INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician,
counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a
number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health
. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com
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The Deadly Duo
Part 2: Trump, the Coronavirus, and a Lesson
From the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
President Trump's continuous dangerous and destructive mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic crisis make me “almost” lose heart.
It has been over 3 weeks since I wrote the first part of my “Deadly Duo: Trump and the Coronavirus” essay , and given the multitude of death and destruction that is happening with each passing day, I feel the inclination to write a follow-up Deadly Duo essay about Trump and the coronavirus. In the first part of my Deadly Duo essay I said the following :
“Trump has continuously been putting the United States as well as the rest of the world in serious danger…. But what I focused upon specifically was the destruction of the environment and nuclear annihilation…. I had absolutely no idea that we would soon be living under the overwhelming suffocating fear that now pervades virtually the entire world, and that we in the United States have President Trump in charge of getting us through this horrible existential crisis. But for me, by far the worst action that Trump was giving serious consideration to enacting was to 'celebrate' people going back to work and largely ending social distancing prematurely, with his goal of stimulating massive turnouts in churches all over the country for Easter Sunday. The responses from health experts to this plan make it clear that this would have been nothing less than a death sentence for a significant number of people in America, in particular for elderly people and people who are not in good health.”
But what I find to be the most distressing and horrific aspect of the continuing Deadly Duo saga is the fact that there have been anti-lockdown demonstrations in approximately 25 states in the country, which comprise one half of the states in the United States . These demonstrations have come equipped with rifles and the blocking of ambulances transporting emergency care patients to hospitals, and have received the encouragement of none other than our very own President Trump , . The fact that at the time of this writing over 50,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus is horrific enough, but the fact that swarms of Americans are actually flaunting this by ignoring the social distancing and lockdown policies and recommendations of the medical experts and their states, and demanding their “freedom” to go back to work, which undoubtedly will lead to far more sickness and death in the United States, is almost beyond my ability to find words to convey my disgust .
I applaud Brad Reynolds for his ability to stay calm in the midst of such destructive chaos, as he intelligently analyzes our deadly situation from an integral perspective involving the three eyes of knowledge and the four quadrants , . Reading Reynolds' two coronavirus essays reminds me how important it is for me to keep up with my regular meditation practice , as Reynolds has a way of calmly and eloquently conveying his strong disapproval of President Trump's mishandling of the coronavirus. In regard to his perspective involving the three eyes of knowledge, Reynolds wrote the following :
“Not only do we have an opportunity to take personal and social action, but we also have one to exercise spiritual-transpersonal growth by using reason (via science) and wisdom (via spirituality) together. Such a comprehensive vision provides an integral response to this deadly tragedy effecting billions of people, including the death of hundreds of thousands of our loved ones (by the time this event passes)….
Scientific research and responses had been underfunded and misused resulting in the spread of COVID-19. The Trump administration in the United States, for example, had dismantled the emergency epidemic response team established by the Bush and Obama administrations (as well as underfunding the CDC, Center for Disease Control), leading to our current predicament. Tragically, because President Trump did not heed the warnings of science, being more interested in the US economy and his reelection, many of the important steps needed to lessen the deadly effects of this virus were missed. Some have concluded, therefore, that Trump has 'blood on his hands' by missing these precious opportunities…”
And here is an except from Reynolds' essay involving his perspective based upon the four quadrants :
“With the COVID-19 crisis, our governments are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, assuming responsibility to assist and supply overworked, understaffed, and supply-strapped hospitals and medical care facilities. Effective government operations, therefore, are crucial, with different levels of success, often dependent on the effectiveness of the elected leaders; most have shone brightly in their call of duty (such as the state governors of New York, California, and Washington, plus many others), while others have failed miserably (such as the governor of Florida, and most noticeably, with the President of the United States…”
However, as much as I appreciate the intelligent, impactful, and calm perspective of Brad Reynolds, I am afraid that this is not how I am able to write. For as I learn more about the history of epidemics in the world, and I couple this together with our current dangerous and destructive leadership in the United States with Donald Trump, it is all I can do to maintain my day-to-day functioning in spite of my regular meditation practice and my loving harmonious relationship with my wife, much less write as calmly and eloquently as Brad Reynolds is able to write. So please bear with me here as I convey some of the historical statistics of epidemics that is nearly sending me through the roof of panic.
First off, here is a brief description about some historical influenza pandemics that “educated” me:
“An influenza pandemic is an epidemic of an influenza virus that spreads on a worldwide scale and infects a large proportion of the world population. In contrast to the regular seasonal epidemics of influenza, these pandemics occur irregularlythere have been five influenza pandemics during the last 140 years. Pandemics can cause high levels of mortality, with the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic being the worst in recorded history; this pandemic was estimated to be responsible for the deaths of 50-100 million people. The most recent, the 2009 flu pandemic, resulted in under a million deaths and is considered relatively mild.” 
Well this certainly got my attention. I knew some vague things about epidemics and the Spanish flu, but I had no idea that 50-100 million people had died from the Spanish flu a little over a hundred years ago, and that in 2009 there was a “relatively mild” case of an epidemic where “only” between a 150,000 and 600,000 people died .
As I read more, I learned that in the typical seasonal flu “only” between 300,000 and 650,000 people are expected to die, whereas in the 2019-2020 seasonal flu between 500,000 and 1.2 million people died . Furthermore, between 1 and 4 million people died in each of the 1957-1958 and 1968-1969 flu pandemics, and in the 1889-1990 flu pandemic about a million people died . I forced myself to read a bit more of the gory details, such as there were nine recorded pandemics before 1918, inclusive of the worst of them allthe Black Death in the 14th century, which killed between 75 and 200 million people, which was about a fifth of the world's population at the time, while killing between 30% and 60% of Europe's population , .
And I also learned that the Spanish flu of 1918, unlike our current coronavirus pandemic, affected everyone young and old, actually targeted the young, and disproportionately killed the healthiest as it “struck swiftly, stoking panic, fear and mistrust as it sickened millions” . Furthermore, it is actually highly unlikely that the Spanish Flu originated in Spain , but at any rate the term implies that a particular nationality is the cause of a pandemic, just as President Trump, likely seeking to divert attention from his own failed coronavirus responses, tried to blame China for the coronavirus by promoting the term “Chinese virus” .
However, apparently there were also some significant similarities between the pandemics of 1918 and 2020 :
Influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital,
in Washington, D.C. during the
Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919.
“In both cases, there was no vaccine and no treatment for the disease along with an overriding fear that a besieged health care system night crack…. In both pandemics, the most effective immediate response wasand issocial distancing…. It was called 'crowding' control back then…. But whatever you call it, limiting contact worked in 1918and it works today…. As with all pandemics, in 1918 you had a tension between biological reality and socioeconomic reality…. out of fear, panic, mistrust, special interestsand even sheer boredom,… many were too slow to get on board and too quick to jump ship.
Historians see the evidence in letters written at the same time by the same families. The mother is saying,'We all need to be patient, lay low and wait it out,' while the daughter is saying she's had enough of no school and no friends, and she's planning a Halloween party, just as the highest number of deaths are happening…. The tension helps explain the absence of an early and forceful federal response in 1918…. Instead, officials played down the risk and stalled for time…. So, the advice from Washington, D.C., back then might sound familiar today: Don't panic. It's no big deal. At first, they tell the public it's not a big problem, oras the name suggeststhat it's a foreign disease that only affects 'others,'…. It wasn't until the fall, after a more virulent form of Spanish flu had emerged, that Washington, D.C., got tough.
In the meantime, the absence of a federal response left cities and states to go off on their own and make decisions for themselves…. many chose the economy over public healthand they put off social distancing, with fateful results. While cities like Seattle and San Francisco ordered people to wear masks if they were out in public, many others did not. New York City never did close schools, contending they were cleaner than homes, even though by October, 1918, when deaths began to skyrocket, many cities did…. Cities that acted earliest and most forcefullylike St. Louis, which imposed a near total lockdown within two days of its first Spanish flu casehad much lower peak death rates than cities that hedged their betslike New Orleans, Boston and Philadelphia. The point is not that social distancing is a total panacea, but that there's no 'business-as-usual during a pandemic.'”
“Historians see the evidence in letters written at the same time by the same families. The mother is saying,'We all need to be patient, lay low and wait it out,' while the daughter is saying she's had enough of no school and no friends, and she's planning a Halloween party, just as the highest number of deaths are happening….” Alan Mozes (2020), “Four Lessons From the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
Well I was never much of a student of history, but I do remember a phrase that went something like “If you don't learn from history then history will repeat itself.” And the similarities between the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and our current 2020 coronavirus pandemic are stark, startling, and frightening to me. The parallels between the federal government leaving things up to the cities and the states, the differences in state requirements regarding social distancing and wearing masks, the rebellion of young people to social distancing while the death rates are skyrocketing, etc. leave me feeling “nearly” out of control and helpless. Georgia opening up their dine-in restaurants, theaters, barbershops, massage parlors, tatoo parlors, etc. ; Florida and South Carolina opening up some of their beaches to swarms of young people ; the anti-lockdown demonstrations in half the states of the country ; and especially President Trump's continuous dangerous and destructive mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic crisis , , ,  make me “almost” lose heart.
Trump encouraging civilian insurrection by Americans against their governors stay-at-home orders.
But the key words here are “nearly” and “almost.” I always manage to come back to my more optimistic mode of living, as I very much appreciate all that I have. I am not alone, as I am blessed to have an ongoing continuous loving relationship with my wife, and our family includes our precious dog and cat. However, I also need to discipline myself to stay with my Wilberian higher level activities for my day-to-day sustenance, which includes keeping up with my math world, playing the piano, practicing my meditation and taking walks regularly, and writing these essays . This is where I very much appreciate essays like that of Brad Reynolds , , and others who point out some of the hidden benefits of experiencing the slow time to ourselves that the coronavirus pandemic has given us the opportunity to experience .
But let's make no mistake about itwe are now living in a tragically dangerous and deadly time, and the fact that we have President Trump as our leader is making this even more catastrophic. One of the saddest videos I have seen in a long time is one that illustrates 48 nurses who died from contacting the coronavirus as they put their lives at risk to treat coronavirus patients . The other day I learned that a fellow adjunct instructor at my university died from the coronavirus. Today is actually my 70th birthday, and this puts me in quite the high risk group to get the virus. However, I am currently alive and well, as is my wife, and I am thankful that my creative artist son, who is the focus of over a third of my book The Creative Artist. Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health , is also alive and well.
I wonder about how long all these lockdowns, social distancing, and masks in public places are going to last. I am afraid that given all the flagrant violations of safety that I have described above, both in the American public and from President Trump, that in one form or another they are going to last in most places in the country until a coronavirus vaccine is developed, which is likely at least a year away , , . We need to build up “herd immunity,” and I desperately hope that we are able to build herd immunity through an eventual vaccine rather than through hundreds of millions of Americans getting infected with the coronavirus and consequently at least temporarily being immune from getting infected with it again, while a huge percentage of people my age die from it . But I must candidly say that the picture looks very bleak to me right now as President Trump is promoting much of the country going “back to normal” next week, and I have no doubt that this is going to result in a massive increase in coronavirus infections and deaths , , .
Well I think it is time for me to end this heaviness for now and go for a walk. Stay tunedas I think there is quite a good chance that I will be writing a Deadly Duo: Part 3 essay in the not too distant future.
Notes and References
1) See Elliot Benjamin (2020), “The Deadly Duo, Part 1: Trump and the Coronavirus”, www.integralworld.net
3) See Jen Hayden (2020), “With a Series of 'LIBERATE' Tweets, Trump Shows Support for Coups in States with Democratic Governor”, www.dailykos.com
4) See Brad Reynolds (2020), “An Integral Response to COVID-19: Part 1: Three Eyes of Knowing”, www.integralworld.net
5) See Brad Reynolds (2020), “An Integral Response to COVID-19: Part 2: Four Quadrants of Integral Wisdom”, www.integralworld.net
6) For a personal description of how I have therapeutically utilized mindfulness meditation in my regular disciplned practice see Benjamin (2019), “Mindfulness Meditation and Self-Compassion to Heal Violations of Personal Vulnerabilities.” Pinnacle Psychology, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 1376-1385.
7) See the Wikipedia description of Influenza Pandemic at en.wikipedia.org
8) See the Wikipedia description of Black Death at en.wikipedia.org
9) See Alan Mozes (2020), “Four Lessons From the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic”, www.webmd.com
10) See Evan Andrews (2020), “Why Was It Called the 'Spanish Flu?'”, www.history.com
12) See David Hogberg (2020), “Barbers, Massage Therapists, and Tatoo Artists: Georgia Set to Provide a Test Case for Reopening the Economy”, www.washingtonexaminer.com
13) See Chris Jewers (2020), “Some South Carolina and Florida Beaches Are Open to SUNBATHERS Against Advice of Health Officials”, www.dailymail.co.uk
- David Frum (2020), “Trump's Two Horrifying Plans for Dealing With the Coronavirus: If He Can't Confine the Suffering to His Opponents, He Is Prepared to Incite a Culture War to Distract His Supporters”, www.theatlantic.com;
- Mark Sumner (2020), “Trump Wants to 'Reopen America' Without the One Thing Necessary To do So Safely, Which Is Everything”, www.dailykos.com;
- Katelyn Polantz & Kristen Holmes (2020), “Reopening Business Could Bring 'Wild West' Fight for Supplies, as Masks, Thermometers and Tests Still Not Widely Available”, www.cnn.com;
- William Wan, Reed Albergotti, & Joel Achenbach (2020), “Trump Wants 'The Country Opened,' But Easing Coronavirus Restrictions Now Would Be Disastrous, Experts Say”, www.washingtonpost.com; and
- Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (2020), “Director Leading a Coronavirus Vaccine Effort Says He Was Ousted After Opposing Drug Touted by Trump”, www.time.com
15) For a description of my day-to-day mathematical, musical, and philosophical practices see Elliot Benjamin (2017), The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. Natural Dimension Publications: Winterport, Maine, U.S..; and Elliot Benjamin (2006), “My Conception of Integral”, www.integralworld.net
16) Julio Vincent Gambuto (2020), “Prepare For the Ultimate Gaslighting”, forge.medium.com
17) See the powerful video in which the names of the 48 nurses who died are read off at twitter.com
18) See Ed Yong (2020), “Our Pandemic Summer,” www.theatlantic.com
- Mark Sumner (2020), “The United States Has Not 'Flattened the Curve.' Pretending That It Has Invites Utter Disaster”, www.dailykos.com;
- Mark Sumner, “America Hasn't Flattened the Curve, and States Are Acting on Data That May Be Worse Than Worthless”, www.dailykos.com;
- Kerry Eleveld (2020), “A Coronavirus Wake-Up Call Is Coming to Red America, Complicating Trump's Push to Reopen”, www.dailykos.com;
- Dartagnan (2020), “Trump Planning to Scapegoat Others If His Strategy to 'Re-Opoen' the Country Results in More Deaths”, www.dailykos.com;
- Lefty Coaster (2020), “US Needs To Conduct 20 Million Tests Per Day To Reopen Fully”, www.msn.com; and
- Kerry Eleveld (2020), “Michigan Governor On Anti-Lockdown Protests: 'Worst Irony' Is They Could Force Longer Lockdowns”, www.dailykos.com