Heros by Davide Edoardo Cassano
Heros by Davide Edoardo Cassano

Humanity may need to come to grips with the reality that our life expectancy may now be dramatically lower. Have we reduced our life expectancy by a few months, a few years, or a decade? Will it be worse that smoking? Better that heart disease? It may be too early to tell. What we have seen is large swaths of human beings acting unilaterally across an entire planet, in a way that is simply unprecedented. We wade waste deep in a world of data, tracking, and 24/7 hate that could be lifted directly from a George Orwell novel. Far into the future, we do not know how humanity will look back upon this era, but we do know that right now, this is not a time of honor.

Vacinations Should Not Be Made in a Year

Realistically, a safe vaccine is likely years away1. The process of creating new vaccines, is complex, and can involve inactivating live virus, attenuating viruses though other hosts to make them less dangerous to humans, or even creating synthetic molecular antigenic subunits2. The work on existing vaccines in the coronavirus family is not very promising.

Several vaccine types for SARS1 were able to generate antibodies in animal testing, but many of them also had dangerous immunopathic responses3. Some vaccines even made reinfection worse in animal testing4, and another study shows immunity may not last after an infection for more than 2 to 3 years5.

When it comes to medications, it seems like every potential candidate is being thrown at this disease in several clinical trials. Existing drugs for other conditions are good candidates, because they’ve already passed FDA testing, so most of their risks and side-effects are known. Yet, it may take a full season of this virus to really evaluate the studies and determine which, if any, compounds made a difference.

Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell out of New York City has done some amazing videos, geared specifically towards doctors and infectious disease specialists. He talks about things doctors have never seen before, or would once consider impossible6. His frustration is likely shared with other doctors and researchers, trying to understand the process by which COVID-19 is causing such severe and fatal respiratory issues. Identifying exactly what’s happening in these patients, could be a game changer in finding the right treatment. We could also find a compound that works well in a clinical trial, before discovering why or how it works.

Vaccines can take years to develop and test for safety. The calls to rush vaccine development should greatly concern people. There are still many viruses, such as HIV and Herpes Simplex, that still do not have vaccines today, yet that do have increasingly better treatment options. At this stage, finding treatment options such as drugs or a surgical procedure seems much more likely than rushing through trials for a vaccine.

Mental Fatigue

For those working from home, constant video conferences can lead to stress and fatigue7. A California official resigned after he started drinking during a conference call and threw his cat across the room8. Many high schools have ended their school years early, citing the difficultly of transitioning teenagers to remote education9. Scott Hanselman makes the case that “Quarantine work is not Remote work.” After years of working remotely, he notes how his option to not be in an office was empowering. In contrast, the current situation is forcing many people into roles they are not prepared for. That is compounded by the guilt of being able to work remotely while many others, who have not lost their jobs, must continue to stock grocery stores, move supplies and work jobs that are considered essential10.

“loving the new caste system, the filthy diseased ‘essentials,’ who exist to serve the clean, pure and sanitary ‘telecommuters.’ and then there’s the unpeople, the worthless drainers, piteous but un-pitied, the ‘jobless.” - @binchicken@chickenfan.club11

On top of the stress from remote work, we are all experiencing a moral fatigue in our day to day lives. Normal trips to the grocery store now turn into events where every action we take must be weighted against the possibility of spreading a contagion12. We are in the ultimate realization of Peter Singer’s Drowning Child essay.

Singer’s thought experiment asks people, if you were on your way to an interview in a brand new suit, and you saw a child drowning in a pond, would you jump in to save that child? Assuming you could swim and were trained in how to save a drowning person safely, most people would answer yes, damned be the suit and the job interview! The child’s life is more important! Now what if that child was a starving child in another country half way around the world, who you could help with only a small amount of your money every month? Most people would be more hesitant13.

Right now, an incredibly large number of people are being asked to be continually aware that their actions could lead to the infection and possible death of someone they do not know. We are being asked to take the minimal amount of effort to be concerned about everyone, yet it comes at an immeasurable mental stress to societies around the world. Those who doubt parts of this narrative are judged as selfish, even as we are confronting an invisible threat our fight-or-flight response never evolved to face. We are being asked to assess a threat to ourselves and others, based not on things most of us can readily observe, but with science only a portion of us can reproduce, and the information disseminated to us by others. We are living, at least in part, though Singer’s thought experiment.


One of the most troubling aspects of this entire ordeal is the sheer insensitivity of politicians, combined with the challenges to civil liberties and the portrayal of protesters. With millions of people out of work, a reporter pressed Governor Cummo of New York about what these people should do. Cummo repeated lines akin to Singer’s thought experiment stating, “Yea it’s your life, do whatever you want. But you’re now responsible for my life.” When pressed further on the hardships that the unemployed face, Cummo told the reporter, “Go take a job as an essential worker. Do it tomorrow14,” as if a dentist or meat packer could simply go in to a grocery store and take a job during a time when an unimaginable number of Americans are unemployed and few business are hiring unskilled workers.

Cummo is trying to tell the world they are now responsible for everybody, yet he is literally a leader, elected to be responsible for his people. He struggles to give people a plan or hope for basic needs and employment.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi attempted to related to her constituents by appearing on a late night special, showing off her collection of ice cream. Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say, “Let them eat cake,” but Pelosi might have well said, “Let them eat ice cream.” Her attempt to relate the the common people, with her $24,000 fridge and kitchen setup, only showed her utter and total disconnect with the American people15. President Trump attempted to capitalize on the moment by using clips from her interview in a campaign commercial, but make no mistake, Trump is just as disconnected from the average America as all his democratic counterparts. No leaders at the Federal level have addressed the real concerns being faced by millions of unemployed Americans who are worried about their bills, their mortgages, their food supplies and their lives.

“Autocratic politics is a battle for private rewards. Democratic politics is a battle for good policy ideas. If you reward your cronies at the expense of the broader public, as you would in a dictatorship, then you will be out on your ear so long as you rely on a massive coalition of essential backers.” -The Dictator’s Handbook16

There have been a lot of challenges to leaders who want to open certain business back up within their countries and municipalities. Yet, for those who want to preach the alternative of keeping things locked down, they need to offer people something. In many European countries, people at least have social welfare that can provide for citizens better than America’s ill equipped unemployment system. In the United Kingdom, the government is subsidizing all payroll shortages, up to 80%, for workers’ salaries. The United States implemented a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but it required businesses to apply via intermediate banks, and the program exhausted its funds within a matter of days17. In the 2008 financial collapse, The Federal Government and large banks got to decide which smaller banks survived. We may be seeing a repeat now in 2020, where larger industries buy out, or survive, all their competitors.

America has always had a deep seeded ethic towards work. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew Americans didn’t want handouts. Years ago when I worked for Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), I remember every floor had an empty reception desk, and every building had rows of unused cubicles. My father was laid off several times and rehired at the nuclear plant. He described the hierarchy, prior to layoffs and restructuring, as a school where there was a teacher for every five students, a principal for ever three teachers, and a superintendent for every three schools. Roosevelt’s New Deal was a plan intended to make Americans feel like they were working and contributing, even if the jobs were not entirely necessary.

Neither Biden nor Trump is remotely comparable to FDR. It’s difficult to give Americans some kind of meaningful work when the current crisis disallows more than a dozen of them to even be in close proximity to each other. No one has even attempted new government funded remote work programs, but any programs probably wouldn’t be viable due to unreliable Internet coverage over many parts of America.

Scene from Star Wars, where Finn says, 'Tell us we have a plan! That there's hope!'
Scene from Star Wars, where Finn says, 'Tell us we have a plan! That there's hope!'

Democratic leaders, who are beholden to a large selectorate, must trade in the currency of ideas. This crisis has shown the utter failure of many world leaders to even formulate real plans for helping humanity. I do question how many of them are truly concerned for their people, versus how many of them are concerned because they are in the high risk group for COVID-1918. All the focus has been on simply keeping people alive, without giving everyone else any real hope for their futures.


Record numbers of Americans have been in food-bank lines around the nation19. Some farmers have had to euthanize animals they could not sell20, and some crops and harvests are going unpicked21. We’ve been told that American will not see a major food shortage22 by the same media that was filled with conflicting information early on in this crisis. However, food supplies in developed countries are somewhat resilient.

In 1973, Earl L Butts, the Secretary of Agriculture under the Nixon and Ford administrations, expanded agricultural subsidies with a focus on growing “plenty of food23”. In much of the developed world, food security is often associated with national security. America has been overproducing food for years. Although there is a lot of food going unsold right now, there is also a tremendous amount of slack in the system. A large amount of the food being discarded was destined for restaurants. Food distributors are quickly trying to migrate those supply chains to grocery packagers. Even when restaurants reopen, they’ll likely see fewer customers, and might not face immediate shortages, as demand gradually ramps back up.

Technology has made the world food supply incredibly resilient, but that supply has also never been tested by an event of this magnitude. Our leaders and media agencies keep showing us charts of infection and fatality rates, when they should also be collecting and aggregating numbers and metrics for the current food supply chain levels.

Vocubulary Zeiggheist

Adam: “Let’s talk about social distancing … it’s an international term … [which] just makes it that much more evil. Social distancing is not what you’re doing. In fact we’re trying to be very social with each other. You are distancing yourself from somebody. This is a very evil, neuro-linguistic programming, new world order kind of term.”
John: “I agree, I think it should be called physical distancing.”
Adam: “Physical distancing, whatever you want to call it, social distancing is not okay. But what is happening, actual social distancing is taking place. Christina says in Rotterdam, she went to the grocery store … you have stripes and lines and stickers everywhere where you can stand … and they have watchers … ‘you’re getting to close to that person. step back!’ … and everyone’s looking at each other with distrust and evil stink eye. That’s the result of social distancing, if you want to call it that and you want to put that into peoples’ heads. It’s really really really evil, this term”
-Orange Tongue. No Agenda24 (Podcast)

Idioms like Physical/Social Distancing, Flattening the Curve, and Essential Worker have entered the vocabularies of people all around the world; often translated verbatim. These terms may serve a purpose in raising awareness, but they will also have social consequences. We are already judging people based on conformance. Is not wearing a mask an indication that someone isn’t taking this seriously? Do those people see wearing masks as virtue signaling? What does it mean when we see a married couple where one of them is wearing a mask and the other is not? We’re not simply passing judgment on people, some people are judging the actions of others as an intent to harm.

“Be safe” was a phrase your friends would say to you back when we were in University and all of us drank too much and partied too hard. Today we use it just to refer to going home from the grocery store.


New York mayor Bill de Blasio established a system for anonymously reporting people who were violating distancing rules or being unsafe. The system was flooded with pictures of peoples’ genitals25. Soon, these same systems caught many public officials violating social distancing guidelines. A cyclist outed Governor Cuomo for breaking his quarantine while infected with the Coronavirus26. A mayor in Texas was outed for violating shelter orders when she went to pick up a bottle of acetone from her hair salon27. They mayor of Chicago was criticized for getting a haircut, during a time when all salons were closed as non-essential28. Neil Ferguson, the lead author on the Imperial College paper, which predicted two million deaths in the United States if no mitigation measures were taken29, was found breaking quarantine to see his married lover30.

While it may be funny to see elected officials caught being hypocritical, there’s a human story being lost here. A 26 year old threw a house party in Chicago during the lock down that gathered over 100 people. He claimed he only expected 20 to 30 people to show up, and the party was to celebrate the lives of two friends who had been shot and killed31. A wedding in Chicago spilled out of a home and into the street. Friends and family members were suppose to simply drive by in support, but many ended up stopping, leading to the police being called in to break up the group32. There may not have been any intent to harm in either of these cases, yet even when people try to limit gatherings, the human desire for companionship, for some, jumps at any opportunity.

Some may judge all these people as not taking the threat seriously. But we must also leave open the possibility that human contact is so important to some people, that they are willing to risk illness, when that desire is suppressed too long. Are they risking the lives of others? Possibly. But we must acknowledge our leaders are asking us to drastically modify our behaviors, in ways our brains may not have evolved to handle.


YouTube removed a video of two emergency room doctors, speaking to local reporters, about their position on the COVID-19 pandemic33. The doctors advocated a controversial stance for removing many of the restrictions of shelter in place orders. The video received over five million views before it was removed. You can argue it’s Google’s platform and they can do what they want, but one cannot deny YouTube’s absolutely massive market share gives it an unbelievable power to shape narratives by what they chose to allow and remove.

One can say the doctor’s arguments were not scientific, but who is YouTube to say that human beings cannot listen to doctors, presented on a news broadcast, with reporters critical of their analysis, and come to their own decisions? What if they decide to take down videos of whistle-blowers like Nicole Sirotek34, who exposed the possible negligence and malpractice she observed in a New York City emergency room35?

“It seems that [coronavirus] may be the greatest question of the modern era around civil liberties, around the right to privacy. Yet no one’s asking this question. As authoritarianism spreads, as emergency laws proliferate, as we sacrifice our rights, we also sacrifice our capability to arrest the slide into a less liberal and less free world. Do you truly believe that when the first wave, this second wave, the 16th wave of the coronavirus is a long-forgotten memory, that these capabilities will not be kept? That these datasets will not be kept? No matter how it is being used, what’ is being built is the architecture of oppression.” -Edward Snowden36


The politically motivated divide about the current pandemic is deeply disheartening, because beliefs around what to do and how to move forward should not be split down party lines. An article in Salon portrays protesters as “Manbabies” and claim protesters descended on Lansing, Michigan to, “whine about the temporary pause to dinners at Applebee’s and accidental brushfires at gender-reveal parties37.” NBC News focused an entire article on a single protester holding a sign in German with Nazi allusions38. Facebook is actively removing protest events around the nation39. Every media source is portraying protesters as being irresponsible and whining about trivial matters while lives are at stake.

“…We are at over 18% unemployment right now. That is insane … There are people who can’t feed their families, who are afraid they won’t have a roof over their heads, who are afraid that they will lose their house and people are saying ‘Well you’re selfish because you just want a haircut’ … These same people sit on Twitter and say that these protesters are perfect examples of white privilege … says the person who is still working and typing this out on their iPhone while they have not had any changes to their life except that now, they have to stay inside…“ -Liberty Doll40

I went to gather photos at one of these rallies in Chicago. The sad reality is that many of these people are organized by hard-right, pro-Trump groups41, of which I do not agree with politically. One man praised Alex Jones and the others quickly admonished him. Many repeated the Trump talking points, yet there were others who talked about how they were unable to pay their employees and at risk for losing their businesses.

May 1st Protest in Chicago, Illinois
May 1st Protest in Chicago, Illinois

There are reasons to protest in America right now. Millions of people are still waiting for unemployment checks. Many contractors, who were told they’d be covered, are still being denied by their state’s filing systems42. Our nation is filled with leaders who cannot stop bickering, and are hopelessly out of touch with the plight of the American people. We are seeing the erosion of our civil liberties. The First Amendment to our Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”, and right now, there are many grievances to redress.

Venn diagram showing three intersecting circles: People taking Covid19 seriously, People worried about the expansion of authoritarian government policies, People very concerned about impending economic devastation

“It is in fact possible, as you can see from this Vend Diagram, that someone can be concerned about the virus, and be worried about a dystopian authoritarian government, and worry about the economic impact of this whole thing. Worrying about one, should not and does not, preclude for worrying about another, nor does it mean that you want everyone’s grandma to die.” -Liberty Doll43

I fear that the people who need to protest the most, the ones who are wondering what will happen to their livelihoods, are too afraid of contributing to the spread of this disease. Yet, if they would only gather and all stand 2 meters apart, they could blanket cities.

The Goalposts Keep Moving

What is the endgame? Leaders around the world are extending restrictions into May or further, yet we are well past any hope for containment. It’s likely this virus is now permanently part of our ecosystem, and may have yearly recurrences44. Edward Jenner developed the very first vaccine in 1796 for Smallpox, but the disease wasn’t eradicated from our environment until nearly 200 years later, and not without large vaccination efforts in the 1960s and 70s. Viruses such as HIV and Herpes still do not have safe vaccines, and bacterial infections like Tuberculous are still prevalent in some parts of the world.

Is the end game to eradicate the virus entirely? It seems unlikely since limited contact is still required to buy and exchange food and supplies. Do we stay locked down until there is viable drug treatment or some mythical vaccine is produced? Human beings cannot simply be placed into standby or on a low power state. We are not machines that can be stored when not in use, or gears that can be stopped and started again.

During the Naples plague of 1656, every activity of normal life ceased. Plagues in the 15th century led to some of the very first ministries for public health. In Italy, new health magistrates were granted full judicial, legislative and executive powers in all matters related to public health. These would grow into permanent positions, and extend state powers into areas of human life that had never been subject to political authority. It’s not a stretch to say plagues created the modern State as we know it. While that may have led to some draconian practices, such as constant surveillance and burning infected people in their houses, it also led to moderns governments that provide drinkable water and paved roads45.

The past century has seen unprecedented population growth. Medical advances and decreased infant mortality has led us to a world with over 7 billion souls. Many of us in the developed world have forgotten the time when a percentage of children wouldn’t make it to adulthood, or when plagues would devastate cities and even empires. We are so adverse to risk, and our hubris so great, that there are those who believe in a health singularity where one day, we may not need to die at all46.

We are told if we work hard and save responsibly, and happen to not die of cancer, heart disease, or any any number of things that could kill us, at some point in our lives, we can retire. Yet if COVID-19 does indeed turn into a reoccurring seasonal illness, those who happened to be born with the wrong genetics, may not live to see the rest or benefits of those years.

The are several difficult truths we might have to accept. A lot of people may continue to die from this every year. Baring the discovery of an effective treatment, we may be entering a period where our overall life expectancy might be significantly lowered for the first time in decades. We are facing deep challenges to our civil liberties and human rights. We are watching some industries completely tank, while other industries capitalize on the disaster, pulling in records profits. We are watching the slow death of small businesses, and the expansion of large industry.

The year 2020 should be remembered as a cautionary tale, of the failures and successes of world leaders, the expansion of authoritarianism, the disconnect between leaders and their constituents, and one of the largest attempts at behavior modification in human history. We will not appreciate the full extent of what is happening right now for years, or maybe decades to come. We do not know how future generations will look back upon this moment, but I do not believe they will look kindly upon us. This is not a time of honor.

  1. What Other Coronaviruses Tell Us About SARS-CoV-2. 20 April 2020. Smith. Quant Magazine. 

  2. Response to How exactly are vaccines made?. 24 April 2020. Hillrat. Hackernews. 

  3. Immunization with SARS Coronavirus Vaccines Leads to Pulmonary Immunopathology on Challenge with the SARS Virus. 20 April 2012. Tseng, Sbrana, et. al. Plos. 

  4. News Feature: Avoiding pitfalls in the pursuit of a COVID-19 vaccine. 14 April 2020. Peeples. PNAS. 

  5. Duration of Antibody Responses after Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. 13 October 2007. Wu. Wang, Chang. Emerging Infectious Diseases 

  6. For the medical community!!! Could COVID-19 be causing DIFFUSION hypoxemia??. 17 Apr 2020. Cameron Kyle-Sidell. YouTube. 

  7. A Theory of Zoom Fatigue. 20 April 2020. Sacasas. SubStack. 

  8. California official resigns after throwing cat, drinking beer during Zoom meeting . 26 April 2020. Lapin. NY Post. 

  9. Some School Districts Plan to End the Year Early, Call Remote Learning Too Tough . 28 April 2020. Hobbs. Wall Street Journal. 

  10. Quarantine work is not Remote work. 16 April 2020. Hanselman. 

  11. loving the new caste system. 15 April 2020. @binchicken. @chickenfan.club. 

  12. The Reason You’re Exhausted Is ‘Moral Fatigue’. 27 March 2020. Yuko. Rolling Stone. 

  13. The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle. April 1997. Singer. New Internationalist. 

  14. Cuomo tells protesters to get essential jobs, says economic hardship doesn’t equal death. 22 April 2020. McCloy. 6 News WRGB Albany. 

  15. Let Them Eat Ice Cream! - #PropagandaWatch. 22 April 2020. Corbett Report. YouTube. 

  16. The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics. (p73) 2012. Mesquita. Smith. (book) 

  17. Why we’re seeing mass layoffs in the US but not the UK. 5 May 2020. Vox. (YouTube) 

  18. Who’s at Risk of COVID-19 in the US Congress?. 27 March 2020. Musgrave. Dolthub. 

  19. Hungry Americans are waiting in miles-long lines as food banks struggle to keep up with demand. Here’s a look at how rising unemployment and dwindling volunteer pools are impacting US food pantries.. 16 April 2020. Biron. Business Inside. 

  20. Jim Bartling’s Facebook Post. 19 April 2020. 4:02PM. Jim Bartling. Facebook. 

  21. From Spain to Germany, Farmers Warn of Fresh Food Shortages. 26 March 2020. Durisin, Gualtieri, Migliaccio. Bloomberg. 

  22. The US won’t run out of food during the coronavirus pandemic. 18 April 2020. Narea. Vox. 

  23. King Corn. 2007. Documentary. (16m:35s) 

  24. Orange Tongue: No Agenda Episode 1229. 2 April 2020. No Agenda. (Podcast) 

  25. D-ck Pics for De Blasio. 23 April 2020. Liberty Doll. (YouTube) 

  26. Cyclist berated by CNN’s Cuomo speaks out on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’. 24 April 2020. Fox. 

  27. Texas mayor apologizes after violating stay-at-home order to go to nail salon. 25 April 2020. Burke. NBC. 

  28. Getting roots done is ‘not essential’ — but getting hair cut is, if you’re Mayor Lightfoot. 6 April 2020. Spielman. Chicago Sun Times. 

  29. Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand. 16 March 2020. Ferguson,Laydon, Nedjati-Gilani, et. al. Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team. 

  30. Exclusive: Government scientist Neil Ferguson resigns after breaking lockdown rules to meet his married lover 5 May 2020. Mikhailova, Hope, Gillard, Wells. Telegraph. 

  31. Homeowner Reacts After Massive Chicago House Party Goes Viral. 29 April 2020. NBC Chicago. (YouTube) 

  32. West Ridge Wedding Spills Into Street, Broken Up By Police: ‘I Am Absolutely Horrified’. 27 April 2020. Ward. Block Club Chicago. 

  33. YouTube issues statement on removal of controversial video interview with Bakersfield doctors. 27 April 2020. Morley. 23ABC News Bakersfield. 

  34. Nicole Sirotek. 4 May 2020. Olivier1985. YouTube. 

  35. MUST WATCH: Tearful Nurse Blows Whistle on New York Hospitals ‘Murdering’ COVID Patients With ‘Complete Medical Mismanagement’. 4 May 2020. Fairbanks. Gateway Pundit. 

  36. Shelter In Place with Shane Smith: Edward Snowden. Vice. (Video) 

  37. Michigan manbaby protest: Wait, we thought conservatives were “rugged individuals”. 16 April 2020. Marcotte. Salon. 

  38. Auschwitz Museum denounces woman holding Nazi sign at Illinois protest. 3 May 2020. Madani. Walters. NBC News. 

  39. Donie O’Sullivan on Twitter - Facebook says it has removed promotion of anti-quarantine events in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska after consultation with state governments. 20 April 2020. @donnie. Twitter. 

  40. Liberty Doll’s House: Amash Joins the Race, Tyranny Keeps Coming. 1 May 2020. Liberty Doll. (20m:12s) (YouTube) 

  41. The rightwing groups behind wave of protests against Covid-19 restrictions. 17 April 2020. Wilson. The Guardian. 

  42. Gov. Pritzker Says There’s No Unemployment Backlog, But Source Says More Than 12,000 Illinoisans Still Waiting To Be Processed. 4 May 2020. Kozlov. CBS Chicago. 

  43. Coronavirus: Is a Food Crisis Next?. 18 April 2020. Liberty Doll. (00:56s) (YouTube) 

  44. Virus Likely to Keep Coming Back Each Year, Say Top Chinese Scientists. 27 April 2020. Bloomberg. 

  45. How Pandemics Change Society. 13 April 2020. Wisecrack. (YouTube) 

  46. The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant. 24 April 2018. CGP Grey. (YouTube)