Tim Munkeby is an author, former teacher, and retired financial advisor. He’s also a Reporters Inc. Advisory Committee Member. You can read more about him on our Team page and on his web site at timmunkeby.com.

A Tale of Two Worlds

Our response to COVID: As it could have been—and how it may end instead

February 2022


Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. We need to rise above it all, for a longer perspective, a broader view. Only then can we truly get a sense of the direction our world is heading.

Are we moving toward a better, utopian world? Toward world peace? Toward a planet filled with more humane leaders who govern to benefit their populace?

Or are we drifting more toward a dystopian world? One in which leaders only govern to improve their own lot. A world where little is done to mitigate the climate crisis, defeat the pandemic, or take care of our environment.

People around the globe deserve to be healthy and live, not in desperation, but happily. We have the ability to make our lives better—or worse.

So, will we ultimately strive for benevolence and utopia, or degradation and dystopia? It’s our choice. Let’s consider the consequences of each.


UTOPIA: Striving for Ideal laws, functional government, and humane social conditions worldwide


In this version of our future, people in the United States are worried.

That’s because many of our elders vividly recall stories of the Spanish Flu of 1918 when one billion became infected, and 500 million died. Schools and businesses had been shuttered back then. People were ordered to wear masks and avoid close contact—that being the only means to mitigate the devastation since no vaccine had been developed.

To this day, the Spanish Flu strain, H1N1, still prevails. But advanced countries now have a flu vaccine minimizing sickness and death, and heedful people seek it out. They also realize and acknowledge that the vaccines developed to prevent Smallpox, Measles and Polio limit infections and curtail deaths. Very few question the efficacy of the vaccinations and don’t hesitate to vaccinate themselves and their children.

They remember or study or learn from the facts of history—that in 1947 New York City was ground zero for Smallpox, and it became a frightening threat. But in less than a month, when 84 percent of the city became vaccinated, the epidemic came to an end. People believe in science, listen to the truth. When Polio reared its ugly head, a vaccine was developed. And there was no vaccine resistance by the populous. No lawsuits, no protests, no opposition. No pandemic. The virus was defeated in short order.



And now, a new pandemic, the Covid-19 virus, is rapidly spreading in the United States and around the globe. Hundreds of thousands are infected and dying daily. Fortunately, scientists develop a vaccine in short order. The U.S. and governments around the world act quickly, intending to distribute the vaccines to their grateful citizens.

Wealthy countries defeat the new virus locally and help poorer countries get their people vaccinated. The world’s citizens breath a clear sigh of relief. When more than 90 percent of the world population is vaccinated, the virus is declared defeated. The planet celebrates. There’s dancing in the streets, people hugging and kissing their loved ones.

Having overcome a common enemy, in this spirit of worldwide unity, countries now appreciate each other, work together on humanitarian issues, especially those dealing with the climate crisis and its devastation to humanity and the planet.

Economies thrive. Extreme weather events lessen. Mass migrations stop. World conflicts are put on hold. In this sudden sense of cooperation, violence vanishes, and hate dissipates into sunny skies. The world is a safe, beautiful place.


Dystopia: A world characterized by human misery, squalor, oppression, over-crowding, and injustice


In this version of our future, people in the United States are told by their country’s leader not to be concerned by the new Covid-19 virus, that the scientists are fraudulently predicting a pandemic for political reasons. Many people succumb to this fallacy and are then told not to trust science—that this virus will magically go away.

Citizens who understand the unbiased nature of science now no longer trust the government under this delusional leader. Soon, elders are dying by the thousands. Younger people, believing the leader, refuse to be vaccinated thinking  themselves invincible against the virus, without a thought about potentially infecting others. But soon, these younger people are being infected as well, hundreds of thousands dying daily. These gullible people who claimed not to believe in science suddenly change their minds when they can’t breathe. Hospitals are full.

Scientists and prudent leaders appeal again to the people, explaining that to stop the slaughter they need to wear masks, distance themselves, and, most importantly, get the vaccine that scientists have developed. But it’s almost as if so many, especially in the U.S., have swallowed the president’s poison pill. They steadfastly refuse to wear masks or, remarkably, to get vaccinated. Much of the world, as has happened in the past, follows America’s example. Yet this time it’s not a good, healthy example. America, the model of democracy in the world, is no longer respected.



Anger and hate flourish in America and around the world. Neo-Nazis come out of the woodwork. Violence proliferates. Mass murders become common. Children are no longer safe in their schools. Asians, accused of bringing the virus to the U.S., are assaulted in the streets. Native Americans are told “go back where you came from.” Fights break out on airplanes and at city council meetings—virtually everywhere. Communities and neighborhoods are not only divided, but violently so. Guns and ammunition are hoarded. Fear abounds. Finally, these poisoned, radicalized people cause an insurrection, storming their own Capitol. The world looks on in horror.

Due to so many people refusing vaccines, variants of the virus continue to develop and spread. Millions of people are sick and dying. Hospitals are so stuffed with  these unvaccinated citizens, there is no room for the those with other illnesses or diseases. People are confused and angry. Doctors and nurses give up. Police, unable to quell the violence, leave their jobs. Businesses go bankrupt, schools close, athletics and public events end. The economy eventually tanks. People lose their pensions, their investments, their money. Democracy is failing.

No attention is paid to existential issues like the climate crisis as fires, droughts, and dramatic storms devastate the planet, wildlife, and humans. Having lost their habitats, animals move from the wilderness to the cities, in search of food. First, they consume rats, rabbits, deer. Domestic pets then become their prey, and they ultimately turn to the homeless people in the streets. Coywolves—hybrids of wolves and coyotes—and other predatory animals become dominant. No one is safe outside. Food becomes scarce. People starve. Water, both recreational and drinking, becomes tainted, polluted, even toxic. Disease, in addition to the pandemic, is rampant. Hospitals cease to exist.

In distrust and fear, countries accelerate their armaments. Larger autocracies invade neighboring countries. Bombs and missiles are ominously tested around the world daily. Democracy no longer exists. People live oppressed, in misery and squalor. Those who are alive give up all hope. They wake every morning expecting to find the sun no longer shining, blotted instead by a nuclear cloud. Only fear and death on the horizon.


So, again, in what direction is our world heading?


Everything happening now seems to indicate a dystopian direction. But is it too late to hope utopian?

It is within our control. It’s up to the choices we make, now. We’re not doomed, yet.

In the United States, we need stronger democratic leaders. Only then, as a model for the world, can we defeat our current common enemy: Covid.

By getting vaccinated, we can kill the beast. The unvaccinated, however, simply feed the beast. And the more it’s fed, the more it grows…more of us sick, more of us dead, more of the variants multiplying. On and on.

The virus is a test. Can we, the world, unite for the sake of humanity? Or will we, especially in the “United” States, remain poisoned by politics, and angrily divided?

And thusly, will the world follow? Divided, we all fall.



Signs of dystopia are prevalent and frightening. Violence, hate, and anger are escalating. “Crash and grab” robberies, car jackings, shootings, and other crimes  fill the headlines. Wolves and coyotes are indeed mating and roaming our streets. Climate afflictions are terrifyingly real and not being taken seriously. Migrations are rampant, causing endless conflicts, with no solutions in sight.

It’s time to rise above. Time to unify for the sake of humanity. It’s up to us—it’s our choice. We need to listen to the truth, to unbiased scientists. We need to call out and vote out the lying, poisoned, power-hungry politicians who ignore the science, and even try to vilify it.

People say, ”I’m free. You can’t tell me what to do!” Yet unbiased science shows us that the vaccine leads us precisely to that freedom. The vaccine allows us to once again be free to socialize safely, to once again be free to attend schools and businesses safely, to once again be free to go unmasked safely, to once again be free from watching loved ones get sick and die.

How absurd to use “freedom” as an excuse to not be free.


Tim Munkeby can be reached at .



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