they are. But in actually, people’s behaviors are a bit more nuanced. People are often very generous to those that they perceive as “like them” and can be stingy, even violent to those that they regard as “Others.” Now different people draw line between those like them and others in different places. For some it is just themselves, then family then people in a kinship group, or neighbors, or class grouping or co-religionists, or in the same country, or race, or all of mankind. There seems to be some tendency for people to draw those lines ever smaller as the situation gets worse. So in the worst, most immediate situations, eg “The building is on fire and I can feel the flames on my back,” it tends to be every man for themselves. But in any crisis short of that, people will show tremendous self-sacrifice for at least a small subset of their fellow man. That is yet another reason for responding quickly to emergencies, when people are more willing to help others, even when that comes at a cost.


It would be interesting to know how much of the panic comes from the belief that people in general are like you; and will obviously engage in as much regulatory arbitrage as they can get away with if the situation is perturbed vs. how much comes from the belief that people in general are fundamentally unlike you; and will unleash the animalistic barbarism that has always marked their character but is usually suppressed by the security forces if given the chance.

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The panic we notice more often is when the wealthy get caught and publicly shamed:


Mr Rogers is always applicable. :+1:


The distance between the content of the article and the headline here is boingboingesque.

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Would be prudent then for the adjunct professor - or, for that matter, an illustrator, journalist, and co-owner of a collaborative weblog - to refrain from weaponizing the term.

Give it 30 days. According to CDC:

Mar. 7th:

  • Total cases: 164
  • Total deaths: 11
  • States reporting cases: 19

Mar. 9th:

  • Total cases: 423
  • Total deaths: 19
  • States reporting cases: 35

Mar. 10th:

  • Total cases: 647
  • Total deaths: 25
  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 36

Mar. 11th:

  • Total cases: 938
  • Total deaths: 29
  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 39

Mar. 12th:

  • Total cases: 1,215
  • Total deaths: 36
  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 43

The term has traditionally had two meanings – those who excel at some domain (basketball’s elite players), and those who have money and power (a country’s elites; in past centuries it would have been aristocrats). Use of the term with those meanings is not “weaponizing” it. But those with power (i.e., actual, literal elites in the second sense) have been working hard over the last few years at disconnecting it from themselves and attaching to those they consider thorns in their sides; and calling on their surrogates to do so on right-wing chat TV, followed by calls to attack these newly-minted “elites”. In my opinion, that’s the weaponization.
There’s a comparable phenomenon recently with the use of the term “gated community”, as a place where Democrats lived. That seems to have gone away, I don’t know why. Maybe Jeff Sessions’ wife complained after he used that in a speech, since maybe he lives in one.


Funny, too: adjuncts are essentially gig workers: no bennies, no guarantee of classes term to term, etc.

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Considering how broken the US testing system is, I find these numbers highly suspect. FFS, South Korea processes something like 10k kits/day

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