By Umair Haque
Here’s a sad and strange truth. Trump’s America has given up on Coronavirus.
Take a look at the charts below:
Three of them show what’s called a “sigmoid” curve — S-shaped, basically. Something grows exponentially — and then it stops.
Or in this case, it is stopped.
One of them shows a…line, steadily racing upwards. That’s America — amidst an historic pandemic.
Coronavirus was never stopped in America the way it was in most of the rest of the rich world. The sigmoid shape we’d expect from a successful response to a virus — or any other deadly calamity that threatened to just go on claiming lives — never emerged.
And yet America’s already ”reopening” — I put it in quotes because America never had the kind of serious lockdown that say Europe or New Zealand did.
The result? About half of American states are already seeing new rises in Coronavirus deaths. That’s going to extend across the country, because, well, a virus doesn’t really care about state lines.
This, my friends, is a disaster without modern parallel. But that’s what you’d expect from a failed state led by a lunatic demagogue, whose government and institutions don’t really function — except to police people brutally — right?
Yesterday’s crime against humanity enables today’s. Trump is an authoritarian, a fascist, and he is doing what such men do. They don’t care about stopping pandemics. They use them as tools of power and control, thriving on the chaos and fear.
The current total of Coronavirus deaths in America is officially about 110,000. That underestimates the true count of excess deaths which the virus results in, which is probably closer to 150,000. The projections estimated around 200,000 deaths by the end of June. America’s on track to easily hit and exceed that.
What the? This is a staggering, surreal, nightmarish death toll. The highest in the world.
Americans seem to have largely tuned all this out. Why? Well, the fact is that the majority of COVID deaths are disproportionately poor people and minorities, or poor minorities. How much do those lives really matter? Then there are all the other problems — a lunatic in charge of the country, his enablers calling for people to be shot in the street in the pages of the New York Times, nobody much able to make ends meet, and so forth.
Americans should care much, much more about being having the world’s highest Coronavirus death toll. Why? Because a lot of them or their loved ones are still going to die. America is still having a wave of death, which, thanks to “reopening,” is going to surge ever upwards. And Americans are just going to perish under its crushing weight.
This is what baffles the world about Americans, though. Their deathwish. They genuinely don’t seem to care if they die. They didn’t when it was a lack of healthcare, guns, or no retirement. They voted for all those things, over and over again. So why would they care if it was a virus killing them this time?
I know that sounds harsh. But it’s true. And the world is bewildered by a society of people who, by and large, seem totally indifferent to shocking levels of cruelty, brutality, and mass death, which Coronavirus proves all over again, in an even more explicit and gruesome way.
It’s so true, in fact, that I can put it to you mathematically. Don’t worry, it’s going to be simple math, that any grade schooler can handle.
New Zealand had just 22 deaths from Coronavirus. If America had proportional numbers, do you know how many deaths it would have had? Just 1500.
America should have had less than ten thousand deaths. Instead, it is going to have hundreds of thousands. It already has about 150,000. America already has ten to a hundred times the number of deaths it should have had.
That lets us answer a question like this: what’s the risk of living in a failed state like America, over a functional one, like New Zealand? Well, your chances of dying from a pandemic are ten times higher, for a start.
Ten to a hundred times! Think about that. Imagine if you were ten times as likely to be hit by a bus in one society versus others. Imagine if you were a hundred times more likely. Something would be wrong. People would call for bus reform.
But that’s just one kind of cost. Americans are also ten times more likely to die of all the following things. Guns. No retirement. No healthcare. Police brutality. All the weird problems that America has now. Soon, Americans will be ten times as likely to die at the hands of authoritarianism, too, probably.
Living in a failed state — like America — has a very real price. Americans don’t seem to get it. A price like being ten times more likely to die of things that aren’t even threats anymore elsewhere. Whether guns — or pandemics.
Americans haven’t quite processed that. They seem indifferent to that price — the ten-times-higher chance of dying than elsewhere. It just doesn’t seem to register for them.
Maybe, like the world thinks, the American Idiot is just too dumb to get it. Maybe, like I think, many Americans do get it, but they’re weary and powerless.
Either way. America is a failed state now. What do failed states do? They give up. They can’t provide. They won’t govern. There is no leadership. And so America is giving up Coronavirus.
The result is going to be a wave of death that staggers the world.
You’re already ten to a hundred times more likely to die of Coronavirus as an American. That number is going to go up.
Now you can think of the title of this post in narrow terms. You’re a hundred times more likely to die of Coronavirus in America than in a functioning society. But you can also think of it in broad terms. To live in America is to see your human potential go up in smoke, paying off endless debt, social mobility declining, incomes cratering, happiness plummeting, suicides rising. Or you can even think of it in terms of police brutality if you’re a minority. The point is that living standards in America are vastly lower than in every other rich country already, and they’re cratering.
It’s in that sense that I mean the price of living in America now is your life — the one you could have had if you lived in Canada, Europe, or New Zealand. The richer, saner, healthier, longer, freer, more just life.
That’s the ultimate price of being a failed state.
You die. The people you love die. Your possibilities go up in smoke. Everyone is poorer permanently as a result — you never became that scientist, artist, poet, writer.
Failed states are the stuff of tragedy. Not because they are some abstraction for theoreticians. But because people die. And as they do, so too do the ideas of democracy, freedom, justice, truth, worth, grace, meaning, dignity, and purpose.
*Umair Haque is a London-based consultant. He is director of Havas Media Lab, founder of Bubblegeneration and frequent tweeter and contributor to the online Harvard Business.
*This essays was first published in Medium on 11 June