Today’s post is evidence of thought-skipping, that experience in which one’s thoughts skip across many subjects in a short period of time. It’s like a smooth, flat stone thrown across the surface of a body of still water, the forward force of the stone causing it to touch the water surface, break away, and touch the water again; sometimes for several iterations. I won’t document all the thought-skipping this morning; just two or three.


Yesterday’s post ended on a weakly upbeat note, suggesting people the world after COVID-19 might have different attitude, having been taught that we need one another. After reading and essay by Robert Malley and Richard Malley in Foreign Affairs, even my weak optimism fizzled into gloom, tinged with despair. The writers argue that developed countries, even though they face their own monstrous challenges with COVID-19, should supply massive aid to developing countries in the face of the pandemic. Their reasoning is that conquering COVID-19 only in some places of immediate concern to us (our own countries, that is) will result in its return. They go on to argue that:

Many developing countries could suffer massive death tolls, economic meltdowns, and skyrocketing unemployment and poverty. The resulting social upheaval could take many forms, from violent intrastate conflict to massive refugee flows, a growth in organized crime, or terrorist groups taking advantage of the spreading chaos—each of which could eventually affect Europe and the United States.

The reason for my gloom and despair is that the developed countries, including Europe and especially the U.S.A, will be unlikely to be able or willing to provide the massive aid needed by countries in which containment and mitigation are extremely difficult or impossible. In my opinion, humanitarian arguments will not be sufficient to assure the necessary aid. But neither will the practical arguments about potential effects in the developing countries.

In places where people live in crowded ghettos with no running water, insufficient toilet facilities, and unspeakable poverty, the idea of “shelter-in-place” is akin to a death sentence; with no income, even from salvaging and selling valuables from garbage dumps, staying at home means starvation and dehydration. But ignoring steps to minimize the spread of the disease is just as much a sentence to death. The only realistic alternative is the injection of historically enormous types and amounts of aid. Depleting our own resources to dangerously low levels may be the only way to save the world and ourselves.

I doubt we have the collective will to accept and, indeed, embrace the concept of dramatically lowering our standard of living to give millions and millions of the poorest of the poor a fighting chance to stay alive.

Pessimism is an unpleasant attitude to have about this pandemic, but optimism seems irrational and ill-informed. Pessimism seems more aligned with realism. But the world may surprise me. I hope it does. I hope humanitarian decency blossoms with such force that we will collectively vanquish COVID-19 and improve the lot of all the people in all the developing nations, all while we are saving ourselves. Hope. Pessimism. Realism. Hope.

A significant part of my pessimism is rooted in my sense of the world in which we live, defined by a word I learned earlier this morning. Read on.


I read the word for the first time, I think, this morning. The word “kakistocracy” was included in an online image; no context, just the word. Naturally, I looked it up. And I discovered there exists a word for our experience with governance today. We are living in a nation that gives life to the word;  a living, breathing  definition.

According to Merriam-Webster:

kakistrocracy: kak·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ ˌkakə̇ˈstäkrəsē \
plural kakistocracies
Definition of kakistocracy: government by the worst people


This evening, I am hosting a Happy Hour Videoconference. Thus far, nineteen people (me included) on Facebook have expressed an interest. Only two of the eighteen are people I have never met face-to-face. That’s interesting to me. I don’t know what it means but it could mean many things. It could mean that people I’ve known personally miss personal connections that have been lost (for a relatively short while so far) to the COVID-19 pandemic. It could mean that people I have not met face-to-face but who are on Facebook do not regularly read my posts and are therefore unaware of the event. It could mean that people I have not met face-to-face are less likely to want to engage with “strangers” in a live video interchange. It could have no meaning at all; it’s just coincidental.  Time will tell.


I am in the mood to prepare a meal I’ve never prepared before. (That’s a remarkably dense statement, isn’t it? Of course I’ve never prepared the meal before if I haven’t yet prepared it!) Something that combines pasta with turkey broth and vegetables; maybe with some fresh mushrooms thrown in. The turkey broth includes quite a lot of tiny bits of meat from the turkey. (I smoked the turkey quite some time ago and boiled the carcass to make the broth; I strained the broth, then picked the remaining meat off the bones and cartilage. The broth, which had been frozen, has been thawing in the fridge for days.) Some red pepper flakes might be advisable, inasmuch as we like food that wake up our mouths. What other spices should I add? I don’t know yet. I think I’ll have to taste the concoction before deciding.  Okay. Time to quit this and start the day.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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