Xoterica 29: The Sickness

Artemis Sere Xoterica 29 The Sickness

“It seems what's left of my human side
Is slowly changing in me.” (Disturbed)

Pardon my departure from Bruce Lee as the intro quote for this edition of Xoterica. I wrote this blog while suffering from virus-induced pink eye, and that called for different inspiration for this blog.

Contrary to the popular Disturbed song from the year 2000 (video featured at the end of this blog), I'm not down with the sickness. In fact, I'm sick of being sick. Sick of being cooped up. Sick of the coughs, the doldrums and the unknowns. Sick of relying on social programs to keep me afloat.

I want myself and the rest of humanity to stand up strong and resolute in the face of viral tragedy.

Easier said than done.

It feels like I've been sick forever. I can't tell you when the illness started for me, and I'm not sure if or when it will end. My days feel decent and my nights are torturous. Every day I take baby steps towards better, a new symptom or recurrence of an old one creeps back into my reality. I feel broken, useless, and exhausted from the fight.

Coronavirus or COVID-19 has been a beast of a novel virus. It has inflected millions around the world and killed thousands. Without aggressive approaches to social distancing, it could've been much worse, but it hasn't come without some severe pain for all.

Commerce and capitalism have crashed with millions sick or protecting themselves from getting sick. Unemployment numbers are at levels never seen before in modern times. Companies are getting bailouts left and right, and certain citizens were granted one-time "survival funds". Political and cultural divisions have been exacerbated by austere guidelines put in place to slow the spread of the infection.

We can all feel relieved that measures have worked and have helped us steer clear of a Spanish Flu-level apocalypse, but the reality is that our fight against the coronavirus is far from over. It's considered novel because no human has ever encountered it before, thus no immune system has a defense against it.

For the elderly, obese or people with pre-existing conditions, it is a dance with death; for the young and healthy, it is an inconvenience and silent slayer - not of the individual carrying, but to those who come in contact that can catch their asymptomatic state.

No one is safe from this virus. The best thing we can do is stay in our caves and build immunities from the fell communities. And we've done a pretty good job of distance, even if King Dictator is impatient and wanting America to get back to normal life asap. Capitalism is dying on the vine, and socialism - or programs that help humans survive and thrive - is getting renewed appreciation.

Even though I will vote for Biden, I am a full-fledged fan of former candidate Andrew Yang and his Universal Basic Income proposal. I used to support the idea as part of societal evolution and the transhumanist vision of how robots will replace humans in key jobs in the near future, reducing the active workforce. I now recognize how destabilizing global public health emergencies can be.

And how frequent they probably will become.

While SARS and MERS didnt lead to a global pandemic that dismantled the foundations of civilization, COVID-19 has - and will for years to come. It has disrupted travel, trade and economic activity. It has put 22 million people out of work in the US in a matter of a month and is escalating around the world. It has shuttered stores, restaurants, gyms, salons, schools and places of worship. It has overwhelmed hospitals and exposed systemic failures in our emergency preparedness and virus testing capabilities.

It has brought humankind to a grinding halt. With coughs, fatigue, and chills.

I truly don't know when my case began. Since it can take three weeks for serious symptoms to show, it's very possible I was sick with it in February and didn't know it. Hell, word is that the virus has been circulating since November 2019, so who knows how long it has actually been in the populous. I could've been an asymptomatic carrier until I was exposed enough to succumb to symptoms. My Mom and girlfriend were really sick in early February, but I didn't exhibit symptoms until March.

Since I've been a recluse for much of the last year, my public exposure has been limited, but could you imagine if this would've kicked in around Black Friday or Xmas? Oh the holiday horror!

The last social event I experienced was St Patrick's day lunch with my Mom. After that, everything started shutting down. Work-from-home and shelter-in-place orders became commonplace. Stores ran out if essentials, like toilet paper. Restaurants turned to take-out only services.

Pandemic led to panic.

And here we are now, a month or so into the spread, and King Dictator and his red drones want to cry "Uncle" and get the economic engines running again. Plans are being made to "re-open" the country in May, even though testing isn't accessible and the medical system is already overwhelmed. Some on the right have even claimed they'd kill or die for their country, that virus numbers are overblown and inaccurate, and the gamble is worth the tragic outcome.

I wish those assholes could say that to my face. I'd give them a piece of my virus, so they could relate.

My infection started slow, but built quickly. As someone prone to bronchial infections and pneumonia, it really was just a matter of time. I had a respiratory infection every year growing up, tend to have bronchitis in winter and have become mildly asthmatic for various reasons, including pot use for my ulcerative colitis treatment. Azithromyacin, or Z-pack, has been my common treatment for coughs and wheeze, but my antibiotic resistance is growing stronger and I'm now cautious about when I use it.

Hence, I've done my best to battle COVID-19 with vitamins and homeopathic treatments. I knew that if I went to the ER with my symptoms, I would've been put on a Z-pack and told to go back home and social distance. While my attack of the virus has been uncomfortable, there have been many worse than I, and I know they deserve the priority. There is no cure for coronavirus, just remediation of symptoms.

So I waged my own war. Shut down most interaction with the outside world. Pumped myself full of vitamins and disappeared into the haze of virus.

The cough settled in deep, but unlike previous bronchial infections, never seemed to advance further. I experienced chest rattles, dry coughs, green goo and shortness of breath. Headaches, lack of appetite and fatigue. The nights were sleepless and the days were a blur. More recently, I've experienced sinus infections and pink eye, assumedly because I've been stuck in the house for weeks and am lacking fresh air.

I haven't been officially tested and confirmed with COVID-19, but I don't need a test to tell me how sick I've been, or a Doctor to confirm my symptoms and tell me to do what I've already been doing. My distance has saved lives, at least saved the health of others and my beloved.

There's so much about this new bug that we still don't know, but as we normally do as arrogant humans, we think we have it under control. Where it came from is relatively irrelevant. As overpopulation becomes the norm on our little blue dot, viruses of unknown origin and of which we have no defense, will become more commonplace. Humankind is too interconnected to believe we're safe from this happening again, next time with more dire results. Mutations of viruses are happening with stunning regularity, and expose the flaws in our human affluence and overconfidence.

While we fight each other over benign things such as abortion, gay rights and immigration, the next viral bullet is sliding into the chamber and waiting for the trigger to be pulled. We could use COVID-19 as the event that harmonizes humanity and brings us closer together to solve global problems.

Instead, we point fingers and conduct rallies to return to normalcy.

The wise creature would accept that things will never be normal and the same as before, that the war we're waging against the biological world will continue long after we're dead. The prudent approach would be to prepare ourselves for the next wave, or the next novel antagonist this race will face. We've danced with viral death before, and should be able to set aside our arrogance, affectations and addictions for the sake of humanity. Instead of making things better for all, we wish upon Kingdoms, commerce and deities for deliverance and protection.

Wishful thinking will be our wanton undoing. Instead of asking when we will get back to normal, we should be working together to define a new, better normal for all. COVID-19 wont be the last bug humankind wages war against.

And loses.

#xoterica #humanfirst

Xoterica 28: The Dark Age

Artemis Sere Xoterica 28 The Dark Age

“Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never seek the light.” (Lee)

As we distance ourselves for protection, re-evaluate the cost of society and modern living, and watch the world sicken around us, our comfortable cores are changing. Realigning to strange, empty highways. Working from shelter. Dodging the paths of others and relying on social media for social connections.

Simply breathing is simply betraying.

Our route as humans is under redirection. Through division. Through suffering. Through climate change. Through rage against the system.

All harmony has been lost. Our doctors and healthcare workers and survival resources risk their lives on the front line, lacking the necessary personal protective equipment I once lauded and promoted. Unemployment could rise to 20% in the country, could be worse if we reach mythic levels. Grocery stores are bare of essentials and comfort now. We hunker down in our hovels waiting for the sky to fall, watching the stocks crash to unforeseen depths and wishing we had chose differently.

Chose pragmatically. Proactively. Protectively.

Please note that I didn't say"conservatively".  We need to spend our resources for human survival, just do it better.

Kingdom of Sorrow

The American Kingdom spends trillions on soldiers, bombers and bullshit annually, and was overwhelmed and undone by an unseen bug in a week or so.

It should be obvious where the real battles lie - deeper inside.

Yet, our fearless leaders call for us to "get back to business", like feudal Kings who have lost patience with their ailing peasants.

The Kingdom requires your supplication and servitude, or the Kingdom as we know it won't survive. It wasn't built to be closed. It wasn't built to stall. It wasn't built to fall.

There seems no end to this. The peasants get a $1200 survival check as pacification, as the King speaks of Churches packed with asymptomatic carriers and prayers alike on Easter. A mass infection event filled with nodding paupers and coughing patients.

Amen.

Welcome to the New Dark Age - a time of silence, fear and tyranny. The ignorance and barbarism of our early years never really faded, and has been given a fake-tan-kissed face and grace by scepter.

A pulpit from which he can serve lies and twisted truths to his fawning followers.

A self-imbued royalty and piety.

From his gold-plated tower, the Orange King watches, seethes and dismisses all that doesn't suit or serve him.

The Ubiquitous Bugs 

Those of us paying attention knew a virus could destabilize our world, and warned everyone, even published content about it, but did little was done in preparation. Too few dollars spent. Too few people employed (in fact, support staff for emergency preparedness has been fired and reduced under the Orange King).

Too few people taking possible catastrophe seriously.

In 2007-2008, I worked with CIDRAP, Dr. Mike Osterholm, and Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou at the University of Minnesota, providing project support for an Avian Influenza project/center. I wireframed one of their first web experiences, and learned a lot about Infectious Diseases, their hotspots, global highways and public health headaches while working around the topic. Coincidentally, I was forced to leave the job due to reduction in funds for my contract.

However, deep respect of their work in public health and infectious disease prep carried into my professional life at 3M Safety. 

In 2015 - 2016, I built a website for a disposable respirator stockpile management program. You can find the brochure here, but the website has since been taken down, redirected. The proud company I worked for at that time was trying to get ahead of crises like COVID-19. It developed programs with their respiratory products to keep us from reaching the point we're currently at.

Sadly, the program never really took off (ie. few entities took advantage of stockpiling respirators at a reasonable price before the crisis hit), and was eventually de-prioritized, mostly forgotten. I imagine where my life would be now if those health and safety areas I/we championed were ever taken seriously by the masses.

If funding to hospitals and preparedness programs wasn't reduced or cut outright.

If my emergency preparedness blogs and content were ever shared as real warnings and alerts to an aware public.

If resources went toward driving prudence, instead of affluence and arrogance.

If there was less noise and lies, and more truth and clarity.

Massive Attack

Hindsight is 20/20, but historical clarity is worthless if we never learn from our mistakes, and do our best to not repeat them.

Throughout time, human civilization has been rocked by plagues and pandemics. The list is too long and gruesome to recall here, but the COVID-19 pandemic could eventually rank on that list.

As of this writing, we're at

COVID-19 Cases: 428,948 humans
Deaths: 19,152 humans
Recovered: 110,047 humans
Global Population: 7.8 billion humans

Comparatively, this virus shouldn't be worth a sneeze, but it is dangerously contagious and brutal. It will kill more than the common flu before humans have it under control with testing or vaccinations. It will ruin lives. It may ruin my own. The situation should not be taken lightly by anyone, much less our leaders.

Where this goes - and how many future virus storms we'll endure before we get our #humanfirst priorities right - nobody knows. I'm no seer, but that's clear to me.

This isn't a righteous "I told you so" moment; this is recognition of the dark reckoning ahead. I face this painful reckoning and correction, just like the rest of my friends, family and frenemies are.

I did my best as a voice for truth with the platforms I have had and currently control, but truth is irrelevant when lies are in charge. My recession of voice is proof of that consuming void.

Let hope be your flashlight in the coming darkness. 

#xoterica #humanfirst

Artemis Sere Xoterica 28 The Dark Age