Follow the logic of Covid-19, and you end up with a smaller, younger, fitter population of mostly women.
The virus threatens everybody, but it seems to have a preference for older, overweight men with “pre-existing health conditions”. There’s also, apparently, an ethnic component, but I’ll leave that out as it may be socio-economic and is almost certainly more complex than it seems.
I can’t forget a conversation I had before all this started (see also A virus too ordinary, 2nd April 2020) in which we agreed that all the problems of the world – from global warming down to finding a parking space – would be solved if the global population was cut by half.
No, we weren’t being serious, and yes, we were referencing a recent Avengers movie.
But I was also droning on about the collective unconscious, Gaia, blah blah, and wondering whether we’re better at imagining problems (insert your favourite scene from Contagion here) than consciously addressing them (and a clip from the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference here) – and also wondering whether all that imagining is actually the thought process before the collective unconscious … does something.
I don’t want to say “finds a solution”, but just as a precaution, I’d like to apologise if we’re all living in a Matrix-style simulation and I’ve dreamed up Covid-19 as a plot twist. My bad, but don’t you agree we needed something to confound the mulish certainties on both sides of Brexit?
Like I say, Covid-19 fits.
The virus does its thing, as above, and our response has been to turn off everything we do to harm the planet. Imagine – collectively, if you will – that this is a chance to re-run the history of the second half of the twentieth century, but without the toxic fluorocarbons, CFCs, the pesticides, all the science-improves-on-nature, and with videoconferencing and 3D printing.
I won’t mention Artificial Intelligence (which manifests as Artificial Stupidity, surely?) because nobody’s imagined a happy ending for that either.
I wonder sometimes whether that sense of “meant” represents an awareness of ourselves that goes beyond our day-to-day notion that we’re individuals with some measure of control over our surroundings – but that thought passes out of my mind quickly. I’m not Neo.
Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me.
If there’s a new normal coming, and it’s anything like the new normal described above, I think maybe I should put some laundry on. And find somebody to give me a haircut.
They revealed that many East Germans had been acting as informers for the state intelligence service. There was outrage. Many East Germans had some explaining to do.
I remember being vaguely outraged myself. I remember asking myself: would I have been an informer? Or some kind of heroic resistance person, holding out against the pressure through the hopeless years, then vindicated at last when the regime collapsed in 1990.
You can probably guess my answer.
But there’s an affecting clip of Christabel Bielenberg, an English woman married to a German, who spent World War II in Germany, talking through her own mea culpa. She was asked for help by a fugitive Jewish family … and thought of her own family’s safety … and said … no.
Watch the clip. In that situation, I don’t know what I would have done. [The World At War, episode 16; Bielenberg was an active member of the German resistance and, I would say, heroic most of the time. Just that one moment.]
Then yesterday I turned on the radio. They seemed to be talking about the Stasi.
In the old East Germany, the radio told me, people were arrested. They were threatened. But then they were offered a way out. They’d be released if they informed on somebody else, who could then be arrested, and threatened, and offered a way out …
The Stasi kept its performance numbers up. It recruited lots and lots of informers, who informed on lots and lots of – and so on.
Efficiency, right? But the regime collapsed.
I remembered a friend telling me once that there was only full employment in the Soviet Union because you had to accept the job you were offered. The numbers stayed impressive – full employment, yay! – but the entire edifice collapsed.
I think it’s very easy to judge. More importantly, I think moral hazard creeps up on us.
I think every society contains all the personality types necessary to turn it into … anything. I think they bob to the surface according to the circumstances.
The lockdown makes sense, but I wonder if some of the most zealous police officers at the moment are the ones who are, let's put it this way, okay with the idea of keeping us locked up.
In Cornwall, local authorities are inviting the public to inform them of any holiday-cottage owners breaking the lockdown by letting out their properties (to, for example, “escaping” Londoners). Can’t argue against that. Probably wouldn't try.
But no. Thank you. I won't.