Breaking News: Not everything is terrible
We devote a lot of mental energy to things that are going wrong or could go wrong. It's human nature. As the sociobiologists teach us, our ancestors were not the ones who heard a rustling in the grass and figured, "Eh, it's probably nothing." We are descended from the ones who said: "What the hell was that? Could be a cobra. Better run the other way." Vigilance is our default mode.
But seven months after the start of this plague, we shouldn't lose sight of the things that went more right than we expected.
Thinking back to the origins of the pandemic in March, we were beset by fear. Would the tanking stock market be the harbinger of another Great Depression? We expected mass unemployment and cratering businesses. We worried that our savings could be decimated.
We feared that the virus would be impossible to vaccinate against.
We believed it likely that the pandemic would increase deaths from other causes as people shunned hospitals and routine care. We thought we needed thousands more ventilators than we could manufacture.
We were concerned that essential services like electricity generation, water purification and trash collection might be affected, compounding the suffering and contributing even more to the spread of disease.
People hoarded canned goods, toilet paper, spaghetti, bottled water and hand sanitizer. (I hoarded coffee.) In March, we wondered whether fresh food or, in fact, any food would be available in a week's time.
There was a run on guns. This struck me, even at the time, as overwrought. People feared that civil strife could be in the offing, and that they might have to defend their supplies of ramen noodles and peanut butter from marauding gangs.
We worried that the lockdowns would result in a spike in suicides and that school closings would rob children and teenagers of education and socialization.
Seven months on, some of those worries proved to be well-grounded, but many did not.