There’s Another Even Deadlier Pandemic Right Now: it’s called Stupidity

While many countries grapple with the health, social and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s another, much more serious disease infesting our world that goes largely un-noticed and usually un-treated.

Tragic and traumatic as COVID-19 undoubtedly is for the individuals affected by it, when seeking answers about how, why, and how fast it happened, most of us are missing the point.

COVID-19 is a graphic illustration – delivered to us in an unpleasant biological form – that the real cause of our current pandemic and inability to respond to similar, entirely predictable crises is our collective ignorance and stupidity.

It’s a stupidity and arrogance that allows us to believe that we can continue to over-populate our world and live way beyond our means by continually plundering our environment and devouring non-renewable resources.

It’s a stupidity that thinks that the cruelty and unhygienic practices of modern factory farming and ‘wet’ markets are acceptable methods of feeding ourselves – and our subsequent amazement when diseases flourish and cross over to the human population as a result.

It’s a stupidity that means our politicians and bureaucrats decide what protective equipment should be worn by our doctors and nurses based not on what will best protect medical workers from COVID-19, but what will best protect the careers of our politicians when it is revealed that medical protective equipment is in chronically short supply.

It’s a stupidity and recklessness that allows politicians to call for retired health workers to volunteer on the medical front line when their age, the lack of protective equipment and the way that COVID-19 attacks the elderly hardest means that those retired returnees are at potentially heightened risk of morbidity and mortality – further adding to the strain on an already overloaded and deliberately underfunded public health system.

It’s a stupidity that leads to thousands of people defying social distancing rules and lockdowns, holding drunken ‘end of the world’ parties, coughing and spitting on police and medical workers, or burning mobile phone towers because of deranged 5G conspiracy theories.

It’s a stupidity where many millions of Americans can elect – and presumably even believe – a President who claimed in January 2020 that COVID-19 was ‘all under control’ in the USA, and who has now asked in April 2020 whether injecting disinfectant in people to create ‘almost a cleaning’ might help in treating COVID-19.

Such is the scale of this stupidity that it has moved from an individual to an institutional level, and now permeates nearly every aspect of our lives on a daily basis.

If we are stupid enough to support politicians and economic systems that deliberately run down our health systems to the point of collapse in ‘normal’ times, why should we be surprised that when a pandemic does arrive, we are pathetically unable to cope with it?

How is it possible that countries with the largest economies in the world can’t even organise enough face masks and aprons to safeguard their nurses and doctors in the frontline?

Why have we allowed food manufacturers and retailers to build food supply chains that are so fragile and inadequate that the slightest hint of panic-buying leaves supermarket shelves empty or diminished for weeks or months?

Why have we allowed ourselves to become so detached from reality and addicted to all sorts of superficial, nonsensical distractions that the act of being temporarily confined to our homes for a few weeks induces widespread fear, panic and mental breakdowns?

COVID-19 is bad, but stupidity is a far more pervasive and virulent disease that has been spreading virtually unchecked for a very long time now.

In today’s world, where billions of people get their news and information through social media, the spread of stupidity and misinformation has never been so rapid, so efficient, and so damaging.

An increasing proportion of the population who have lost the ability to think logically about anything have their prejudices, bigotry and ignorance instantly reinforced and encouraged by like-minded dimwits around the world at the press of a button.

In this they are actively aided and abetted by media proprietors, business leaders and politicians, who know that the more ignorant and foolish a population is, the easier it is to manipulate and extort money and power from them.

Our cost of living is so ridiculously high that the people that lose their jobs instantly enter financial hardship, while those who have been forced to provide slave labour in the modern ‘gig economy’ are left almost totally unsupported by financial aid packages.

They are thrown to the wolves by politicians and an economic system that claims not to be able to do without them, but doesn’t want to acknowledge their existence when times are suddenly tough.

For those people who live in countries where there is no social security system whatever, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to be infinitely worse.

The death or serious illness of a wage earner often condemns a whole family to starvation, because wages are so low that daily life is a relentless struggle to survive as it is without the added complications of COVID-19.

It is the selfishness of rich nations that forces them into this impossible position – an inevitable consequence of a world where just 1% own more than 50% of the world’s wealth – and are projected to own more than 66% by 2030.

Little wonder that our world is in the state that it currently is – but who do we ultimately have to blame for this stratospheric level of stupidity?

The answer, unfortunately, is no-one but ourselves.

Just look at the desperation of so many of us to unwind the lockdowns so that we can return to our ‘normal’, unsustainable, selfish and destructive lifestyles.

We can’t wait to get rid of those temporarily un-polluted blue skies and traffic-free highways in order to rush back to the rampant capitalism and the rat race we’ve convinced ourselves is the only possible way to live.

We are desperate to be able to spend our lives drinking and partying and being stupid again as if there was never a pandemic – and there never will be again in the future.

COVID-19 is bad enough, but mass stupidity is the most dangerous pandemic we’ve ever faced.

Unfortunately, all the signs are that it is likely to remain with us long after the trauma of COVID-19 has receded into history.

David Mellonie is an Australian author, editor and photographer. Read other articles by David.