Perceivings by Alan Dean Foster
I know you’re sick (no pun intended) of hearing about the coronavirus. I’m sick of hearing about the coronavirus. The government is sick of hearing about the coronavirus (or is that the sick government?).
And yet, herewith a few sick (sorry: quick) thoughts on the matter, plus one genuine awkwardness involving the disease that only we here in Yavapai County have to deal with.
First, some perspective. Worldwide, seasonal flu kills about 646,000 people every year. That is likely an understatement because exact reportage from places like Burkina Faso (much of which looks a lot like parts of Arizona) and Borneo (which does not look at all like Arizona) is lacking. Also, local governments, depending on their degree of autocracy and the state of the bowels of their current despot, have a vested interest in not accurately reporting deaths from disease. Because nobody is in a rush to invest in places where potential workers are dropping like flies.
We’re so frantic and worried and paranoid about the coronavirus that we have a tendency to forget our history. It is estimated that worldwide, the great influenza pandemic of 1918 killed upward of 50 million people. That’s 50 million, not 50 thousand. And again, that statistic relies on reportage that was far less accurate that it is today.
Remember the Black Plague? (I don’t mean personally.) Nowadays it’s sometimes fodder for comedians, doubtless because it occurred so far in our past. It's believed that pandemic killed 60 percent of Europe’s population. If such a plague/pandemic struck Europe today, it would mean roughly 450 million dead. Nor do the mortality totals of the influenza of 1918 nor the Black Plague nor the coronavirus take into account the permanent damage to their health suffered by millions of survivors.
So when the airlines bitch about the loss of passenger traffic, or the cruise lines (most of which are not registered in the US, but rely heavily on American travelers) complain that they don’t qualify for relief from the US government, I think of history and tend not to throw too much sympathy their way.
Now, about that awkwardness I mentioned earlier.
The human mind works in mysterious ways. I’m saying that those neural pathways sometimes lead to some peculiar destinations. Currently the prime example has to do with a perfectly innocent (and, I am told, tasty) libation called Corona beer. Said brew has nothing whatever to do with the virus. Everyone with half an ounce (or maybe twelve ounces) of brainpower knows that the beer has nada to do with the disease. But small portions of our brains (larger portions in some unfortunate folks) make weird associations simply via the similarities of certain words. So yes, there are those who, even though they know better, hear “corona” and think “deadly virus” instead of beer. Which is harmless, except that when shopping they may well, consciously or subconsciously, just decide to avoid purchasing that particular brew and reach for another instead.
What is really screwy is that while that's an effect people might expect, the actual sales of Corona beer in the US are up five percent. I can’t explain that. While you would hope that people are intelligent enough to reject the notion that there is any connection between the beer and the virus, what explains folks buying more of the Corona-labeled brand? This would be excellent fodder for psychologists, except that beer sales in general during the pandemic are up 42 percent, which means that Corona may actually be losing market share/sales due to the virus.
I dunno. Where human impulse is concerned, sometimes my powers of cognition fail me.
I relate these sudsy minutiae to show how the human mind can work even in ways we do not want it to. Which brings me to that other, localized awkwardness.
Folks who have trouble with, or simply desire to avoid, multisyllabic words will choose to refer to the disease not as “the coronavirus,” but simply as “Covid-19.” Or, still more conveniently, as “CV.” My problem is that when I hear somebody say “CV,” I don’t think of the coronavirus.
I think of Chino Valley.
I know that nearly any local saying CV these days is likely referencing the virus. But I can’t help it. I keep hearing “Chino Valley.” Fortunately the national media has not picked up on this, or the poor residents of Prescott’s northern neighbor would find themselves deluged with a pandemic of another kind: reporters from national newspapers and TV looking for a “local human interest” story, without regard to what the local humans might think. And masks won’t help with that, though social distancing might. So let’s keep that particular abbreviation to ourselves, and if interviewed nationally, always say “coronavirus” or “Covid-19” and not “CV,” lest Chino Valley residents be subjected to the same sort of goofy detrimental word-association as Corona beer.
Or maybe it’s just my mind that works that way, and I need to go have a drink of something with seriously different initials.
Prescott resident Alan Dean Foster is the author of 130 books. Follow him at AlanDeanFoster.com.