During the early weeks of the Covid Crackdown, I tried to maintain a normal work schedule, just doing so from home. I’ve worked from home before, so I was prepared for the pitfalls that come with the home office. In fact, I have a home office setup just to avoid those pitfalls. The reality of the crackdown, however, started to sink in at the end of the second week, so I have transitioned to treating this as an involuntary vacation from reality. I’m going to use the free time as best I can.
The weather is getting better here in Lagos so I decided one thing I can do is get some time in on the bike. I ride in the winter, but this year not as much. Spring is always a good time to ride in the country and with the crackdown it means far fewer cars on the road than typical. Good or ill, people are obeying the crackdown orders in the spirit of civic duty and perhaps genuine concern. Regardless, I took advantage of it last week and hit the road out in the county for a long ride.
That really is the striking thing about being out during the crackdown. It has a post-apocalyptic vibe, just no zombies or roving gangs of survivors. I saw a few people running or walking their dogs, but otherwise, everyone was inside. Even on a beautiful spring day, no people. If you have ever seen video of North Korea, where traffic cops perform their duty, despite there being no traffic, that is what it is like in parts of the country right now. Civilization just waiting for civilized people.
A great example of the eeriness was a private golf club. The gate was open, so I went in, figuring they were allowing the golfers onto the driving range. There was one car parked near what I assumed was the maintenance building. The sprinklers were running, but otherwise, no people. I rode the cart paths around the course and did not see a soul. It turns out the state has banned the playing of golf, along with most other forms of enjoyment. A reminder that this is not really about the virus.
I left the golf course and headed to some roads I ride a lot in the summer, as they tend to be quiet and have a good combination of hills and valleys. Another cyclist, younger than me, was out so we rode together through the empty country roads. Adding to the weirdness, he was wearing a Reagan T-shirt. I’m guessing he was in his 20’s, so he was not alive when Reagan died. I guess there is some sort of nostalgia cult forming up among young white guys for Reagan.
The Mid-Atlantic is a forgotten region in many ways, but it has some great cycling opportunities if you’re into that sort of thing. The mountains are a short drive to the west and the ocean is a short drive east. In between there is a lot of good terrain. I told him that there was a very steep climb up ahead and that I may not attempt it. I’ve never been a great climber and now that I’m in my dotage, I’m even worse. At 220, I don’t exactly have the body type to be on the professional tour.
My young friend said something like “you can do it”, so not wanting to look like an old man, I decided to forge ahead., I threw all the fury my old body could muster into the climb and eventually made it to top in better shape than I expected. I coughed up part of a lung, did the Rocky pose at the top and then realized by companion never made the climb up the hill. When he said, “you can do it” he was being literal. He had no intention of tackling a steep climb. Some people just don’t like challenges.
After the climb, the road gets flat and the scenery is a blend of old country houses and some older ad hoc development. It makes for a pleasant ride. Maryland is one of those strange parts of the country where you can go from the land of suburbanite bug men to old time country living in a few miles. Get far enough away from Lagos itself and the state is quite beautiful, with an aesthetic that is unique. The state has always been a strange confluence of the surrounding regions.
I went over this weird little bridge and saw a couple of soyish looking guys standing by a car pulled over to the side of the road. I approached thinking they were having car trouble, but then I saw one of them was wearing a Reason T-shirt. I stopped and beat them. They knew why. Just in case I also said that Hans Herman-Hoppe spells his name wrong. I may have mentioned some unfortunate things about Ayn Rand’s personal life. You can never be too thorough with these types.
I continued on down what is more like a lane than a road. This is an odd part of the county, where you can pass a big beautiful home that looks like a country estate, but across the street can be a dilapidated old dump. In some cases, what used to be a farm was parceled off into lots back in the last century. There will be a beautiful old farm house then a handful of brick ranchers. It is a reminder that in the last century, the classes used to live in closer proximity to one another than today.
A house that always makes me smile is a run-down dump of place with a big Confederate flag posted out front. It has some other flag with what looks like a Norse rune on it. The house is across from a big old farm house. Most likely, the farmers started parceling off their land as economic reality required. The Compsons kept selling off lots in an effort to keep up appearances, but eventually, the old farm was all Snopes and no Compson. Now it is the Snopes clan keeping up appearances.
Having ridden past the house many times, I noted that the flags were once again in new condition, while the house was a little worse off since the last time I saw it. I always imagine the owner putting out those flags, thinking that soon, his efforts will pay off and the fortunes of his cause will change. On the other hand, maybe he just hates his neighbors and this is his way of punishing them. Either way, his neighbors no doubt notice his flags, but find a way to ignore them too.
That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. You can be sure the neighbors in their neat little ranchers think burning flags and toppling over statues is monstrous. They just lack the courage to do anything about it. So, while they privately agree with their redneck neighbor, they also wish he would just go along with it. His protest is not really about the flag or what he may think it represents. It’s against his neighbors. At the same time, their resentment for him is that he won’t just go away.
I went down what I think may be a private lane, but I’ve never been sure. It runs along a tiny creek or brook. Even though my head perfectly understands it, I’m always amazed to see anglers on these little bits of stream. Wherever there is water, nature finds a way to put some fish, which means nature finds a way to put a fisherman. For whatever reason it reminded me of an old fishing buddy. He and I probably stood together in rivers and streams more than on dry land. I should give him a call.
Coming back to my bit of the world, I could not help but think about how easy everyone has gone along with the crackdown. Americans may say they don’t trust their politicians or the media, but in the end, they trusted them completely on this panic. You can be sure the politicians and media are both feeling bold right now, having seen tens of millions dutifully follow their commands. No matter what happens in the near term, the long-term cost of that will far outweigh the threat of the virus.
The empty parks and streets are a good reminder that civilization is people, not the stuff made by people. If a bunch of strangers moved into our empty towns right now, it would not be the same. Soon, they would transform the stuff to reflect their will. Right now, our civilization is full of people ready to cower under their bed when the people in charge come up with a decent ghost story. I half wonder if the people in charge are doing this just to see if there is any fight left in us.
All of this reminds me of a great Joe Sobran quote. “By today’s standards King George III was a very mild tyrant indeed. He taxed his American colonists at a rate of only pennies per annum. His actual impact on their personal lives was trivial. He had arbitrary power over them in law and in principle but in fact it was seldom exercised. If you compare his rule with that of today’s U.S. Government you have to wonder why we celebrate our independence.”
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