Counter-Intuitive Truths

There has been a new development of protests against state governors for the act of issuing stay-at-home orders.

In my home state of Texas, there have been a number of smaller gatherings, goaded on by President Trump from Twitter:

It may be tempting to view these dilemmas as a binary system, where we can either be working and sick, with a sharp precipitous climb in hospitalizations, or we can be broke, with a poor economy, but healthy and with a far less taxing burden on our health care system.

Several economists have cleared the matter up, noting that to have less death helps the economy as well.

This could seem at first like the particular dilemma being addressed, but are there deeper explanations for these protests?

Like the “laurel yanny” test, or like asking yourself what color a dress is (either blue or yellow), we should be cognizant of the fact that being conscious is no easy or obvious experience. And the fact that there are still large gaps between the easy problem (mapping responses in the brain whenever a person experiences a certain stimulus) and the “hard” problem (what is it like to be a bat), means that we still have a long way to go when it comes to discovering why exactly we have the experience of tasting vanilla at all.

So beyond the false binary being constructed, isn’t it odd that people are gathering precisely when, above all other considerations, the biggest mission we have is to precisely not gather?

Unless you suffer from solitary confinement in a prison, this new world has probably shocked you into realizing just how possible loneliness can really eat away at faculties of thought, emotional registers, even memory.

I have been eating goldfish by the boxload recently. Out of all the snack foods that I could be eating as a way to trigger responses in the brain that quell the loneliness I feel, it is so interesting that I am eating the snack that I primarily ate as a child, while playing with Legos, signifying some desperate attempt to return to a safer and secure moment in my life.

The protests across the United States most likely have a whole lot less to do with “liberating” the rights of men and women, and more to do with the psychological act of simply gathering and seeing other people.

There is a great joke in the movie Stranger than Fiction where IRS auditor Harold Crick is debating with Ana Pascal over her rights as an entrepreneur, claiming her opinions are tantamount to anarchy. She asks if he considers her a member of an anarchist group.

“Anarchists have a group?” Pascal remarks. “Wouldn’t that defeat the entire purpose?”

The linguistic reality is that even giving a name to a particular group of people can be adamantly opposed to what the nature of anarchy claims to represent.

On one level, Stranger than Fiction excels as a movie because it takes the romance and it pits it into a meta-level critique of stories and how we create them.

But at a deeper level, Stranger than Fiction is, like the Pixar movie Inside Out, a wonderful and harrowing reminder that we have far less control over what exactly our mind does to us. If these protesters were to interrogate their own rationale for gathering and standing up against these stay-at-home orders, who knows what answers they would give. But the self-reporting answers, and the actual reasons, may end up being quite a large chasm.

Maybe these protests had to happen anyway. Let the people assemble and protest. Let them get it out if they want. Because the deeper reality is that the act of assembly may have worked for a variety of causes, but it does not work here. You can protest against governments, but you can’t protest against a virus.

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