Threat-to-our-existence Fatigue and Covid-19



There’s lots of atomic things going on in our world. But I’ve found over the last couple years that I have fewer and fewer people to talk to them about. This could be because I’m boring when I talk shop. But personal idiosyncrasies aside, I think there’s something bigger at play.


To be fair, last year HBO’s Chernobyl did win some Primetime Emmy Awards and Stellan Skarsgård won a Golden Globe for playing the best Stellan Skarsgård character outside of Mamma Mia! But those accolades aside, the show came and went. I think it didn’t make a huge splash in the pond of popular opinion because Americans are fed up with threats to their existence. This is certainly not an original thought of mine. Commenters have talked about climate change fatigue and and environmental fatigue for some time now.


Atomic things are easy to box up and throw on the “from 50 years ago” pile in the attic. Atomic problems don’t seem so real if there’s no Soviet official with a big goofy hat threatening to beat his shoe on a table. No big fur hat, no concern about the end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 between the US and Russia.


With the global pandemic outbreak of Covid-19 we find ourselves back in a Cold War mode. Federal officials from the CDC appear on our television sets every night. Elected officials fairly push each other out of the way in order to deliver dire news about quarantines and how we can be “Safer at Home” here in Los Angeles County.


But the era of robust federal scientific institutions has sailed into the sunset. Decades and decades of dire warnings from experts has yielded one popular response: fatigue. I am fascinated, and terrified, to see how the American public, trained to neither listen to nor care about dire predictions from federal and state experts, will fare during this pandemic. The first week of social distancing has not gone well.


I hope that politicians and federal experts don’t continue to think that they can employ tools and techniques from a bygone era when the general public as a whole cared about what they said.  I don’t feel like Covid-19 will send us in the direction of the dire conclusions from The Collapse of Western Civilization at this point. But I sure hope we don’t let fatigue set us on that path.





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