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to swing, beat, or strike in the manner of a rapidly moving flail
Which is what I was looking for when I first thought of the word for this post, but interestingly, an alternative definition:
to beat soundly with or as if with a stick or whip
Which is sadly apropos.
I was looking for that first definition because that is what we have been through with this whole pandemic mess – rapid flailing movement in seemingly random and most importantly, unproductive, directions:
Lockdowns in the U.S. and Europe had little or no impact in reducing deaths from COVID-19, according to a new analysis by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The lockdowns during the early phase of the pandemic in 2020 reduced COVID-19 mortality by about 0.2%, said the broad review of multiple scientific studies….
Mr. Hanke is the founder and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise. Mr. Herby is special adviser at Center for Political Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mr. Jonung is professor emeritus in economics at Lund University, Sweden.
They conducted a “meta-analysis” of dozens of studies that examined COVID-19 mortality rates.
The unproductivity of so many of the measures taken is what makes that second definition so fitting. We have been beaten soundly by rules, regulations, scolds on TV and people on the street to little effect. Well, not really little effect, just little effect with regards to the pandemic. Note the authors of the study just cited:
But the research paper said lockdowns did have “devastating effects” on the economy and contributed to numerous social ills.
“They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, and undermining liberal democracy,” the report said.
Put bluntly, the cure has been worse than the disease. Thus making “thrash” (both definitions) the perfect word for what we have been experiencing, and still are to some extent.
If you stop and think about it thrash is what bureaucracies do – particularly bureaucracies that have grown bloated or have outlasted their mission. (Often the same thing.) In order to justify their existence or size, the simple must become complex; the minorly consequential must become an existential crisis. Thus, the errant tick mark on a form results not in a simple correction, but an additional ream of explanatory paper and hours of time. Thus, a tragic and somewhat consequential pandemic becomes a potential end to civilization as we know it.
Perhaps the most disheartening thing of all is that we create such bureaucracies in order to depoliticize them. And yet throughout this mess they have operated on an almost entirely political basis. Rather than provide scientific information – an apolitical activity – they have attempted to figure out just how much control the country will tolerate and make as much policy as possible within that space, which is pure politics. The problems arise when one realizes that the skill set necessary to research and understand science is very, very different from the skill set necessary to make functional policy. Scientists experiment. Policy experiments are perceived by the general public as thrash.
Our public health bureaucracies have clearly failed on the federal level, and on a local level in many places. They have thrashed about and thrashed us while barely, if at all, altering the course of the pandemic. (Please note – vaccines are a function of private industry – their roll out and administration have only been slowed and impeded by the bureaucracy.) Now they seek to make an entire mountain range out of the molehill that is omicron. To serve the public health? No, to preserve their existence.
Here’s the problem. The American people are not wheat. Thrashing us does not separate the good stuff from the bad – it just ticks us off. Not to mention, we can thrash back….