We Can’t Unscramble This Egg

The COVID vaccine–actually, now two of them–is on the way. Granted, the way is filled with potholes, thanks to the incompetence of an administration lacking any ability to govern effectively, but reliable sources estimate that vaccines will be broadly available by late spring. Thanks to a new administration that actually knows what it is doing, we can anticipate a return to something approximating normalcy by late in 2021.

Historians, sociologists, political scientists and assorted pundits will spend the next few decades trying to explain how we got here. By “we” I don’t just mean the United States, and by “here” I don’t just mean the pandemic and its mismanagement, or the incomprehensible fact that in November some 70+ million voters agreed to buy whatever excrement Trump and the GOP cult insist on selling.

Eventually, we will see the reasons for–and consequences of– disastrous governing decisions made by the U.S. and Great Britain, and the growth of right-wing terror and autocracy elsewhere. One of the few things that seems fairly clear now is that substantial numbers of people around the world are reacting against the realities of modernity and globalization and fearing the loss of familiar cultures and comfortable certainties.

A lot of those people are saying, essentially, “stop the world, I want to get off.” That, of course, is like trying to unscramble eggs.

There was a particularly perceptive essay by someone named William Falk in The Week, in which he suggested that we have a choice:  we can accept the reality of our interrelationships, and appreciate and embrace the insights and values of the Enlightenment, or we can retreat into superstition and suspicion.

The vaccines are a triumph of the Enlightenment values of science, reason, and evidence—all now under assault in a new Dark Ages in which demagogues and conspiracy theorists spread disinformation and distrust. Despite various attempts to claim credit, the vaccines would not exist without international cooperation. Moderna’s vaccine employs technology created by Hungarian-born scientist Katalin Kariko, and the company is run by a team of researchers and entrepreneurs from around the world. The Pfizer vaccine was created by second-generation Turkish immigrants to Germany, Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, and has been pushed past the finish line by company CEO Albert Bourla, an immigrant from Greece. The pandemic of 2020 will not be the last crisis endangering humanity. What we’ve relearned in this traumatic year is that all we hold dear is fragile, and that science, community, and empathy light the road forward.

It isn’t just the vaccines, of course. The global economy is inextricably interdependent. The threat of climate change doesn’t respect national borders–it requires a co-ordinated international response. Terrorism is a far different threat than conventional warfare, and requires international co-operation to root it out. There are multiple other examples, including most obviously COVID-19.

When the current pandemic is finally contained, the “normal” to which we return is unlikely to look like the “normal” we left. How it differs will depend upon the ability of humans to emerge from our tribal affiliations and work together. That, in turn, will depend mightily upon our ability to get a handle on the disinformation and hysteria promoted by our existing media landscape, especially the social media algorithms that incentivize its spread.

We really are at one of those tipping points that occur during human history.

We can accept the reality that we share an endangered planet inhabited by inevitably interrelated and interdependent populations, and that we need to create institutions that will allow us to save it and inhabit it peacefully, or we can give in to the forces trying to take humanity into a new Dark Ages and possible extinction. 

What we can’t do is evade the challenge and unscramble the global egg.


  1. When I was in high school, our chorus sang “No Man Is An Island”. In our global economy, no country is either.

  2. We can not move forward by looking backward, we need to understand our history, but hardening back to a nostalgic view of it will not move us forward!

  3. Sheila, I did not know until reading your post this morning, that the principals involved in development and deployment of the vaccine are relatively recent generations of immigrants. This becomes a fascinating story given the backdrop of the outgoing administration narrative. Truth cannot be unscrambled through the lens of disciplined work of independent historians. Thank God for librarians who catalog fiction to different sections from science.

  4. Jane; we cannot possibly understand our history without looking back, especially into our own dark chapters. It is not nostalgic for students to be required to study our history to seek the roots of how and why we are where we are today.

    “There was a particularly perceptive essay by someone named William Falk in The Week, in which he suggested that we have a choice: we can accept the reality of our interrelationships, and appreciate and embrace the insights and values of the Enlightenment, or we can retreat into superstition and suspicion.”

    We can maintain the heritage of our culture or tribal roots while living in the “reality of our interrelationships” if we let go of ego and open our minds to accept that our suspicion of “other” cultures and tribes are our enemies. The rampant racism always in evidence in this country. Trump is a prime example of an ego gone wild; those 70+ millions who continue to support him are suspicious of one another as well as their opposition.

    The explosion in Nashville, Tennessee on Christmas morning is an example of our own “scrambled egg” situation. Why Nashville, why that particular area, why warn their targets if they want to terrorize them; unscrambling that egg begins with looking into a new form of terrorism, another burden to be handed to the Biden administration.

  5. Those 70+million are getting what they’ve always wanted: Permission. It’s suddenly okay to feel superior to those “others”, okay to hate. They’ve been reinforced in their beliefs by the fact that someone who is exactly like them was elected President.

    The problem with history is that, even though we may read it, we just don’t seem able to understand what it’s telling us about ourselves. If we did, we wouldn’t be here.

  6. While researching my latest novel, I discovered that Dr. Anthony Fauci was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from none other than President George W. Bush in 2008.

    The current crap stain in the White House has labeled Dr. Fauci a “disaster” while doling out MOFs to all his favorite athletes and… wait for it… Rush Limbaugh. As Rick Wilson’s book title so aptly describes the wretch that stepped on the toothpaste tube, “Everything Trump Touches Dies”.

    It should come as no surprise that the pardon fiasco reflects the diseased mind of the mob boss in the White House. Well done to those 70+ million voters who were blinded by their own hate, fear, ignorance and bigotry. Well done to those 70+ million voters and their Republican water carriers. Those 70+ million “voters” belong to Wilson’s title too. They are Trump and Trump is them. Who knew there’d be so many of them?

  7. “When the current pandemic is finally contained, the “normal” to which we return is unlikely to look like the “normal” we left.”

    Sheila’s statement above may be the most important fact in our collective futures. We are facing a long, dark winter; many of us in isolation who live alone and struggle to keep to the changing safeguards for self-protection and maintaining what was once our basic day-to-day lives. We are facing a future without loved ones and friends who didn’t survive the Pandemic and those who have become those in need of help rather than being those who helped those in need and we may find ourselves among them. We face a future of losses we are not yet aware of and the possibility of loss of our own mental, emotional and economical stability. We are now looking into that abyss which is definitely looking back into us. Has our past lives as Americans made us strong enough to come through this era of chaos, violence and death; will we come “out the other side” better or worse?

  8. If history is any predictor of how this era is viewed, the shame and hypocrisy of our collective fall into cult and open bigotry will be shoved under the rug of nationalistic American exceptionalism. After all, don’t we have a hardcore group of “patriots” who deny the Holocaust? Don’t we have millions of voters who still remember the traitorous military generals of the Confederacy as heroes of the “lost cause”? Don’t we still have millions who are just fine with the systemic racism and white, male, Protestant patriarchy we continue to experience?
    The conditions of our blindness have been cemented into our culture as to be a hallmark of our identity as a country. Free market capitalism will be the acid eating away at the foundations of the Constitution as wealth and its power erode any equality and rule of law we ever had.

  9. Jane, your comment reminded me of a vacation I took maybe 15 years ago. We stayed a few nights in Vicksburg Mississippi. We took a tour of a historic mansion, now a B&B. I thought it was cute at the time, but the tour guide made it feel like the Civil War had ended in her lifetime and that they were still suffering from the injustices. I think she called it the “Northern war of aggression”. Today I now know that story she was telling the nostalgic propaganda of the “Lost Cause”. Looking back, I also bet she believed her own story and that is not just a show put on by the tourist.

    I can see that in 20 or 50 years from now a segment of the population will most likely be suffering from the “Lost Trump Cause” romantic propaganda because people in this country 160 years later are still trying to keep the Civil War “Lost Cause” egg unscrambled.

  10. Peggy, JD, Joanne, and others nail it to the wall.
    We do have to look back, AND try to extract lessons from the past
    Sadly, despite any “enlightenment,” we did not learn from history, as this piece indicates:
    I sent some information about vaccinations to a bunch of folks, yesterday. I included one person who is both particularly vulnerable because of a chronic illness, although she has long been a Trump fan. She was the only one to resent the receipt of the information, while others noted their appreciation. She is one of the 70 million for whom what, I guess, is our reality, is seen as bogus…much to their own detriment.

  11. Sheila, well timed summation of our lives both here and abroad.

    Joann, ” Why Nashville, why that particular area, why warn their targets if they want to terrorize them” Are some home grown terrorists kinder, gentler than others? Are there degrees of death and destruction chosen by these messengers? In the future can we expect warnings before parts of a city are blown to smithereens? Only the official details will tell the story of Nashville.

    And Norris, “principals involved in development and deployment of the vaccine are relatively recent generations of immigrants.” Those who do not know about this or even care about human endeavors and accomplishments mirror the hate and resentment syndrome that fuels the narrow minded and dangerous behavior we still fight to accept as our reality.

    Vernon: “It should come as no surprise that the pardon fiasco reflects the diseased mind of the mob boss in the White House.”
    Yep. ‘Diseased’ describes the perfect storm of hate, gun toting cult-minded groups needing power the world over. What it takes to curb or stop it is the question.
    As I watch all of this (as i have said ad nauseum) I feel we are all sailing on
    “The Ship of Fools” One of my favorite movies highlighting human behavior (both the best and worst)
    And Norris, I am one of those librarians. Retired now, but I thank you for your acknowledgement.

  12. One reason 70 million people voted for Trump is that he has a zero tolerance policy on immigration, and if it means torturing people, them if that stops illegal immigration, then hooray for Trump.

  13. “…someone named William Falk…” William Falk is editor-in-chief of THE WEEK, a publication he shepherded from a thin infant weekly news magazine to the force it is today. THE WEEK was founded in the UK in 1995, and began publishing an American edition in 2001. I’ve been a loyal subscriber since I discovered it roughly 15 years ago; I consider it to be the only unbiased news periodical on the market. I’m mildly surprised that you’re unfamiliar with it, Sheila. Give it a look — I think you’ll be impressed!

  14. Sheila,

    You have captured the single word that best describes every word, deed and action of the Trump administration – excrement.

  15. From Sheila:

    “One of the few things that seems fairly clear now is that substantial numbers of people around the world are reacting against the realities of modernity and globalization and fearing the loss of familiar cultures and comfortable certainties.

    A lot of those people are saying, essentially, “stop the world, I want to get off.” That, of course, is like trying to unscramble eggs.”

    We also have to contend with Steroid Capitalism which a huge part of “modernity and globalization”. I have purchased face masks and gloves – Made in China and/or Made Malaysia. It is pathetic that items like this have to be imported.

    China is unique a one party Communist Dictatorship with few human rights that has managed to incorporate capitalism into it’s system.

    People might not fear “modernity and globalization” if there was a sense of fair play. What we have witnessed beginning with Reagan and continuing up to today is the triumph of global steroid capitalism.

    It is stunning to me the brutality of our system here in the USA and there seems to be no way to change course.

  16. What happens when you feed a dog off of the table?

    Not only will the dog continue to sit at the table waiting to be fed, it will also sneak into the kitchen and pull food off of the countertop, snatch a sandwich off of your plate, and just continue to push the limits even if those limits have adverse consequences or make it sick.

    So, you decide to reverse the damage, but reversing the damage doesn’t work because the dog has gotten a taste of what it craves! To retrain that dog, is really impossible, because the dog will continue to desire what it’s always craved because it’s gotten a taste of it. So the dog becomes more creative in its ways of getting what it wants, even if it’s detrimental to its well-being!

    Compare humans to dogs? Why not! To a dog, it’s human master is probably like it’s God, or, the leader of its pack. A dog will be deferential to its master unless it feels it can get away with something on the sly.

    No different from humans, humans get a taste of what they crave, power, authority, and endless desirables, but really feel there is no one to be answerable to! When the genie has been let out of the bottle, or the dog has been fed from the table, there is no reversing course, there is no unscrambling the egg or deconstructing the omelette so to speak.

    There is no penalty in their mind, because the other tribe is no more powerful than they are. There is no authority above themselves, therefore, they do is they desire.

    The only way around something like that, is to have an extremely authoritarian government to put the kibosh on that type of behavior, but then how is that any different from what’s happening now? Go from one extreme to the other?

    When you “Eliminate” the capacity for large swaths humanity to embrace compassion, empathy, (phileo)(adelphos)/Philadelphia/brotherly love, and what’s always been known as fruitage of the spirit, which includes, “LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITH, MILDNESS, SELF-CONTROL” you have society that’s devoid of functionality! A society that does not strive for the greater good but only selfish desires!

    John 15:13 reads; “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.”

    Wow, that would have to take a lot of love and a lot of faith! That would be something greater than self! But how many in our present society have that capacity?

    Mankind is guilty of making its own unfixable predicaments, without a silver bullet to be found!

    But why is that? Because of the innate desire to be answerable to no one, but a slave to flawed philosophies which are concoctions from a flawed intellect.

  17. With all due respect folks,

    I think you all have not comprehended what Larry was saying!

    He was putting himself in the shoes of the 70+ million supporters of the current POTUS. And, That’s what they believe, and, NOT what he believes.

  18. Mitch D, we are in agreement: we can learn from our past.

    One way we tracked the measles epidemic in the1950s was by sampling municipal wastewater for the virus. Exactly this process is being used today to track Covid-19 virus in Indiana cities of Bloomington, Angola, Carmel and West Lafayette where quantification of presence of Covid RNA in the waste stream of those communities is being measured.

    What’s interesting to see is side-by-side comparison plotting of public health tracking of community Covid disease cases against wastewater detection of Covid RNA and visually mark the correlation.

    That data comparison is exactly what is available from Bozeman, MT. Nine months (March-Dec) of Gallatin Co. data are viewable on-line for all to see. Follow the county data link within this article:


    In particular, see the 3/26/20 30-day Stay at Home order that ended with an apparent report of zero cases of Covid sickness in the Bozeman community. The graph shows that ending the order was a severe public health error, because the wastewater data showed Covid RNA was still present. Indicators exploded to five times their previous measure in the wastewater before cases of illness began to climb again in the community. The implication is that the Stay-at-Home order was suppressing the disease; ending it enabled Covid to spread.

    This type of wastewater testing is a powerful predictor of hidden Covid that will, in days or weeks to come, show up as sick individuals who were previously asymptomatic, but, in fact, were shedding the (not-infectious) RNA remains of virus into the waste stream.

    Blake Wiedenheft, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Montana State University and a member of the university’s COVID-19 task force initiated this program. Wiedenheft has been working with the City of Bozeman Water Reclamation Facility to monitor the virus.

  19. I think John Sorg is correct. Larry was just employing a literary/rhetorical device in which he puts himself in the shoes of Trump supporters, explaining why they do what they do. I didn’t take that to mean that was HIS position.

    Currently reading a book on the eugenics movement. Just finished the last episode of a podcast on David Duke. It’s just amazing to me how everything is all connected: eugenics, anti-immigration, prohibition, the Klan, David Duke, Donald Trump. The similarities between Duke and Trump are shocking. Trump’s racism was less obvious than Duke’s, and he is not as smart as Duke, but they had the same message and had the same cult-like following. The big difference is Trump had the “Apprentice” which he was able to use to create a phony narrative as a successful businessman.

  20. Monotonous rightly brings capitalism into play on the topic for the day. Strange, isn’t it, that we of this blog resemble the Trumpists in that we abhor imports of products from other countries but vary in that we welcome immigrants with all the nativism and cries of exceptionalism such a stance brings to the table (as though we all are not immigrants, even the Indians who came to an empty continent). I think it was Newton who posited that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. I have long since thought that this observation on the physical sciences had application to the social sciences, or some of them.

    Thus, as for “Stop the world, I want to get off” per Sheila today, I have often written the same as the Trumpists have invaded my cozy world of Piketty and Stiglitz, and as for worlds, it depends upon whose world we are talking about. To the Trumpists, I suppose, we are the invaders of their black-white, non-immigrant, prairie schooner economics world of American exceptionalism.

    If this is the basic problem, one of perspective, however ignorantly or brilliantly or even violently expressed, then perhaps we can find unity by working to come to agreement between these competing “reactions” that divide us via, however difficult, parley, and if successful begin a golden era of detente. Given the 80-70 ratio, a fragile majority, it’s worth a try. Where are the diplomats?

  21. Life evolves successfully because mutations more favorable to the current environment over time displace mutations less able to result in differential reproductive success. So it is with culture.

    We have created an environment which requires our adaptation. There are too many of us and we are on the average turning natural resources into waste at a rate that can’t sustain the human race on earth. We will change to suit reality, not vice versa. The choice is between managing the change or suffering it.

    From the current chaos will emerge over time new cultures and a settlement with our only home in terms of what works for life and earth. The time to achieve that will be measured not in the scale of our days but over the scale of generations.

  22. On a pessimistic Tuesday morning, I cannot shake the memory of a large poster on display in a 60’s pipe paraphernalia shop. It was of a single obese white male in his late 40’s in soiled underwear with a large serving of excrement drooling from both cupped hands together as if an offering with a dreadful look of utter disgust in his face. The declaration underneath read: “10 million flies can’t be wrong.” 50 years later would 70 make that more convincing?

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