A Walk in the Park
In an interview on March 31, 2019, about 13 months ago, Howard Bloom told our readers that as a board member of the National Space Society, he, his friend, Buzz Aldrin, and others, were planning a 50th anniversary celebration of one of America’s greatest achievements, the Apollo 11 moon landing.
“A key aspect of what I’m up to,” he said, “is giving America a positive vision of its future. I’d like to brainstorm America’s next big leaps.”
As detailed in our article accompanying the interview, Bloom is one of America’s most brilliantly diverse and accomplished thinkers. Thus, we thought it imperative to check back in with him at this most dire of times in America’s history. Following are his thoughts about COVID-19 and other important topics.
On Brooklyn Pond
After growing up in Buffalo NY, which Bloom labels, “an accident,” he moved to Brooklyn in 1964 and still calls the gentrified New York City borough home today. This just happens to be ‘ground zero’ for the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic in America. When you consider the financial crisis in 2008 and the 9/11 terrorist attack, bearing the brunt of our largest crises is nothing new for our largest American city.
Bloom conducted our interview in one of his favorite spots on earth, Prospect Park, while on his 3-mile mid-day walk. He carries with him a cell phone and two Kindles, one for books and the other for magazines. He once told us to “forget meditating and trying to clear your mind of everything. Fill your mind with a perpetual flow – that’s heaven.”
“The park is 580 acres,” he said, “and it is crowded during the day. It takes some dodging and weaving to socially distance,” which to him means staying 15 feet away from other people. He repeats the 3-mile walk at 10:30 each evening, when the dodging and weaving isn’t as necessary.
We found him to be every bit the consummate Renaissance man, and a romanticist as well. He speaks in a direct, meticulous, professorial manner, and his mind is clearly filled with ‘a perpetual flow.’ For instance, he veered away from our conversation to tell us about two ponds in the park, one smaller, one larger, and the two swans who inhabit them. “Oh look,” he said with unbridled joy, “there are the swans.” He also took notice of a “little French bulldog here” and the delight in his voice was unmistakable.
“I have to watch the news like a hawk,” he said, “because I’m on call five days a week to appear on Coast to Coast AM, the highest-rated talk radio show in North America. Usually we discuss a variety of topics, but these days it’s coronavirus 24/7. So, I’m on that case.”“I’m strong and healthy,” he reports, “but a good friend of mine, since his dog was a puppy, is an emergency room physician so I’ve been concerned about him.”
He goes on to say, “he informed me that all the people are coming into the emergency room looking strong as a horse and healthy as can be, presenting with minor flu symptoms, and two days later they’re dead. The illness hits with remarkable rapidity and remarkable fatality.”
Bloom usually does his diversity of work-related projects at a Park Slope café called ‘the Chocolateria,’ Upon its mandated shut down, he moved his workspace into his home, a haunting alternative due to his frightening medical history.
In 1988, the young man busily building the most powerful public relations firm in the music industry became severely ill from an unknown cause (now known to be ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’). He didn’t have the strength to leave his home, and his bed, for 15 grueling years. “Being at home has always been a bit of a nightmare for me,” he says now, “but I’m busy with work – I’m overwhelmed with work – so it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.”
Regarding his extended home confinement, he said, “I had no future, and with no future I had no identity. I was no longer human.” At the same time, the dawning of the internet’s connectedness to the outside world probably saved his life. He not only got back to work, but began authoring a series of intellectually stunning, best-selling books on his laptop while propped up on pillows.
As to the shutdown’s most distressing impact on his life, Bloom said, “The love of my life, and she really is the love of my life, lives in South Africa. I was supposed to go there on Sunday to be with her starting today.”
He was forced to cancel his trip, as you can imagine. While he said, “this has affected a very important part of my life,” he also acknowledged that too many people are suffering much greater consequences from the pandemic.He doesn’t live with family, saying “I have a domestic manager who takes care of my laundry and food, and an assistant who takes care of my work stuff, and a beautiful Asian house guest who tries to chip in and disinfect things. At this point, that’s the group with whom I live, and so far, all of them are healthy, thank God.”
Solving the Problem
Always looking at crises through the lens of opportunity, Bloom has an idea for how to solve the virus problem in America sooner than later. He referenced a town named Vo, saying it’s the very first town in Italy in which the virus showed up.“About three weeks ago,” he continued, “a bunch of experimenters from the university, and God knows who else, created an experiment. They tested all 3,300 townspeople, every single one of them, for the coronavirus. They found 66 of them who were infected. They quarantined the 66 and the spread of the virus stopped dead in its tracks.”
He believes the only certain way to stop the virus in America is to test every man, woman and child, roughly 320 million people.
“We are currently testing at the rate of 100,000 a day,” he said, “which our president says is ‘a magical miracle and we should all give thanks to his extraordinary brilliance at running the country.’ But if we keep testing at that rate it would take us 9 years to test all of America’s citizens – and we must test all of America’s citizens because we have to stop it.”
Starting from Scratch
We asked Mr. Bloom for his post-pandemic vision of America’s opportunity for economic recovery, especially the businesses that are being most damaged by the shutdown. It was time for him to tell us a short story, which goes like this:
“Once upon a time, there was a guy who got involved in the issues that would lead to the Civil War, abolitionists in particular, and the Copperheads in New York City. He had a business in New York City, and the sympathizers of the South in the city burned his business down. He was in his 50’s at the time. He lost everything. And he started all over again from scratch, and he ended up better off than he had been before. His name was P.T. Barnum.”
It’s a story of American resilience and undying spirit, and Bloom made it clear that the same opportunity Barnum had in the 1870s to rebuild his life is available to every American and world citizen in 2020, even the most badly damaged.
Lift, Upgrade, Empower
Bloom also offered a timely suggestion while we’re still managing our way through the quarantine.
“Work on the things that you love the most. Take advantage of this time to focus on them because you’ve got spare time, in all probability. Do what you can to do the things you always thought would be the most important in your life. And the things that you thought would add the most to the lives of your fellow human beings.”
He strongly suggests that we should “lift, upgrade, empower,” our fellow human beings.
An Ode to Capitalism
Finally, we asked Mr. Bloom how he thinks the pandemic will impact life in America and the world as we look ahead. His answer was a soliloquy, an ode to capitalism, and we have endeavored to print it below in full.
But before that, we’ll thank him now for an extraordinarily cerebral walk in the park and will look forward to another opportunity when world conditions have markedly improved. In the meantime, here is Howard Bloom’s Ode to Capitalism:
“People, like the woman I love, believe that capitalism is vicious and has to go, and that everything will collapse, because of this pandemic, and that a new order will spring up in its place which will finally be equitable, just and fair.
That is a wild fantasy.
First of all, everyone thought the world was going to end in 1917. First, in 1914, they thought it was going to end with the first world war. Then, they saw Russia fall, and be utterly transformed in a way that wasn’t nice at all, in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the same year as the Spanish Flu. The great influenza epidemic took place between 1917 & 1918 and an estimated 50 million people died.
So, everyone was expecting that that would be the collapse of the capitalist system, replaced with a communist system like the one that had taken over Russia. And the country, America, came back from this pandemic that was far worse than the pandemic we’re experiencing now. The old order came back, and capitalism came back.
Because the capitalist system is not an ideology. Marxism is an ideology. You shape the state to fit the pattern of your ideas, your so-called rational ideas. And capitalism is something that was given a few parameters, around 1600, joint-stock companies, and then has shaped itself ever since. It’s been a living, evolutionary system, and that system represents the metabolism of the social beast, the metabolism to order.
And if it is ever replaced, first of all, chaos leads to nightmares. Chaos is not replaced by wonderful things, by paradises and utopias. It is replaced by monstrous nightmares. Secondly, we have no human system that’s yet to be conceived that does its job better of uplifting people and changing their lives than capitalism.
Here are some of the achievements of what I call the Western system. The Western system consists of a balancing act, between private industry, what we call capitalism, socialism, in other words government, and the protest industry, which is a self-corrective mechanism. And here are some of the things that system has produced since 1850:
Had you been born in 1850, your life expectancy would have been 38.5 years. Born in 2000, your life expectancy would be 78.5 years, a more than doubling of the human life span. And in the days of the first emperors of China, those emperors were willing to spend every penny of their fortunes just to get an extra 4 years of life. We’ve added an extra 40 years of life, not just to the rich, but to the homeless. My friend Derrick, the homeless man who is marginally insane, so he couldn’t really live in normal housing conditions, lived to the age of 78, and then he died of lung cancer. So, this extension of the lifespan is not just for the rich, but for the poor.
If you’d taken one of the first Stanford-Binet IQ tests in 1916, of just an average hundred kids from off the street, those kids, from today, would test as marginal geniuses. They would test today with an average IQ of about 135. We have added 35 points to the IQ’s of just the most ordinary of kids, since 1916.
If you had been born in a pre-industrial society in 1650, in the West, or in any indigenous tribe, the odds of dying a violent death at the hands of a comrade, yes, a comrade,”
(Bloom was interrupted mid-thought by running into a comrade of his own, a friend named Jason, whom he described as one of the world’s top teaching heart surgeons. But he soon jumped right back into the topic).
“At any rate, if you had been born in the year 2000, your chances of dying a violent death at the hands of another human being would have been 1/10 of what they were in 1650, or in an indigenous tribe. In other words, peace has gone up by a factor of 10 in the last 350 years, since the introduction of the Industrial Revolution.
And we can go on. The average height has gone up by 4 inches in the last 150 years. It’s all the way around. We are surrounded by material miracles that have been wrought by the Western system, and we are too stupid to see it.
So, the woes of the world are real, but the fact that we fail to see, the blessings, is criminal. Because, if we do not see the positives coming from the system within which we live, a consequence is we are at risk of doing what the Russians did, and doing away with it all together, which would impoverish all of us in ways that are beyond belief.”