17 March 2020

Back in the age of sail

We're all used to air travel and the sort of world where you can go from England to Australia in a short count of hours; being six hours late is a significant annoyance.

Before that, it was steamships; there was a set schedule, and you were more or less good for arrival to the day.

Before that, it's the age of sail; you don't have weather forecasting, you don't have wireless, you don't have any prospect of knowing just what is going to happen.  Pirates? could be.  So you provision as well as you can, you stock spare spars and cordage and sailcloth,  and you don't make detailed plans.  You know where you intend to go and you're going to have stuff to deal with along the way.

That's pretty much where we are now; we don't know how things are going to work out with the pandemic, we don't know when or if there will be a vaccine, we don't know how to run the economy in quarantine, and dealing with something indifferent to money or the exercise of power is an outside context problem for pretty much everybody in the halls of power in the Anglosphere.  There's going to be a learning experience.

So, here we are: today, we can't any of us make a detailed plan with a timeline.  We're back in the age of sail, checking the spare spars and the cordage, being generous to distressed fellow mariners (because it could be us tomorrow), and doing our best to deal with the events our circumstances present.

That has sufficed prosperity before; it may well suffice prosperity again, even if we do all have to make a concerted effort to get used to new rules and approaches.

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