When you can no longer tell if someone is telling you the truth, then your relationship with that person is cast adrift, like a boat untied from a dock. If they didn't give you the whole truth, or even outright lied to your face, that at least would still be something you could depend on. You could work with it. But once you reach the point where you literally cannot tell when they are speaking the truth or lying, then the nerve is cut. It's dead.
"The first casualty of war is truth."
Truth, it turns out, is essential. The moral relativists and post-modernists were wrong. Even if it's just the tiniest sliver of truth, even if the truth is based only on one's own personal experience, we have to have some of it in order to function at all as a society.
I give you as a perfect example our public health bureaucracy and this latest "virus of concern". I don't believe it's possible to tell who is telling the truth about the pandemic now. There are two narratives about it, and they are in complete contradiction to one another. The data are so compromised, the missing puzzle pieces so large, and the motivations of the players so mixed that there is no basis for knowing which one of them is true. Only with the passage of time, when the chaff has settled to the floor, will anyone ever know. We may have to wait for an entire generation to pass before that happens.
So Now What?
If we can't know the truth about a crisis, we're left with that most basic of responses: fight or flight. We either hunker down, believe the side which tells us to be the most afraid and do exactly as we are told, or we grab control of the situation and meet the crisis ourselves.
The "conservative" position here is flight. People are naturally conservative, naturally protective, and naturally risk-averse. When someone tells them that there is a deadly pandemic which can kill their loved ones, of course their first instinct is to hunker down.
But what of the Chicken Little effect? What if the immediate fear turns out to be unfounded? What if the threat stubbornly stays remote? What if you have to rely on statistics to make your case instead of just telling people to look with their own eyes?
That is when those counseling fear and caution must push even harder, doubling down and amplifying the threat of a looming catastrophe. But the longer time goes on, the more the beat of that drum just becomes background noise. That's exactly where we are now.
The one, sure thing we know about the pandemic now is this: whatever kind of threat this is, it isn't an emergency. It just isn't. An emergency by definition is something you can see and feel. It's imminent, obvious, real. This ain't it.
So flight really is no longer a valid response. What remains is to fight, to take control and deal with things ourselves. Here is my new rule, going forward: unless my physician tells me to do something, it's optional as far as I'm concerned. I'm certainly not going to listen to anyone in the public health bureaucracy, that's for sure. Those folks aren't just a disappointment, they're an active threat to public health as near as I can tell.
Furthermore, the time has long since passed for any civic gestures on my part. We're all adults here. I don't need to send any "signals", I don't need to express any "solidarity" with others. This is now entirely on me, just as it's now on them.
Now we just go on with our lives.