I honestly had neither the intention nor will to write anything about the current crisis we are facing with Covid-19. Partly because I can offer nothing but my own opinion, for what it’s worth, and because I saw no need to contribute to the heavily aggregate sum of opinions, blog posts, Instagram stories, Facebook tirades and so on that we are already in surplus of, but I was momentarily persuaded otherwise by something I will mention a little later.
There are really only several points I would like to make or at least bring to light for anyone who happens to be reading this, starting with the negatives.
I know for certain that I’m not the only one who is lamenting in bewilderment at the sheer level of stupidity, selfishness and greed that a significant section of humanity is capable of, namely the lavatory roll looters and indeed all the other panic purchasers around the world. We’ve heard the term ‘herd immunity’ lately with regards to the possible approaches to be taken against the virus, but what is being witnessed in the shops globally perfectly describes the ‘herd’ more than anything else. Whether it’s a Black Friday Sale in Footlocker or a Covid-19 stockpiling, these hoards swarm all the same nevertheless and cling to the material as if their lives depended on it. You may observe two videos from either event, and the behavior is exactly the same. I am a philosopher and not a psychologist, but the mass mentality that is at play here really does scream volumes about the spiritual desert the modern world has brought upon itself. Of course, a more naked analysis might say that it is just the desire to take control of something in a situation where one feels powerless. True though that may be, it’s not just that.
What’s more, why has it taken what genuinely appears to be a more dangerous virus to make people realise that they should wash their hands properly and maintain personal hygiene when possible? Were they not doing this before? Again, I’m appalled to be counted among these people as the same species, though a different breed we certainly are, I assure you.
On a practical note, I do understand the panic from some, not necessarily the medical concerns that they have, but the gargantuan disruption it is causing to daily life, to schools, to businesses and the like. Self-isolation and distancing seem very reasonable, how long we can expect to be doing it may be another matter. It’s okay for those of us who can work at home, should we need to, but the majority of people have a place they have to go to, including myself for the most part.
This brings me on to the broader analysis I naturally warm to. That is, what changes will be seen as a result of these events? On the practical side, as a traditionalist, I am hopeful that some realisations and epiphanies have been made to liberals on either side, for example, that no matter how modern or fast we technologically surpass ourselves every year, the raw gritty nature of the world cares nothing for it. Planet earth remains unchanged, as does biology and any concomitant natural disasters or threats that rise from it. Given the recent news from China and their having everything more or less back under control, I don’t expect the current virus to be a doomsday scenario, lavatory roll stashers notwithstanding, so we will most probably get through this in a relatively short period of time with short-term setbacks to the economy and daily life. But who is to say that something much worse and much more ruthless will not erupt and visit us in the future, in an even more sudden and surprising manner than Covid-19? How well prepared can we be if the fundamental resources of a nation are made and located thousands of miles away or if we are plundering the human resources of various nations for the sake of cheap labour? I am glad that this specific realisation is looming upon some.
In essence, I am hoping that positive things will come from this crisis and therefore feeling obliged to find them. There are slithers of light breaking through the dark clouds, but one example in particular is the one which made me reconsider in writing anything about this at all: Alberto Anguzza of Italy. While the Italians face severe restrictions on daily life, the Trevi Fountain being eerily photographed without a soul in sight (something I doubt anyone has ever seen), this gentleman decided to do a radically traditional thing by simply playing music for people. From his quaint balcony overlooking the streets, he played Imagine by John Lennon and brought the vocals to life via his trumpet to many quarantined ears nearby.
I’m not saying that this is an awe-inspiring song, however proud I am for it to have been written by a fellow Liverpudlian, I am saying that during such times, it is undoubtedly warming to know that the keenness of the human spirit to endure and to do so beautifully is what makes me unquestionably proud to be a European. In such moments I believe there to be a kind of melancholic modesty, a sense that actually your own world now is not all that there is, was or will be, and that you as an individual are not the most important thing. It is akin to the good nature of those people who under many tyrannical regimes still decided to just carry on and have as good a life as they possibly could; understanding that the world is chaotic in the way that a lovely ancient forest is chaotic, and we all find our own place in it – despite the tribulations – and still trying to give something positive to the other. It’s that kind of feeling I’m trying to describe, but of course very rarely will words describe such things better than what music can. In which case, I can leave it here by saying no more.