Coronavirus Diary (51): Reality Check with Chris Sciabarra

As philosophers from Plato to Popper have argued, there’s enormous value in the dialectical clash of divergent opinions: we learn, and arguably converge on the truth, through the process of disagreement. But there’s also something to be said for the solidarity produced by agreement on basic facts and values, as well as a sense of shared purpose. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve relied on different people for one or both of those things, but relied consistently on Chris Sciabarra for the latter: for whatever reason, Chris and I basically agree on how to think about the COVID-19 crisis, as well as what to do about it.

To that end, I highly recommend his most recent blog post (the nineteenth in his series), Reality Check, on life and death in New York as a result of COVID-19. And check out the links, especially the paper near the end by Jeffrey Harris of the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City.” Arguably, the problems Harris describes there haven’t yet been resolved, and won’t be until New Yorkers deal with the problems of homelessness and housing in their city–yet another indication of the interconnectedness of what are often thought of as discrete “topics.” Among other things, Harris’s paper raises a practical question for me: what do I do with my old MTA subway cards? Get them the hell out of my house, or donate them to science?

I have two maps on my office wall, one of Palestine and one of the New York-New Jersey metro area; I think of both, in some sense, as “maps of home.” I’ve often found myself musing on the fact that the one-horse “transit hub” where I live in Jersey, Whitehouse Station, is located at almost exactly the same latitude on the map as Sciabarra’s neighborhood in the Gravesend part of Brooklyn. I don’t know that that really explains anything, but as far as COVID-19 is concerned, it’s a metaphor that captures what matters.

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