As we cower in our apartments

As Pittsburgh closes down public recreation facilities to enforce social distancing during the pandemic,[1] it’s worth remembering who’s making the greater sacrifice here:
Fig. 1. Cartoon by Patrick Blower, April 6, 2020, via the Telegraph, fair use.

As I drive people around and drive to and from driving them around, I see lots of “social distancing” violations. A football game among friends here, people traveling to parties in close-knit communities there. These people don’t live well. They have hard and often dangerous jobs, if they have them at all—COVID-19 is just one more risk among many—for which they are poorly compensated. Having been told their entire lives that their lives aren’t worth a living wage, they live in cramped and dismal apartments, the sort that are “good enough” for the poor.

For such people, the lockdown is yet another form of oppression. It’s a little too easy for the rich to tell them to “stay at home.”

And it isn’t just the poor, as middle-aged fans of a Pink Floyd cover band chanted “Fuck the Police” as the latter arrived to disperse a concert[2] and a pastor in Lodi, California, refused to stop holding services, even sending the city a cease-and-desist order seeking to prevent police from further disrupting those services.[3]

I don’t buy much at Whole Foods any more, even though what I would buy is often cheaper there: Hoarders have eviscerated its usefulness. But when I stopped in at one that’s a little better stocked than the one closest to my home last evening, I was greeted by an employee who looked at her smartphone and informed me it was okay to enter.

I am seeing lines outside Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, and even Walmart. People standing six feet apart. Last time I went into Giant Eagle, it wasn’t even possible to maintain social distancing, creating a dissonance as I then attempted to maintain such social distancing, standing where I was supposed to stand, six feet back from the cashier in the checkout line. It’s all madness. Madness piled on top of madness.

Meanwhile, the day before yesterday, I said I was waiting for the number of COVID-19 fatalities in New York City alone to exceed the entire 9/11 death toll.[4]

It didn’t take long. When I looked this morning, the count stood at 3,048.[5] There are so many people to thank:

I think we might be starting to see a specific path to human extinction here with the capitalist imperative,[6] an absolute fiasco of testing,[7] and a supremacy of malfeasance.[8][9]

9/11 provided a rationale, however incorrect, for wars that have killed many more in absolute vain,[10] and a relentless Islamophobia, including that fomented by our delusional raging narcissist-in-chief.

Will we now turn on our political and economic leaders the way we did Muslims? The silence of our own hypocrisy, even as we cower in our apartments, is deafening.

  1. [1]WTAE, “City of Pittsburgh announces new social distancing restrictions,” March 30, 2020,
  2. [2]Ewan Palmer, “Middle-aged crowd break COVID-19 stay-at-home order to watch Pink Floyd cover band, chant ‘f*** the police’ as officers arrive,” Newsweek, April 6, 2020,
  3. [3]Hailey Branson-Potts, “Pastor who refuses to cancel Sunday services because of coronavirus greeted by police,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2020,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “COVID-19 may expose a path to human extinction,” Irregular Bullshit, April 4, 2020,
  5. [5]Center for Systems Science and Engineering, “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases,” April 6, 2020, Johns Hopkins University
  6. [6]Citations updated, April 6, 2020: David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020,; David Benfell, “When nothing happened next,” Not Housebroken, March 29, 2020,; Mike Snider, “Work strikes at Amazon, Instacart and Whole Foods show essential workers’ safety concerns,” USA Today, March 30, 2020,
  7. [7]David Benfell, “When ‘good’ news might not be so good,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2020,; Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Aaron C. Davis, “Coronavirus death toll: Americans are almost certainly dying of covid-19 but being left out of the official count,” Washington Post, April 5, 2020,; Shawn Boburg et al., “Inside the coronavirus testing failure: Alarm and dismay among the scientists who sought to help,” Washington Post, April 3, 2020,; Christopher Weaver, “Questions About Accuracy of Coronavirus Tests Sow Worry,” Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2020,
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Why do Republicans seem better prepared to present proposals on coronavirus relief than Democrats?” Irregular Bullshit, March 20, 2020,; David Benfell, “While neoliberal hot air floats over gig workers’ heads, here’s the Trump administration,” Not Housebroken, March 23, 2020,; Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020,; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020,; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020,; Nick Martin, “This Is Crisis Colonization,” New Republic, March 30, 2020,; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020,; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020,; David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020,; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020,; Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “COVID-19 may expose a path to human extinction,” Irregular Bullshit, April 4, 2020,
  10. [10]Simon Jenkins, “The US and Britain face no existential threat. So why do their wars go on?” Guardian, November 15, 2019,; Dion Nissenbaum and Ehsanullah Amiri, “U.S., Taliban Sign Deal Meant to End America’s Longest War,” Wall Street Journal, February 29, 2020,; Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019,; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019,; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019,; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019,; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019,; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019,