Sociality and interdependence is our species’ strength but is simultaneously also our weakness. The complex networks and intangible feedback loops of behaviour, communication, material artefacts and technologies upon which we have built a Global civilisation, such as it is, are autonomously self-propagating information systems. Once such psychological, social and cultural systems have gained energy and momentum they bias the creation of their own “weather patterns” and self-validating symbolic, narrative or cultural rationales.
The indefinitely-extensible referential matrix of social and cultural or ideological and narrative systems bears an uncanny resemblance to the recursively self-propagating context of a pandemic. This is because, at base, all of these are instances of the same underlying logic and physics of systemic self-replication that inflates the complex adaptive systems we inhabit – and that, equally, inhabit us.
Many people have no effective frame of reference or cognitive playbook for living in a time of existential threats; the new rules-sets, realities and narratives are written in a language unknown to them. Effective behavioural adjustments across our entire world require, among all other vectors of pandemic interdiction, a rapid development of narrative.