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by Ed West
Tuesday, 26
May 2020
Idea
15:00

Slowly but surely, Britain is turning into America

There was a popular art motif in the Middle Ages called “The Three Living Meet the Three Dead”. In this tale three young people, usually aristocratic men, are out one day when they meet three decomposing corpses, one of whom tells them “We once were what you are now, what we are now, you will be.”

Cheery stuff — it dates to the 13th century but it became especially popular during and after the Black Death, when the whole dying business was on people’s minds a great deal.

I think of that tale while reading about American politics, which for many years has been a once-amusing but now just depressing form of entertainment to political junkies on this side of the Atlantic. And there was a definite staring-at-the-corpses feel over the weekend, as people gleefully sent around footage of Dominic Cummings being jeered by his neighbours as he walked home. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Friday, 15
May 2020
Idea
10:20

See you in 2040 — bet you the world is a better place

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you read Aris Roussinos’s brilliant essay on Guillaume Faye, the French Right-wing intellectual whose book featured on Michael Gove’s bookcase. In one passage Roussinos writes:

By the year 2020, [Faye] claimed, as a result of the inherent fragility created by a globalised financial and political system, civilisation would buckle under a cascading set of interlinked crises. Waves of pandemics, of political disorder and state collapse in the Middle East and Africa, of global financial crashes and ecological degradation would rebound off each other, escalating the pressures upon the international system to the point that the world of the late 20th century would become impossible to sustain.
- Aris Roussinos, UnHerd

I think it’s safe to say that 2020 hasn’t been a cracker, and we won’t see any articles in the week between Christmas and New Year telling us that it was actually the greatest year ever for humanity. Steven Pinker’s rosy Enlightenment Now risks becoming the End of History of our age, with all of Faye’s predictions occurring at once and our lives turning into one big Black Mirror episode. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 12
May 2020
Idea
16:01

Who are the corona tribes?

A friend tweeted a clip from a debate back in March about what was the best way to approach coronavirus.

The responses underneath are the really interesting thing. Back then, most of the FBPE types responding were entirely behind the expert scientist arguing for herd immunity, and hostile to the Silicon Valley tech guy calling for lockdown and suppression.

Now, most people of that persuasion are furiously condemning the government for, at best, gross incompetence, and at worst mass murder; their policy is viewed as being specifically designed at sacrificing the poor so that the economy can get moving. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Friday, 17
April 2020
Off grid
08:56

Covid-19 is giving me weird dreams

Never tell me your dreams, because I’m not interested. Even if I know and like you, they’re still about as interesting as your story about travelling in Thailand circa 2000. I’m not even interested in my own dreams, once I grew up and realised most of the Freud I’d read as a teenager was bollocks.

However, over the past three weeks I have had weird dream after weird dream, every night. I’ve had a couple of explicitly corona-related anxiety dreams to do with being too close to people in public, as well as some random weirdness involving an implausible combination of locations, places I remember from growing up, people from secondary school, incongruous celebrities and random Twitter people. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 14
April 2020
Debate
16:32

Who says a Covid recession would mean more people dead?

Will a recession caused by the coronavirus lockdown kill more people than it saves? That’s been an argument made by a few corona-sceptics since this crisis began, and their number may increase as the lockdown drags on.

Epidemiology is so outside of my field of expertise I don’t feel I need to have an opinion — people don’t need to have opinions on everything — but I am curious about the argument that a recession will cost lives, because I know that historically that is not true.

During the Great Depression, for example, death rates went down, mainly because people were drinking less and driving less; no doubt they were also a lot less happy, but as long as a country is wealthy enough for its citizens to eat and access basic medical treatment, recessions don’t necessarily kill people. In fact it’s often the case that good times are worse; for example, in occupied France the country’s historically very high levels of cirrhosis absolutely fell through the floor. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 7
April 2020
Reaction
15:49

Boris in the ICU makes this crisis too much to bear

Like a lot of people, I went to bed last night pretty upset after seeing the horrific news about Boris Johnson being in intensive care. Something about the unreality of the situation — those words look ridiculous on the screen — and the sheer intensity of the crisis made it feel too intense to bear. It feels like a bad trip, and one that’s going to go on for weeks.

It is also that the prime minister is relatively young, and as Tom Holland put it, a man who so obviously enjoys life.

Many, many people are upset by this, people of all political persuasions, not just because he is a fellow human being and a democratically-elected leader, but because if he can be reduced to this, it emphasises how fragile our country is. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Monday, 6
April 2020
Spotted
15:00

Weirdo conservatives were the first to spot the Covid threat

Way back in January, during those carefree days when we could leave our houses without catching a terrifying disease, something would occasionally bother me.

There was this disease in China, but the worldwide health authorities didn’t seem to consider it a global threat, and most of the important people were telling us that actually prejudice was a bigger danger than the virus.

Yet some of the smartest people I follow on Twitter, almost all of them in the United States, kept on warning about what a disaster this was going to be. It bothered me, because I follow a lot of, erm, unorthodox people and it seemed sort of conspiratorial and low status. If this coronavirus was so much of a threat, why were hundreds of flights from China still landing in Europe and North America each day? Why were US politicians holding rallies, inviting people to show their solidarity with the Chinese community? ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Thursday, 2
April 2020
Idea
11:38

Covid is killing the black market — maybe that’s a bad thing

One of the interesting side effects of the huge coronavirus economic shock is the impact it will have on drugs.

Recreational drug use in western countries has steadily been rising since the 1960s, driven by a combination of lifestyle changes, cultural shifts (changing attitudes to drug use) but also supply — in particular the opening up of heroin markets from Asia and cocaine from Latin America.

With the acceleration of globalisation in 2001 so came an acceleration in drug use, especially in the United States, and in the sophistication of those selling it. Now that supply is going to receive a jolt; dark net dealers are being put out of business but “traditional” drug traffickers will also struggle as international trade declines. ...  Continue reading

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