“… those who philosophise on the matter, and who think men unreasonable for spending a whole day in chasing a hare which they would not have bought, scarce know our nature. The hare in itself would not screen us from the sight of death and calamities; but the chase which turns away our attention from these, does screen us.” (from Pensées by Blaise Pascal)
I worry about the impact of the Covid curfews on our displacement activities. Walking is very much about displacement for me. For years I have enjoyed the benefits of long distance walking among which are a sharpening of focus. An anxiety breaker, walking keeps my stress levels down. And I’m already worrying that anxiety is increasing in the enforced isolations new to many. Ironically, those who normally choose to live in isolation tend to do so without anxiety. That they chose isolation says they handle anxiety quite well.
The Cultural Revolution in China gave us the idea of olds that needed to change: old customs, old habits, old culture and old thinking. Not something I ever thought I’d be seriously considering. But needs must.
The climate change debate could be said to be indicating olds needs to change. The idea that global restraints are good for everyone is not new. What is a new is the pace of change when a virus threatens us. We can act quickly. And we did (somewhat).
But how much better would it be if we did so in consort? I think global co-operation is needed now more than ever. We have the tools already. Regulations and taxes are the remit of counties, states, provinces and countries. Alliances and treaties are available to countries, blocs and the world. Else, the virus will pass and old thinking will restore old customs, old habits and the old cultures. But this time the sickness crisis will have reversed so many gains that it could be like travelling back a hundred years or more. Into a 5D world where disparity will manifest in destitution, disenfranchisement and despair. And the natural abhorrence of vacuum (the absence of anything) could bring discontent to the streets.
Good governance will be the key. Here’s something to consider from 2007. I read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein on my first flight on an Airbus A380 between London and Sydney in February 2009. The boarding pass bookmark is still in the book and I opened it to see a little mark on the margin of page 269, left there to remind me of what seemed to be the most profound insight. She had written of the 1997 financial crisis that “The IMF displayed no interest in what had caused the crisis. Instead, like a prison interrogator looking for a weakness, the fund was exclusively focused on how the crisis could be used as leverage”. Whatever about the self serving interests of individual countries, the torture supported profiteering for example, that a global organisation sought profit from catastrophe was to suggest that catastrophe could be engineered for profit. While global governance will indeed be a challenge, another thing to consider is the impact of generalisations. Hans Rosling has a great example in Factfulness, that it took decades to overcome the idea that sudden death syndrome could be minimised by keeping babies on their stomachs. So wrong that the death rate increased. Seemingly unrelated, my point is that any idea needs metrics by which to continuously evaluate the performance. Another form of governance that comes to mind while governments fumble in disparate ways to balance public confidence and morale at the cost of transparency and honesty about all aspects of the pandemic.
By the way, I crudely estimate that Covid deaths in Ireland are doubling about every 3.5 days at the moment. That’s worse than the hyperinflation in Germany in August 1922 which is recorded as 3.7 days. And that was the fourth highest inflation since 1900. And the answer to your next question is Hungary, 1946, where prices doubled every 15 hours. CM, who you met a couple of days ago, told me stories of rushing to pay his monthly rent with sacks of money in the company of armed guards in Brazil in the 1980s. He maintained that the monthly trick was to agree a rent by a phone call from the bank, withdraw and count the small denomination notes and arrive at the landlord’s office with enough time for them to count the money before the rent went up again.
One thing I’m getting from my isolation is a repetitive strain injury. Like billions, I tended to use the smart applications on my phone for social tasks in the main. Some work stuff via email, if only to check up. Now, it’s different. Family stories, work updates, social media and news are being consumed through my phone in so many bad postures that it hurts. To be clear, I was having some physiotherapy for my neck in January and February after I clattered my head on the top of the door frame of an SUV. My physio routines worked really well and I was satisfied my neck could withstand four months of walking towards Rome. Then Covid. Now stiffness and restricted movement dog everything I do.
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