Everybody Gets One Free Puke

In wilderness medicine classes, I was taught that everybody gets one free puke.

Maybe you ate something funky, maybe the fear or shock just caught up with you, maybe you’re overheated and under-hydrated. Doesn’t matter: puke once, and we’ll stay focused on the presenting problem — but puke again and I’ll presume you’re even sicker than you look.

Since 2016, a lot of countries have puked at least once.

The first puke might not be pretty (it never is), but it’s still get-past-able.

But the second and subsequent pukes are where things really get unpleasant. India, Hungary, and Poland are democracies on their second puke. Too much of Europe is looking green around the gills, and let’s just say the UK is dry-heaving. (China and Russia were and are in different categories.)

And then we come to the Americas, where the United States and Brazil are fast approaching their next electoral tests, in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

Here’s where the metaphor breaks down a little bit: what’s already happened is path-determinant in ways that a “free puke” might not be. The old version of “normal” is no longer an option.

But what is on the table is a decision about whether or not to reinforce the current direction of travel. And if other democratic-authoritarians are any guide, the first term hurts, but the second term kills.

We’ve had our puke, and it won’t be free.

But democracy means we get a vote about what comes next.