How could we not see this coming? — Part I

“It’s all fun and games until somebody goes over the handlebars.” This bicycle riding metaphor is suitable for any occasion, especially now.

The implication is that “somebody” was too busy enjoying themself as they rode along and weren’t paying enough attention to the road ahead. In mariner’s terms, the person wasn’t looking out the windows and didn’t have a proper lookout posted. In this case somebody is really everybody, and at least some of the lookouts were in fact looking out for what we’ve collided with. They just weren’t really heeded.

The main problem lies with the inherent nature of our politics. It has an election cycle driven mentality which rewards only short-term thinking and places little or no value on long-term crisis prevention and response efforts. This is in turn driven by the fact that voters generally never seem to recognize the need for, let alone reward, wise leadership that plans ahead and expends sufficient resources to either avoid the more serious kinds of trouble or at least be partially prepared to respond effectively to them. Call it the damage control and medical kits that nobody wants to “waste” money on because they believe they’ll never be needed. History, however, indicates otherwise.

That a pandemic would one day strike us again was never in question. As always, it was simply a matter of when it would happen and what type of virus, but not if. They’re an irregular and unwelcome, but not truly unexpected, visitor upon human affairs. The coronavirus pandemic’s appearance would be properly classified as a “known unknown.” It is presumed to be a distant and over-the-horizon threat that is only vaguely understood, and hopefully will never have to be dealt with by a given generation of leaders or citizens. Until it must be dealt with.

And so here we are, at the critical moment, finding ourselves desperately short of the most basic PPE supplies to allow first responders and medical workers from around the country to do their precarious jobs with at least a fair shot at not getting infected themselves. How could we not see this coming?

About the author

Joel Milton

Joel Milton has worked aboard fishing boats, pilot boats, Coast Guard cutters and small boats, dredge tenders, offshore crewboats and supply boats, towing vessels, a small container ship, and a wide variety of small craft including an inflatable yellow “ducky” The Piker.

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