So-Called Resilience (II): The Corona Virus and the Toilet Paper Crisis
Publicado el 23/09/2020.
This is an english version of the spanish text i wrote called
Translated by Wild Way. It took loonger to translate because of the complexity of the topics and more time for me to publish it (i had some problems to publish it with photos btw :( ), here you have it, and thanks again to Wild Way.
Before the January 2020 storm “event”, when the supermarkets in the Balearic Islands were emptied out, we would have to go back to 2008, when, due to a truckers' strike, gasoline ran out in the cities and people went on shopping rampages in the supermarkets, leading to several days of shortages. However this time, there wasn’t even a month between one event and the next!
It all started in China, and there apparently things were taken relatively in stride, although it left a population equivalent to that of Spain in isolation . An unknown virus began to infect hundreds with a kind of pneumonia, and the authorities took it very seriously: they constructed field hospitals in a matter of days, and since then, they have a quarantine that seems to be working, although it has strongly impacted the economy of China and the world, as if the world were running half-empty.
THE TOILET PAPER ROLL CRISIS
The first news of chaos I saw regarding the coronavirus, was on the topic of toilet paper. Because in Japan, public and corporate toilets are always clean, with their paper and comfortable hi-tech washlets with heated seats.
When the time came, some Japanese minister said they’d better close the schools and that the children and people should stay home. In principle nothing could go wrong, beyond that society’s reluctance to stop working. And yet, there, in a country where civility is the rule and people value manners like no other country I’ve ever known, suddenly there are no rolls of toilet paper to be found (due to fear) in the supermarkets. They say it was because the population was staying at home and, suddenly, they had to use their own toilets. The funny thing is, I thought it would be other types of products, but no, it was the toilet paper. Immediately the population, which usually barely use their own toilets because they’re out of the house all day, realizes that they have no paper and that there is none in the supermarkets.
What did one of the world’s most civic-minded societies do in a situation of this caliber? STEAL IT. And that’s how they had to start chaining up toilet paper rolls in Japan.
As an aside, in Spain, stealing toilet paper has been going on for a long time, it gets stolen in hospitals, bars and anywhere it isn’t locked down, and of course, there’s a whole R&D&I of anti-theft dispensers in practically all public establishments.
As if this toilet paper thing weren’t enough, the same thing happened in Australia, it ran out in the supermarkets, and what did people do there? Well, they got into fights over it and had to ration it, 2 packs per customer.
And back to the logic of the matter and collapsing societies, it seems that even knives have been wielded in Australia to get a few rolls of paper.
In Spain, the first thing that ran out was also the toilet paper, they say because in Spain, when one sneezes, ten poop themselves. :D
The toilet paper crisis has spread to all the developed countries: France, USA, Germany, UK, ... well, that’s how ridiculous this collapse was. Psychologists say it happened because “they heard it was running out” and they all did the same thing, buy it up just in case.
Imagen de DJ_meatkun en Twitter.
The virus was affecting factories around the world, especially in China, South Korea and Japan. Companies around the world began to have supply problems, stock started running low and, as I predicted in my article #Coronavirus El evento que afectará a la sociedad de la información mundial, the prices of information technology went up.
On the other hand, the West tried to keep people at home and at the time, the factories open, everything so the economy wouldn’t come to a halt. A lot of workers in the West were not pleased and rebelled in some area. It was strange to see in the middle of the quarantine in the cities, the public transportation full of people forced to go to work; many sat down in their companies and factories and demanded a work stoppage.
Attempts were made to telecommute, but it’s obvious that factories need people to be physically present. No countries, none of the capitalist governments, including China, wanted to close the factories.
In Spain, when things seemed out of control, a work stoppage was decreed for a week, during Easter, but immediately after, work was re-authorized.
However, in all these countries they took advantage – under the pretext of controlling who’s going to work and who’s not – to strengthen control over citizens: mobile phone surveillance, mobile phone tracking, mandatory installation of safe-conduct apps, anklets equipped with tracking chips and anything else that occurred to them to ensure people stayed home and only went out to work, hundreds of thousands of them, only to work.
Because the most important thing turned out to be: that “people who aren’t worth anything”, stay at home, and those at the service of capital, go ahead! Work!, even if it’s manufacturing products that aren’t basic necessities, or in a call center selling newspaper subscriptions.
As it crossed the rest of the world, it arrived in Italy. What did the Italians do to avoid it spreading, when they realized an area was going to be closed down? They made a run for it.
In Madrid, when people were asked to stay home to prevent its rapid propagation, there was more of the same: massive decamping to second homes on the beaches of Alicante, Asturias and Andalusia, rapidly spreading the epidemic.
This happened in every country, one after another, in India, where it was in fact recommended by the authorities who wanted the big cities empty, even if this was in itself a means of infection, in the United States, etc.
In an Italian prison, taking advantage of the chaos, a few inmates broke out of jail, while in others, the altercations claimed the lives of several prisoners.
On the other hand, measures against the pandemic which hadn’t been seen in the West since the Second World War were put in place against the population to avoid its spread.
A state of emergency was declared in the entire West, in Spain, businesses and bars were closed and mass gatherings prohibited, the politicians were the first ones to be infected.
Were they useful or justified? Time will tell, the #coronavirus pandemic was not worth all the measures that were taken, not like the pandemic at the beginning of the 20th century. I think the world went into collective panic over economic interests with the help of politicians and the mass media, they were preparing us for what was still to come: the end of petroleum and global warming.
In some countries, like the U.K., Germany or the United States, they didn’t take direct measures to control the population, they simply waited until everyone got infected to see what would happen afterward, keeping in mind that this was a virus whose mortality in young and middle-aged people without cardiovascular problems or diabetes was not that severe. The English government said literally: ‘The U.K. will not follow in the path of Italy, Spain or France. It will not close schools. It will not restrict mass gatherings. It will not recommend extreme social distancing measures. Many families will lose their loved ones.’
In Holland, for some reason, they thought it wouldn’t get make it there, they said that it’s not fitting to take your relatives to the hospital, that they should rather die at home. A strange way of recognizing that you don’t possess adequate measures.
In China, entire provinces were closed, and when I say closed, I mean house to house, building to building, neighborhood to neighborhood. No one could get in or out, they were quarantined for 40 days, and it worked: after 40 days they had everything under control.
In South Korea they tested the entire population and isolated those who were infected, which also worked.
Finally, the system collapsed because of an epidemic that showed us the cracks in the system itself, how easy it was for people to lose their “humanity”, and that governments imposed “random” martial laws by force. I say random because you could and should go to work, but you couldn’t leave the house, while others could move freely (see the section on LETTERS OF SAFE CONDUCT).
For example, it was forbidden to have 2 persons per car, whereas inhabitants of large cities had to share a subway car with hundreds of others as they went to work to maintain the economy.
Thousands of citizens were arrested, while neighbors locked indoors savagely insulted them. Meanwhile, millions of people were forced to work every day and were also insulted from the balconies.
Violent police actions were seen where arbitrariness reigned. In principle, everyone could go out on the street to make purchases, and it was left to discretion and chance, who was arrested and who wasn’t, who was slacking around and who wasn’t. In some places they made a list of things, according to the police, that could or could not be bought, and on that basis you were fined, which in the end was canceled as it wasn’t legal.
Image by Queven on Pixabay
Who could cross a checkpoint and who couldn’t, all depended on your excuse.
From my point of view, this was all a big mistake. It should have been like China, everybody at home and nobody moves until the quarantine ends, except for those providing basic services. Maybe, this arbitrariness allowed the epidemic to spread more rapidly in Spain and on top of that generated fear and craziness in many citizens: some felt like criminals, trying to buy a loaf of bread, with others playing “citizen Gestapo”, insulting anyone walking down the street without being aware of their personal circumstances.
And there were some who had the balls to take the dog for a walk over and over again, or even shared it with several neighbors so that they could go out, people who went back and forth to the supermarket to buy chewing gum or an onion, and the mentally ill, gambling addicts, alcoholics, homeless people, drug addicts and all sorts of people who went out even though they shouldn’t have, but who were already in trouble before the quarantine.
The mistake, I would say, was not prohibiting everyone from moving around and leaving it to the discretion of the authorities, simply no one should have been out on the street.
Each town or city did what it liked, no one went to check on the small ones ... well, except for the city people escaping the quarantine and bringing with them the urban disease.
Measures like only one person could travel in a car, or letters of safe conduct to go hunting, were resolved with time, and hunting was forbidden (or so I’d like to believe) and two people were allowed to travel in a car, with a strange ritual of one in front and in the rear seat.
In the end, all non-essential movement was forbidden and for a few days non-essential business activity halted, but a month had gone by and it was already too late.
THE PUBLIC BAIL-OUT
Once again, as the stock markets fell, the markets demanded that the governments do something and once again they did, and it was all of us who had to pay for the loss of wealth, to appease the markets.
Little by little and after some time, the shenanigans were revealed through which huge amounts of public funds were diverted for propping up large companies and banks throughout the entire West.
In Spain, more public money was put on the table than ever before, much more than the bank bailout of (2009-2012), across the world, the public sector saved the private and the banks did a lot of business, yet again.
The fact of the matter is that the economy was already hanging by a thread and would have collapsed anyway at some point, this only accelerated the issue and landed countries even further in debt for when the time came to face the end of energy.
The United States basically said it would print as much money as necessary and that it would buy up any debt that was necessary, which meant that, although the American unemployment rate is over 20 million people, the stock market didn’t crash, in fact, it created a manufactured ‘crisis economy’ where money flowed while at the same time, everything fell apart.
Image by klimkin on Pixabay
THE EUROPEAN UNION
On the other hand, this also showed the fault lines of Europe, for if we were really unified, the corona virus would have been solved with the help of all of us, as happened in the United States, where money and aid flowed across the country between the different states, however, when it came time for compensation and to lay some money on the table, some countries suddenly showed their true colors.
Holland for example, didn’t want anything to do with helping other European Union countries, especially the South, in fact stench of racism swept through Europe in those days, where northerners repudiated southerners, even daring to say that the poorer southern European countries were responsible for the corona virus in Europe when in reality the virus was brought to Europe by German and English tourists, according to the scientists, can you believe it?
Also, as the pandemic first hit the south, the first days had a sense of “we won’t get it because we’re cleaner”, which soon came to an end and, in fact, what they did was hide their true death rates so as not to look like Southerners.
The point is that the corona virus was a step towards the destruction of Europe.
In Hungary, what was eventually called a “corona-coup” was carried out, in which the president granted himself the powers to suspend the existing laws and to govern by decree for an indefinite period, avoid elections indefinitely, and any citizen caught disseminating what the government considered “falsehoods” or “distorted truths”, hampering efforts to protect the population from the pandemic, would face up to five years in prison.
This approach in Hungary, I honestly think, was under consideration by many EU governments, in Spain the criminal prosecution of fake news was put on the table.
Be that as it may, the European Union is facing its greatest challenge since its formation, and I’m sure that many countries will exit soon, in fact, I already had it in my sights, not because of the coronavirus but due to the future of energy: less energy means less capacity to maintain unity between countries and states.
Well, the coronavirus crossed the world, and the psychosis affected supermarket sales in Spain, which, as cases approached one thousand, led the population to compulsively buy food, wiping out stocks for a few weeks, initially in the Basque country and Madrid, and then the rest of the country. The same thing happened all over the world, such as in France, New York in the United States, and Italy, and in the end, in every country where the virus appeared.
Imágenes de Pepe Campana.
After the first days of craziness, supply problems were solved, but full production of all items never fully recovered during the quarantine and shortages of various non-essential products such as sauces, chocolates, French fries, etc., continued, though supplies like meat, bread, milk, fruit and vegetables were still available.
After all this, with the initial scare having passed, the supermarkets began to recover, but with rationing of 2 units of each product to ensure there would be no more shortages, or one, if flour ran out in some places, as I recount in my article.
Cheap immigrant labor, which had become the world standard in the countryside, couldn’t reach the countries where food was grown and there were problems in the United States, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom and others with harvesting fruit and vegetables from the orchards and fields because it was always cheap labour from poor countries. See: It all started with empty shelves of flour.
In Spain, it was suggested that the unemployed should be forced to work in the fields and that illegal immigrants in Spain should be regularized in exchange for working during the agricultural season.
DUBBING AND ONLINE ENTERTAINMENT
One of the things that kept the first world sane was the Internet and the shows and movies online. Billions of us spent the quarantine watching shows and movies. In China, they allowed people to pirate content and broadcast it on local television stations across the country, while people stayed home.
As I said in the Internet section, the network collapsed and the quality of online streaming had to be reduced. But the funniest thing of all was that the confinement prevented the dubbers from working, so in Spain we started watching new shows and movies without subtitles. For example, Westworld and HBO’s The Conspiracy Against America were no longer dubbed. On the other hand, many productions stopped dead right in the middle during the quarantine, obviously.
KIDS AT HOME
More than one parent remembered the teachers these days, as normally the kids are only at home one or two days a week and the rest of the time families only see each other after school. Many of them suddenly saw teachers in a different light and understood the tremendous effort it takes, dealing with their children throughout the week. For some time after, they treated them with more respect during parent-teacher conferences at schools.
On television, programming for children was increased, including the creation of online virtual teachers who gave lessons to children. The education system tried to use ICT, i.e. the Internet, to teach them, which only showed how little resilience the system possessed, as it spent the entire quarantine collapsing. Besides, the poorest children don’t have computers and Internet to use these online teaching resources.
SPYING ON CITIZENS
One thing that happened – that I didn’t like at all – all over the world and also in Spain, is that governments took advantage of the situation to control and further spy on their populations. In truth, the technology was already there, having been invented or legislated using terrorism as an excuse; all that was left was to use it, in fact something happened that I predicted in my first Tales of Collapse: surveillance of all “points” or citizens by a team of hundreds of people.
We’re going to see where the entire country is at all times; this has also been noted in other stories that appear in this book. All the cell phones were spied on, including where they had been over the last two years. In some countries it became mandatory to install a governmental app in order to be able to move about. People donned RFID anklets to pass through checkpoints and with everything that was dreamed up and ended up being possible then, companies specializing in personal surveillance got rich. Though in truth, with a paper signed by a doctor being sufficient to pass through a checkpoint, you didn’t have to “monitor” all Spaniards, or force them to put on an anklet or install a spy app on their phones.
Image by Pete Linforth on Pixabay
On the other hand, social networks were also spied on to look for people which, and I mean this literally... “The Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has stated that the government is monitoring the social networks ‘in order to investigate some speech that may be ‘dangerous or criminal’, as well as ‘campaigns of disinformation’”.
What was dangerous speech or misinformation? Which criteria were applied? Who knows, perhaps this book is dangerous speech; in fact, I’ve already censored some items and chapters.
A lot of poor people realized that being locked up at home so long was going to seriously affect their finances, since they lived hand-to-mouth, any which way they could. European governments were slow to react and it wasn’t until these people hit the streets looking for food that some sort of solution was proposed for those who’d lost their incomes, while in Italy and other countries, some stole and looted for food, whereas others did so simply because it’s the only thing they know how to do.
In the United States they gave each citizen $1,200 to tide them over during the quarantine, something unthinkable up until this moment, though, if you got the virus, you had to pay $39,000 to be treated, so I don’t know if those $1,200 did a lot of good, maybe, as I say, for those who didn’t catch it, but certainly not for those who fell ill.
COUNTRIES LOOTING EACH OTHER
Something that happened and I don't know if when you read this, if it will have escalated, is that during the quarantine, countries that are medical supply intermediaries, like Turkey, kept the supplies that were intended for other countries like Spain from China. Even Germany did it.
The United States canceled orders about to be sent to other countries on the basis of paying 3 times their original price meaning the Chinese manufacturers canceled their orders to give them to the US. "In cash and at the door of the plane: this is how the US 'steals' French orders for masks", said Hoy.es newspaper on April 2, 2020.
"They pay up to three or four times the price, and they do it in cash. Right there at the airport. And the cargo, ordered by France – although it could be any other country – from Chinese manufacturers ends up on its way to the U.S. Several Welsh regional presidents have denounced the dirty trick that certain American buyers have come up with to source masks in a market that has turned into the law of the jungle."
On the other hand, in the same Hoy article, France diverted orders from Spain and Italy:
"But if France has been a victim this time of survival of the fittest, it was previously a perpetrator. Emmanuel Macron's decision to nationalize all mask stocks in the country at the beginning of March had at least three collateral victims: Spain, Italy and Sweden. Last March 5th, the French government requisitioned an order for an additional 4 million masks from the Swedish company Mölnlycke, which specializes in disposable medical products and has a logistics center in Lyon. That’s where the cargo, manufactured in China, had arrived in France via the port of Marseilles. Half of that order was destined for Spain and Italy, who had each ordered one million masks, according to the weekly L'Express".
Image by romanakr on Pixabay
It also happened to us in Turkey: "Turkey requisitioned the 150 respirators that Castilla-La Mancha had bought." In the Canary Islands, the first direct airlift in history was carried out between China and Las Palmas, to make sure that no one, in some intermediary airport, would make off with the sanitary equipment purchased by the Islands.
All this can only lead to future serious diplomatic issues between countries, so I hope it doesn’t continue.
Meanwhile, due to the shuttered factories in China, trade consumption fell and the price of oil dropped.
The Russians took the opportunity to withdraw from OPEC and in the United States, which needed high oil prices for fracking to be profitable (if it ever could be), many companies went bankrupt. And for weeks the price of oil continued to fall.
There came a time when the refineries had to pay to get rid of their low-quality product, i.e. the prices were negative. They were running out of storage space and wanted to dump the less profitable, given that petroleum became unprofitable during those months.
There were a lot of meetings, OPEC artificially lowered and raised the price but the situation was simple: people at home don't consume gasoline for their cars or sufficient consumer goods to justify a certain level of production.
All this caused the stock markets to collapse and share prices to fall over and over again, which hadn’t happened since the 1929 crash. In Spain rates dropped further than ever before in its history.
All this put pressure on the governments to get the money flowing with increased freedom and no controls, and more transfer of public money to private companies, which appeased the stock markets and made some people even richer than ever.
After all the governments injected huge amounts of money, the stock markets recovered. However, reality clashed with the fantasy economy and as people didn't go to work and died at home, stocks fell again, especially when the epidemic really hit the United States.
Again and again they injected more and more public money, while world growth rates fell in units of tens, -10%, -20%. On the other hand, at a certain point, after the first few weeks, the stock market was only interested in greasing the economy, and the mortality and unemployment data didn't matter, as long as the machinery didn't come to a halt,.
They pressured countries for billions in aid, banks to lend money, and people who weren’t needed to work to limit their movement for months.
And the air was purer and cleaner than in a long time, and across the globe, CO2 emissions dropped and it was shown that it was indeed possible to reduce it... just stop manufacturing and consuming.
As I tell in my other story, ECONOMY = DEATH: during the quarantine… rivers, canals, ports and seas restored themselves. Levels of CO2 and NOx in urban air fell by more than half, and even the dolphins came into port to greet people and to see what had happened such that suddenly everything was cleaner.
Something that seemed impossible when I wrote How to Arrive at 0 Net CO2 Emissions in 5 Years or... A Little Longer (II). Photos of mega-city horizons eternally covered in smog now had of miles of visibility with clean skies. A lot of people with respiratory problems improved during those days.
Image by jacobgraham421 on Freepng
On the other hand, this event caused the airlines to collapse, because no one wanted or was allowed to travel by plane because of the virus, air traffic was shut down, which hurt tourism, bankrupting some airlines.
States put up a lot of public money to save them, once again the poor were paying for the problems of the rich, and that despite the fact that there’s no remedy other than that planes will have to disappear in the next few decades because of the lack of petroleum. China could buy all the airlines in the United States for less money than Disney was worth.
Social movements asked that the bail out not be carried out with public money because these are private companies and we're on our way to a world where all airplanes will disappear anyway. The issue also came up of the low taxes they pay, that airplane fuel is subsidized, and related issues that made the sector unsustainable.
One of the aspects that found a way in during this quarantine was the flowering of different nationalisms around the world. In Spain thousands of citizens played their hymns on their balconies according to their nations*, each with their rigmarole and flags.
In political debates around the world, instead of addressing the existential crisis of survival that we are facing, politicians on one side praised the armies and police, while others asked for more independence for their nations and to have decision-making autonomy.
*Translator’s note: There are various nations in Spain, of which the most well known are the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia, but which additionally include Andalucía, Aragón, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the Valencian Community. These nations define themselves by a common identity, culture and typically a shared language.
In Spain this coincided with cases of royal corruption and while the press in other countries criticized the Spanish monarchy, in Spain it seemed like the King would save us by strangling the corona virus with his bare hands. In the United States and the United Kingdom, some have suggested that old people should die to save the country. In Hungary the president carried out a soft coup to perpetuate his hold on power.
During the quarantine many people went out to walk their dogs, while others would just go out for air or for a run, flaunting the quarantine, but the sad thing was the collective hysteria: how neighbors who went out were confronted by those at home, how they were insulted, how the police were called, how force was used to subdue citizens as if they were terrorists or rapists, when their crime had been to go for a walk, yes, their behavior was not correct, but that's what fines are for.
How those in the flats shouted at those on the street demanding justice and near death for the smart alecks who were out there, timing how long it took to walk their dogs, yelling at them to go back home, they were right of course that some people took advantage of the situation, but many times, actually most times, I’d say, it was pure hysteria.
Then, as you can see in the photo, they even chastised people for failing to going out on the balcony during the playing of the Spanish anthem or to applaud the medical personnel. The social networks were on fire defending or criticizing the force used by the police.
A Spanish citizen used a shotgun to threaten dog owners from his balcony. A mentally ill man went out on the street with two katana swords, and got into it with the police cars.
In China, neighbors would meet to play cards inside the same building and almost everyone stayed at home without going out, but here we fought, broke the rules, and called each other names.
We also started "inviting" the neighbors who were health care workers to vacate the building and go live in an hotel for the duration of the crisis and while some applauded them, others insulted them for possibly having the corona virus. Also they were scolded by the "balcony vigilantes" on their way home from work.
When I saw all these people criticizing others who didn't go out to applaud the medical profession every day at 8:00 PM, I recognized people who voted for parties that privatized health care and reduced its budget. They’re the same ones who criticized those of us who attended demonstrations in support of public health and voted accordingly.
WALKING THE GROCERY BAGS
A lot of people took advantage of the fact that you could go shopping at the supermarket to turn it into a regular walk. They'd leave the house with a supermarket bag, they'd go buy an onion, a piece of gum, a beer... some went to the supermarket several times a day, or went in and out again until the supermarket cashiers ran out of patience and called the police.
There were those who took along a bag of bread that was several days old and had hardened, pretending to be buying it. On the other hand, it was legal to buy next to nothing at the supermarket, even if many people were fined for it.
All this, which would seem to those who did it to be very anti-system and very clever, because they evaded the restrictions, infected them people and caused them to pass it along to other people.
Image by kenwaller1128 on Freepng
The dogs were a lifeline to get outdoors without having to give explanations. If you had a pet dog you could take it out for a walk and it was up to neighbors on their balconies to judge if you were out a long or short time.
There were many videos, some very brutal, of citizens detained for being outdoors without permission, as others passed by with a dog on a leash, checking them out then continuing on as if they were in another universe.
In protest, some took out stuffed dogs to indicate the injustice of the situation. I'm not going to say whether it's good or bad or necessary for pets and for their owners. But what I’m going to say is something very sad that happened: in the animal shelters the applications for adoption went through the roof, many people adopted an animal just so they could take a walk every day, with no respect for the life of the animal, and the animal welfare volunteers, not all but some or even many, accepted this. This caused the dogs to be re-abandoned by this type of heartless person after the quarantine (some animal welfare people denied that this happened, but there were indeed cases).
In Italy, which had areas that were terribly dependent on tourism, there were serious economic repercussions. And in Spain too, because we were very dependent on the Europeans flying to our coasts every day.
In addition, for several years nobody wanted to visit Spain or Italy in large numbers, as these countries had had the bug among their populations and it could be multiplying, even if affairs had returned to normal.
Image by fotogrzechnik on Pixabay
Probably in the West, what worried me most was what happened to soccer, since matched had to be played without spectators.
The Italian press reported a match between Atalanta Bergamo and Valencia Soccer Club was the trigger for the massive contagion in Lombardy, Italy, which is the part of Europe with the most casualties and deaths. And in Valencia, 35% of the Valencia Soccer Club team and the sports press that accompanied them, turned up positive for corona virus.
Young people at first tried to spend as much time partying as possible, the discos stayed opened during the first days as if there were no tomorrow, until prohibition came and they were closed down.
Many saw it as a vacation out on the town, skipping the bans and drinking and dancing in underground venues. Many young people were arrested in the streets, some violently.
Another thing that nobody expected was that the Internet would start to fail. The reason was quite simple: home-bound citizens had little to do, and watching videos online and playing games was the entertainment of the quarantine.
So far so good, the problem is that the telecommunications networks are terribly designed, actually worse than terribly, they're based on the true use of the contracted service, which in most cases is at full capacity only 1% of the time, so they can sell 100 connections of 1 GB that, actually providing 1 to 3 GB, serve 100 customers without any trouble... so far (this is called "overselling" and usually represents a ratio of 1 to 100 or 1 to 150).
In addition, companies need the Internet to telecommute, so Spanish Internet providers and the government were quick to call for restraint in using the Internet, which happened exactly 20 hours after the start of the quarantine.
Graph of daily traffic on Espanix
In Spain, for example, the ESpanixexchange point, located at a Santander Bank data processing center where different operators connect their networks, experiences record traffic and spends the whole crisis trying to expand the network to avoid collapsing. They're recording spikes of up to 750 Gbps.
The companies that used the most bandwidth, such as video streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, YouTube, etc.) suffered the most from this massive use of the network, running out of bandwidth to provide high-definition content, having to reduce the quality of their streaming and finally collapsing, which happened on March 25, 2020 to Netflix, leaving countries like Germany, the U.K., the Low Countries, Switzerland and certain parts of the U.S., like New York, temporarily without service.
LETTERS OF SAFE CONDUCT
A funny thing that happened during this quarantine was that letters of safe-conduct, which began to be printed for essential services, so that if you were stopped by the police or the army you would have proof of who you are and where you are going, for example, were distributed to workers in public administration, health and emergency services.
They were given to lawyers and workers in the court system, also to politicians and their family members, and at this point, when politicians started issuing letters of safe conduct, strange things started to happen… For example, in Castile and Leon and Galicia, hunting clubs going out to the country for the afternoon.
On the other hand, millions of people had to go to work every day for all sorts of companies that were not at all essential, to maintain minimal services.
Then in Europe it was discussed whether safe conduct letters should be given to those who had had the disease and acquired immunity, so that they could go back to work, which was more than a little dystopic: while the rest stayed home, some could go out just to work. This can or did generate (by the time you read this book, time will have gone by) the start of a very dark reality, which I address in the story "A Dark Future".
All these safeguards, of course, used spy technology on citizens' cell phones, RFID anklets, etc.
And it’s that crisis means opportunity, or so they say, and that’s how they excuse themselves. With the epidemic, there was no lack of people who wanted to profit from it.
The first, the street vendors, the ones who bought up masks to later resell them in online stores or second-hand websites at the price of gold. Masks that cost a few cents, on sale for 30€, or packs of 10 for 300€.
Many businesses started to give away subscriptions with the first month for free, the same as before the quarantine but this time, they said, it was for humanitarian reasons... Movistar was the first to be heard from with its re-worked free trial month, an offer from 2019 that they relaunched as a special deal.
But the cleverest of all were the high-tech contractors. The prices of medical supplies went through the roof and they ran out; they were only made available to the highest bidder (when the U.S. sickened, it went all out, without taking into account other countries, paying double the price, such that prices rose across the world) although officially this was prohibited.
It wasn’t only just a few that saw that corona virus test kits would be a multi-million-euro business. Pharmaceutical companies halfway to ruin found the commerce they needed to avoid bankruptcy and their share prices exploded. People with the right contacts in the right place at the right time, became the middle-men and contractors for governments in the corona virus testing, masks and medical supply business. Companies with no scruples sold fake corona virus tests incapable of detecting the illness to Spain and other countries.
Many people organized themselves at home, altruistically, to 3D print new and replacement parts for hospitals and in no time at all were denounced by the manufacturing business. There were companies that ripped off countries by selling defective corona virus test kits, as happened to us in Spain. Many countries decided to produce these new sorts of supplies domestically and not in China.
THE UNITED STATES AND THE PREPPERS
In the U.S., the first thing to run out wasn’t toilet paper, though it also did run out and people fought over it, but rather ammunition. The gun shops ran out of bullets in the early days. I thought that it must have been those gun lovers, the preppers, the rifle fans, etc., that buy guns and ammo, but it was people that had never owned a weapon, as maybe this time they thought it would be useful to defend themselves from the looters. On the other hand, the Asian community also armed itself out of fear of racist attacks, as some thought it was all China’s fault.
For example, in this video we see long lines out the door of a gun shop, Peninsula Guns. Still, something unexpected happened: people, stuck indoors, don’t have the chance to go kill their neighbors, and murders dropped off the graph. In fact, despite the numerous deaths due to corona virus in the U.S., they were less than those that were saved by not having Americans in the streets shooting each other. The count was less deaths, imagine that (see the green line in the figure below)!
United States: Long lines to purchase guns in the middle of the corona virus panic.
For those who don’t know what a prepper is, they are people who spend years preparing to survive an event like this; they think people will behave irrationally and violently and they have prepared by stockpiling food and weapons. They form on-line communities, share advice, have bunkers full of dehydrated food with long expiration dates and well, there they are, waiting. Unfortunately, this time they were right: chaos is always just around the corner and they are set to survive for a time until everything gets back to normal.
The movement arose after the 1929 Great Depression in the U.S. and above all, World War II and the cold war, as challenges to be survived. Since then, subsequent generations of preppers have increased their numbers across the world. I don’t believe any prepper is prepared to survive more than a few months in the case of a serious situation. I’m writing my proposals to survive in my article, Phase Zero 1.0.
It’s important to note that each prepper has his own ideology; in the U.S. there are many people from the extreme right wing and gun lovers that are preppers and it’s an American behavior very oriented toward ‘I have a right to defend my family’, but there are preppers across the whole world with different ideologies that have different motivations to survive.
On the other hand, the Vice Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, suggested on prime-time television in the middle of the corona virus outbreak that senior citizens in American should be ready to risk their lives for the sake of the economy, to save the dollar and their country.
One last thing, in the U.S., the sale of bidets shot through the roof, due to the toilet paper shortage. This item has always been a great mystery to the Anglo-Saxon world, which never understood what it was used for. Can you believe what goes on in this crazy world?
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