Philosophy: Who Needs It
I am back from my vacation and also from three or four days recovering from covid.
Yes, that’s right, I finally left my cave, and as punishment, I got covid. I’m hearing the same thing from everyone I know who has traveled recently: Leave home and get sick.
I can tell you exactly why. It’s partly because omicron and its subvariants are highly transmissible. But it’s mostly because almost everyone else in the world has given up on taking any precautions whatsoever. We were still taking precautions—wearing masks in indoor or crowded spaces, eating at outdoor cafes wherever possible, and so on—and that kept us clear for two weeks. But if everyone else is just letting covid run rampant, eventually it will catch up to you, which it did at the very end of our trip.
Part of our calculation in leaving our bubble is that we are all vaccinated to the hilt, so those in the family who got covid found it to be relatively mild—not a recommended experience, let me assure you, but not life-threatening in this case. The vaccines are still doing their job in that respect. With the new versions of covid, reinfection and “long covid” still seem to be issues, so I am not going to decide that I’m immune now and just ignore covid from now on. But I’ve finally had my brush with this disease and gotten through it.
Now it’s time to catch up on a great deal that happened while I was gone.
I will pass quickly by the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which seems to have been committed by a crazy person without any particular political agenda. I will just refer you to this overview of Abe’s legacy. The upshot is that he helped modernize Japanese corporate governance, encouraged Japan to compensate for its declining demographics by welcoming immigrants and bringing women into the workforce, and made Japan into a more substantial strategic counterbalance to China.
I’ll also skip over the impending resignation of Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister. Johnson’s place in the history books is secure as the man who made Brexit happen, but as far as I can tell, nothing else of major consequence depends on whether Johnson stays or goes. He has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, but that policy is widely popular in Britain and is certain to continue under his successor.
There have been some important Supreme Court rulings—and not just the final version of the Dobbs ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade—but that story is so big it will have to wait for a whole separate newsletter.
Let’s take a brief look at what has been happening in Ukraine. Largely, the result is what I feared. After their earlier failures, the Russian army has discovered the one thing they’re good at: concentrating massive amounts of artillery fire. This complements another longstanding Russian policy: total indifference to mass death. They are willing to destroy a city completely so they can take over the rubble.
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