Magical thinking

posted August 06, 2020 at 12:20 am
"Can one’s ideas, thoughts, or wishes truly influence the course of events in the physical world?"

With more than 155,000 of his people dead from COVID-19 and 4.7 million Americans infected, US President Donald Trump insists that his administration is doing “an incredible job” and that it has the pandemic well under control.

"Well, I think that we're doing very well and we have done as well as any nation," he told reporters at a press briefing this week, even as the average number of daily deaths had climbed back up to more than 1,000.

With the pandemic still raging in several large southern states, the numbers do not bear him out. Data from Johns Hopkins University show the United States leads the world in both the number of COVID-19 infections and the number of deaths. For a country that accounts for only 4 percent of the world’s population, the US has 25 percent of its COVID-19 cases and 22 percent of its coronavirus deaths.

Yet, when asked by CNN why his own administration’s health experts were contradicting his rosy assessment, Trump did not budge. “I think we’re doing a great job,” he said.

In other instances, Trump has said the coronavirus will one day just disappear, even without a vaccine.

It is a stunning display of magical thinking, the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, or wishes can influence the course of events in the physical world.

There are disturbing parallels here.

Health officials in the Philippines reported 6,352 new infections Tuesday, setting yet one-day record, but Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the rest of the country outside of Metro Manila and Central Visayas was doing well.

Like Trump, Ano said we were “doing good compared to other countries” such as the United States and Brazil. Given Trump’s abject failure in addressing the pandemic, this may be true, but should we really be congratulating ourselves by pointing to the misfortunes of others? Instead, we need to ask: Why, after the longest lockdown in the world, aren’t we doing any better? We should also look into the accountability of those in charge of the response, that has been far from ideal.

There are marked differences in the two responses, of course. While Trump says the virus will one day just disappear and takes every opportunity to blame China for the “Wuhan virus,” our President is banking on the good graces of Beijing to give the Philippines priority access to a vaccine when it finally becomes available. Sadly, neither of those seems to be a well-considered or comprehensive plan to tame the raging pandemic.

Topics: Editorial , Magical thinking , COVID-19 , US President Donald Trump
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