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March 2020 - Naxos made me write this...

I have not written anything on this blog for a long time. I could say it was because nothing terribly interesting was happening and that I was sort of vegetating. Not true. There have been events, especially the military operations that my country undertook in Syria last Fall and Winter that had me beside myself. Back then I made some videos that I shared on FB, but I did not feel up to writing about it here.

And I would probably not have felt up to writing about this current world crisis either, but Naxos has somehow talked me into it. He and I have been talking about this quite a bit and yesterday he sent me the link to an article written by a Futurologist called Matthias Horx and my response to that article is what Naxos insists I should write down.

But just to give a bit of background here: My big fear is not about the virus itself. It is about what the effects of the "cure" to it are likely to be: Economic collapse and the tiptoeing in of authoritarianism and a surveillance society world-wide. I am utterly terrified of these.

The virus itself? I simply don't know. The numbers they show us, all those steep upward graphs. Looks very scary, certainly. But, what do these numbers show us exactly? We only see the increase in total case numbers identified. What we never seem to see are an increase in percentages. The numbers of tests conducted are increasing from day to day in every country. In fact, they are increasing exponentially. Here in Turkey for example, they conducted 3800 tests yesterday, today they will conduct 10000. So, of course the numbers of identified cases will also jump up. In fact, from yesterday to today the identified case numbers here in Turkey will probably jump from 670 to around 2000 because of the increased numbers of tests. And of course the population will be utterly terrified because all they will see is the number 2000 (or whatever it comes out to be) from 670 in just one day. So, what confounds me in all this is that very few appear to be asking about what happens to the actual percentages. Do they also go up or do they remain steady or even go down? Until I see percentages that go up over time I am not going to panic about a pandemic.* And no, I am not expecting to see percentages of any kind - up, down, steady, whatever - any time soon, if ever. So, as far as the virus goes - again, absent of percentages over time, how can one possibly know? What I do panic about instead are the likely results of this.

And before I appear completely insensitive here: The disease itself - regardless of whether this is a contagious virus, a highly contagious virus, an epidemic, or a full on pandemic - of course I am horrified by that and what the afflicted, their families and the health workers caring for them must be going through. From the descriptions of it, it sounds very much like Pleurisy, so heaven help all that are faced with it. So, I am not ignoring the disease, or that it is obviously contagious, that one should be ultra careful. Goes without saying, but I want to say all that anyway.

No matches for the word "Percentage" on a huge site devoted solely to Corona Virus statistics that has apparently gotten over 40 million views to date. 
So anyway, this is the sort of stuff that Naxos and I have been talking about. He is more worried about the contagiousness level of the virus than I am but we seem to be more or less on the same page about other things. Especially about the impact that this will have on the global economy and the creeping in of authoritarianism. So, I think in order to cheer me (and himself) up he sent me this article above.

What Horx does is this: He moves into the future, to the Fall of 2020, and imagines himself sitting in a cafe looking back at today. And he realizes that this crisis has made his society come out stronger, more resilient. He gives lots of examples from social relations to culture to even the economy. It is a beautifully written text, German only but I am sure internet translation will work just fine should you want to read it. And it is a text of hope, it has a positive message, for which I heartily applaud the author. In a world of fear-mongering click bait, writing a positive text is only to be commended.

That said... (And everything from here on is a slightly edited copy paste of what I said to Naxos on Whatsapp)

Well, he is looking at it from the micro perspective of an upper middle class German** (one of very few countries in the world that may come out of this with less economic damage) whose life in the Fall of 2020 may well be like what he describes.

At that point he will also be used to a lot of new things, such as the fact that the government is tracking his every movement via his phone. He will have become acclimatized to the new world he is living in and no longer think about the fact that a lot of freedoms he took for granted (such as travel whenever he likes, wherever he likes, with no "papers" for example) are no longer there.

That is the whole point. People will transition into totalitarianism without knowing it. In fact welcoming it.

Oh and of course - that cafe he is sitting in - that will have changed ownership. It will now be owned by some fat-cat Dubai cartel and the nice people who are running it (who used to be the former owners of it) are now just minimum wage earners.

But, he as an upper middle class person, will probably not look that far. What will matter is that it still "looks the same".

Oh and of course, he will really love that he can now do a lot of things online from home, doesn't have to trek to meetings, because during this crisis that has also been established as a norm.

But will he realize that "working from home" isolates humanity? Prevents groups from forming? Opinions being shared? New ideas coming out of spontaneous conversations? That, in other words, "working from home" is the best hindrance to dissent? No better way to prevent opposition than physically separating people?

Once the "crisis" is over the changes will be very subtle. And most people will not see them. But, they will be there. There will be mass surveillance the likes of which Orwell couldn't have imagined. But outwardly, the world for upper middle class people who are not dissenters, who are OK with the system, who do not question things, will "look the same".

They will never even know.

Added March 24th: For the past few days the Minister of Health here has been doing something that helps me make my own percentage time line for Turkey. Every night he gives out the numbers of tests that were conducted on that day and the cases identified within that number, from which one can calculate a percentage, of course. The tests are selective, in other words they are conducted on people who go to the hospitals with already serious flu symptoms. (Mild symptoms have been told to not go to the hospital since only serious cases will be considered for testing and further treatment. If you have a regular cold, runny nose, etc etc, even a temperature that isn't actually spiking, you are expected to do the usual stuff at home. Only if it turns into a serious chest congestion and/or a spiking fever are you told to come in). So, the following percentages obviously do not reflect the cases within the general population but only within a select group of people who are already seriously sick with flu in order to have become eligible for the test in the first place.

Today, 5 days into his giving out the first set of results, cases identified seem to be holding steady around 8 - 9%. No increases, in other words. Here are the numbers and I will keep adding them for as long as they come in:
  • 19 March (1981 tests, 168 cases) % 8,48;
  • 20 March (3656 tests, 311 cases) % 8,50; 
  • 21 March (2953 tests, 277 cases) % 9,38; 
  • 22 March (On this date the case number was given (289) however the total test number was not given by the Minister. Some people on twitter came up with a very low test number (1775) which gives a very high percentage result of course - %16,46. This number of 1775 tests, looking at the percentages trend from the days before and after is very likely to be completely bogus, but I am adding it in anyway.)
  • 23 March (3672 tests, 293 cases) % 8.2
  • 24 March (3952 tests, 343 cases) % 8.67
  • 25 March (5.035 tests, 561 cases) % 11.1 (yes, today it has gone up. Taking note)
  • 26 March (7.286 tests, 1.196 cases) % 16.4 (so yes, this is a big jump. Taking note, of course)
  • 27 March (7533 tests, 2069 cases) % 27.4 (This does seem to be spreading very quickly. So could it be of more concern than I think? _____ Or, having thought about this for a bit: It could also be the spread pattern of any seasonal flu, of any corona virus. Starts slow then increases rapidly. No way of knowing that. At least for me.)
  • 28 March (7641 tests, 1704 cases) % 22.3
  • 29 March (9982 tests, 1805 cases) % 18.1
  • 30 March (11535 tests, 1610 cases) % 13.9
Added March 26th: Just came across this. I am not going to make any comments about this. Draw your own conclusions. Mine are complete confusion. I cannot make any sense of this at all. Why would you lock down a whole country and wreck your economy when you no longer consider the disease high risk? This is really really strange. Could this be some sort of mistake?:

Added March 27th 1AM: I came across a news site called UKColumn which has turned out to be quite a find. Which is where I actually also found about the UK government posting that I added here a few hours ago. But, when I listened to their broadcast from the 25th I found out about something else that has really bewildered me, which is what is shown in this site here. This is a EU funded organization that monitors mortality rates in EU countries. Highly legit, mostly partners with health ministries. The WHO is sitting on their advisory board. And they have put out graphs that are based on mortality from April 2016 to March 15th of this year in EU countries. They have a collated one and then they also have something that they call a z-graph which shows what happened in individual EU countries during these 4 years.

And these graphs show that there were three epidemics in Europe since 2016. The first in late 2016 through Spring of 2017, and looking at the numbers in the graph it looks like as if 70000 people died during this one. And then across 2017 and 2018, starting in the Fall and going all the way to the early Summer there was a second one - maybe the second wave of the first one. Around 65000 deaths it seems. And then there was a smaller one last year - smaller being a relative term, 60000 deaths during this one:

When it comes to the present time there is a spike starting in the Winter of 2019-2020. It briefly goes up to 60000 at the very end of 2019 and then appears to hover just below that for a bit after which it starts to go down in more recent weeks. However, they do say on the site that the data they have for recent weeks is unreliable, so I would think that one should not take that drop into account quite so quickly. But, even if all the deaths have not been registered yet, even if there is a delay in collecting the data, is there any way that this could spike to the level of the epidemic in 2016? The one from 2019, yes maybe, just about if death numbers rise as quickly as they have been rising over the past week. But the one from 2016? 70000? In EU countries alone? The numbers on the worldometer site are from the whole planet and they currently, as I am writing this, stand at 24000.

But regardless of whether this one catches up or not - the thing is this: Why did we never hear about the epidemic of 2016?

Anyway, I think I am going to keep a very close eye on this from now on. See how their data changes after more of it has been collected.

Added March 28th: From when I wrote this my mind state has changed much for the worst. I just somehow re-read a bit of this, and it seems like as if I was far more sanguine a week ago. Today, I am extremely scared. Really really scared. So, I made a new post here.

* Added March 23rd: I want to note this for the record: The number of deaths from the virus have gone up over 180% from March 18 to today. In just 5 days! From 8951 to 16514. And this is scarily significant. Could show, in fact does show, that this is far more dangerous that I was assuming 3 days ago when I wrote this. I do not know whether it shows that the flu is more contagious, again I still think that that we can only know if we see percentages over time, however it definitely shows that if one is in a certain demographic and one catches it, this is a very dangerous illness indeed: There has been a release by the Italian Institute of Health in recent days which shows that the median age of deaths related to the virus is 80.5 years, so it appears to be an old people's disease. And the same release also says that only 0.8% of death cases had no preexisting health conditions. That, in fact, 75% had 2 or more pre-existent health conditions. So, I am still going to want to see percentages before I become convinced regarding contagiousness. But, after this report by the IIH, I think I will want to see not only percentages but also percentage distributions by age brackets.

But, that said, an increase of over 180% in just 5 days does not portend at all well for old people who have the disease in a serious form and I want to go on the record that I am now keeping this very much in mind.

** Actually when I looked later I saw that Horx is Austrain, or at least lives in Vienna. But, it doesn't really change the thrust of this. Austria is probably also one of the few countries, along with most of Northern Europe, that will emerge less damaged - economically that is. The other stuff, the shift to authoritarianism and total surveillance I would expect to be universal, of course. There as much as everywhere else.


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