Priorities During the Great Loosening

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As we begin to have the (extremely healthy) public debate about when to lighten the lockdown, how, how fast, and with what rules, the editorial board of Issues & Insights offers a perspective that’s important to keep in mind:

One thing that has become abundantly clear since the virus emerged is that it targets older and sicker people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that of those with confirmed cases by mid-March, only 5% were younger than 19, while 62% were over 55. Of those who ended up in the hospital, fewer than 1% were under 19, and none of these young people were admitted to intensive care units.

But a little-noticed United Nations report out last week found that the massive disruptions and global recession caused by the shutdowns will disproportionately harm children. It says that 60% of children worldwide are in countries under partial or full lockdown orders. …

“Hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths could occur in 2020,’” which “would effectively reverse 2 to 3 years of progress in reducing infant mortality in a single year.”

And this is likely a low-ball estimate because it counts only the direct impact of a worldwide recession, not the impact shutdowns are having on access to health care, vaccines, prenatal care, food and nutrition, or mental health care.

Note, especially, that much of this wreckage will not occur in the enclaves of the good liberals of the West, but in locations, regions, and countries where people are disadvantaged.

Bring this to mind any time some social media pundit uses the phrase “give your life for the economy.”  The economy isn’t some appendage to society that’s nice to have, but not the highest priority.  The economy is society.  It is intrinsic.  Your production, your work — whatever it might be — contributes to the well-being of starving children you’ll never know existed.

I came across a tweet the other day that I can only describe as gross.  It said that the clerks working in stores aren’t heroes, they’re victims.  As a group, they’re neither.  They’re human beings, and that comes with the whole texture of humanity’s heroism and fear, domination and subordination.

We can romanticize it or dissect it in some clinical framework of analysis, but we’re all interconnected and facing the complicated task of deciding how to act within the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

As we do that in the next few months, keep this in mind.  Whether they would articulate these thoughts or not, most of those calling for a reopening aren’t greedy overlords thirsting to get their wealth flowing again or careless narcissists pitching fits to be able to indulge themselves again.  Rather, they intuitively sense that human activity is good and an expression of our shared vocation to make the world a better place.