Preexisting Conditions

The Covid truthers will tell you that it only kills people with preexisting conditions. That those that are young and healthy have little to worry about. For the most part they are right. The death rate is much lower in healthy, younger people. What they forget is those people can and will spread it to the more vulnerable, but they are correct about the preexisting conditions leading to a higher death rate. This is why America is struggling so mightily to contain Covid-19. All the preexisting conditions of our society have been exposed. Distrust, lack of empathy, selfishness, lack of education, and racism have all played a factor in America’s inability to contain Covid-19.

One of these symptoms of the American disease struck me full bore when I was reading about the recent unrest in Seattle. I read that they had burned the construction sight of a Juvenile Detention Center, and it struck me like it never has before how wrong the existence of a Juvenile Detention Center is. A child acts out because society has failed them and society responds by locking that child away like something to be discarded and forgotten. When they child gets out the issues that caused them to act out aren’t suddenly gone and now they have more grievousness and issues. They are destined to act out again and again. To become a ward of the state spending most of their life in prison. All because we live in a society that wishes to blame the individual for all their problems instead of understanding and individual is a product of the society they are born into.

Many philosophers and people much smarter than I have spilled a lot of ink on the discussion of what makes an individual an individual. Where our identities come from and how that drives our actions. My thoughts tend to be quite Jungian. We are products of both nature and nurture. We are born with certain genetic coding and then shaped by the people, culture, art, and entertainment we interact with. We are beings filled with subconscious bias and if we ever tried to untangle to web to understand them we would be driven mad. How much of us are our parents, teachers, friends, celebrities, musicians, artists and how much is simple biological coding passed down from previous generations? It is a question that varies from individual to individual. Everyone has different experiences and everyone interprets those experiences differently. I have often though back on my experiences, reflected on the lesson I learned, and asked myself if I where someone else would I have learned a different lesson.

You are speeding on the highway, you don’t notice the cop pulled up on the median, a few minutes later you are waiting in your car to be given a ticket. What lesson did you learn? Will the couple hundred dollar fine prevent you from speeding in the future? Or did you learn to keep your eyes open better for cops on the median? And if you are going to stop speeding how long will that last? Is the influence of the punishment enough to outweigh the peer pressure of every other driver on the road going five to twenty miles over the speed limit?

Whenever someone wants to know why I don’t like punishment based dog training I give the example of speeding. Most everyone has gotten a speeding ticket, and most everyone still speeds. The punishment didn’t work. If you want to make safer roads you build safer roads. You don’t punish people for using the roads. Think now not about speeding but about crossing the street. This is inherently a dangerous activity we do everyday. I was always taught to cross at a corner, preferably with a stoplight and a walk sign, but absent that always cross at a corner. How do we make crossing the street as safe as possible? There are individual actions like crossing at a corner, looking both ways before crossing, not forgetting to watch for turning vehicles, and crossing the street at a decent pace. All these actions make crossing the street as safe as can be. Still things can go wrong. The glare of the sun and shadows on the ground could cause you to miss an oncoming vehicle. A car on the road could pull out of a parking lot you weren’t watching and gun it as soon as entering the roadway. The road could simply be too busy for a person to ever safely cross without environmental changes. Now add the societal factors like, crosswalks, stoplights, walk signs, pedestrian crossing signs, add lights to the crosswalk when a person enters, and now the activity is much much safer. Personal responsibility and a well designed environment have helped make an inherently dangerous activity nearly harmless.

Environmental construction is the purpose of society. It exists to create a structured environment that benefits the most people possible. Covid-19 has highlighted the vast failings of our society. The fact that out of all the developed countries in the world ours was the one that couldn’t support its citizenry through a shutdown and that it was the one whose citizenry wouldn’t tolerate a shutdown are both preexisting conditions exposed by covid. the same preexisting conditions that lead to our having Juvenile Detention Centers.

This morning I saw an article about children vandalizing a church. I read through the comments and most of them blamed the individual. They wanted the children to be made an example. To be locked away. To me this is no different than a dog chewing a shoe. You don’t take the dog to the pound and have them re-homed or put down because they chewed a shoe. You go out and buy them a chew toy and when you see them about to chew a shoe you replace it with the chew toy and offer praise for chewing the chew toy. You redirect the natural actions towards a productive or non-harmful outlet. But this is America and those children will be punished. If they are white their parents will pay a small fine and go about their lives and if they are any other color they will be locked away in a Juvenile Detention Center learning how to graduate to prison when they get out. Because America is a country that would rather ignore its lack of education, racism, income inequality, and poor healthcare system than take any action. Covid-19 is far more dangerous to those with preexisting conditions and American society is full of the rot of preexisting conditions.

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