5 things I’ve learned in Lockdown. No, a new language isn’t one of them

Epiphanic Lockdown Revelations: we’re all idiots, we’re all amazing and… no, we’re all still just idiots

Have you gained superior wisdomfrom this virus experience, even though it’s not quite over and everyone’s utterly confused right now? Why the confusion? What tabloid have you been on? Read on…

According to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, we’re moving out of Lockdown, maybe, and allowed to go back to lives that are not like before, but we’ll be okay if we ‘Stay Alert’ and on the lookout for an enemy we can’t actually see, whilst heading to work, only if we must, but not using public transport, possibly in a car, which is cool, except you can’t drive too far, and not to Wales, definitely not to Wales… and if you do get to work, you can be indoors with other people, but you can’t see your own relatives, except in the open, in a park, from two metres away… plus there’s masks, or not, but you must wash your hands – absolutely MUST – before touching a tap, a towel, a door handle that hasn’t been sterilised, on the way out… Meanwhile massive crowds of sun seekers on beaches and momentous marches of protest in Westminster. Erm… where was I?

Oh yes, so it seems that the worst of the upheavals caused to our lives by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic are over. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not. Actually definitely probably not. Much. But no one knows for sure, certainly not Boris.

As a self-employed content creator working from home, the last 10 weeks of voluntary-mandatory self-confinement, theoretically should not have changed my life as dramatically as it has. Apart from the no-driving and no-testing/shooting/videoing cars, and having the family at home – all the time. And yet not actually ending up with the hours of monotony widely advertised as a life-changing benefit of Isolation 2020 (how many language courses did you sign up for? And ‘ant tatakalamearabi? No I didn’t think so!).

The weeks actually flew past. Except that my skin is paler, (so much so that I look like… you thought I was gonna say ‘white people’ right? Don’t be silly, I said paler, not bleached – sh’mon!), my bones are weaker due to a lack of Vit D (I’m taking supplements now), and my spare tyre is protruding – it’s a low-profile Michelin rather than off-roading Bridgestones, but still.

Also I’ve developed an inherent dread of other people invading my (now expanded-radius) space and now feature an instinctual proximity alert with built-in automated reflex warning alarming: ‘Yo back the f@%k off!’ which sometimes comes out as ‘put down the packet of pasta and step away, I ain’t playing’ – that is if I happen to be in Asda at the time.

So actually life is not the same at all. It’s very different. There’s evidence to suggest it will always be different from this moment on. And not just for you and me. At one point in April, I believe at least a third of the world’s population was under lockdown. That’s nearly 2.5 billion people. If you stand them on each other’s head, they would stretch from here to the Delta Quadrant and back. I have no idea if that’s true, but it sounded like the sort of factoid you’d usually put at the end of a sentence like that, and I found it amusing because some of the people at the other end would be assimilated by the Borg, and you know – Resistance is Futile.

Just as futile as resistance to change which is, methinks, somewhat inevitable in this bizarre new unfamiliar existence where we all feel like we’re expendable red-shirt wearing extras in classic Star Trek. That would give you pause for thought or indeed thoughts, chief among them being, why don’t I just swap this for a blue shirt. Also why has Elon Musk put up a string of satellites above our heads, how come every TV talking head has more books than I do, and how is the world’s most powerful man allowed to suggest we inject our lungs with disinfectant and shove a UV lightbar up our bottoms? Well at least he didn’t cause any riots and has managed to unite his nation… er… oh.

Plus there’s these.

1. People are Stupid

I have seen the end of the world. There’s a lot of shit there. Or at least that’s what you would think based on the worldwide phenomenon of panic-buying toilet rolls. Frigging toilet rolls? Trolley loads full. A week’s supply, a month’s supply, a year’s supply, a goddamn lifetime’s supply, mostly stacked up in peoples’ bathroom windows. What the heck was that all about?

The more the government tried to assure people there was no need to panic buy, the more people queued around the block, pinched stuff from other shoppers’ trolleys, scooped entire shelves into their basket, and even snatched the last hand sanitiser out of my cold dead grasp – and it wasn’t even from the store!

People shopped till they dropped, or rather ran out of money. The Government may have gone Scrooge – I mean Scrooge in his post-Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come drearily cheery give-it-all-away phase – but it was too little too late, and it left people wondering if it was possible to roast a toilet roll with a bit of thyme for seasoning.

We also hit the zenith for fakery when it comes to fake content circumambulating on the internet – mostly forwarded in earnest sincerity, but causing more alarm, confusion, fear and anguish than anything – stick to official news sources people, and don’t post/forward without verifying from at least three separate sources. If it doesn’t feel real, it probably isn’t. I’m curious about the evil sickness harboured by the foul creatures that generate such spurious messages, it’s a clearly an affliction worse than COVID-19. At least I hope the prognosis is ten times worst.

On the other hand there are those who insist we shouldn’t believe the mainstream media – they’re all lying. I’m not a beat journalist on the current affairs frontline – but I have done that sort of thing in the distant past, and I can tell your for a fact, 99.9% of journalists have no agenda, are not making stuff up, do not aim to sensationalise everything (leave that to the headline writers and clickbait specialists) and are working their butts off to try to bring you what they believe to be the real news as it happens in a high-pressure environment where they get little reward for very hard work.

Oh but they’re all just being fed a conspiracy. Which conspiracy? Take your pick: coronavirus is a biological weapon let loose; it’s economic warfare between China and America; there is no virus, it’s just a hoax; 5G masts are transmitting it; there’s a plot to reduce the world’s population; they’re trying to kill off all the old people/Black people/Asian people/Men; Bill Gates something; it’s a ploy to vaccinate us all and embed traceable microchips in our bodies; they want us to willingly concede to a totalitarian society where our civil liberties are eradicated and advertisers know exactly what to pitch us at the precise moment we feel an irrepressible desire for it – thanks to the chip in our head I guess.

And… gasp… because of a signal transmitted by Elon’s ring of satellites – So that’s why the top selling car in April in the UK was a Tesla?! SMH!

You know what all that actually illustrates? The ease with which you can lace together a sequence of unrelated coincidences to substantiate a false narrative. Clever people combine unconnected coincidences to concoct a story of such cunning and outlandishness, it must be true – after all reality is stranger than fiction right?

It can be. But I suspect not in this car. One has to assume a level of mental dexterity and imagination that lies somewhere beyond the abilities of the people actually pulling the strings, because they barely have enough sleight to hold said strings. Frankly the people in charge – really in charge – are not smart enough to create conspiracies – only people on Facebook can do that. And you guys got tons of time, right?

2. People are Brilliant

The sheer level and ambition of creativity displayed by ordinary folk sitting at home with nothing to hand but a mobile phone and TikTok account is off the charts. And that’s before we get to professional entertainers who are reciting sonnets, creating concertos and quizzing the nation.

100-year old dudes have been doing hundreds of laps and raising money for charity, and even normally vulturous financial and phone companies have been giving loan leeways and extra data (thanks for all the extra gigabytes Virgin mobile – except I’m not going out much, and I have wifi so I’m not actually using it so… doh!).

People are figuring our new ways to continue their businesses (mostly through online trading); communicating by Zooming across the globe without ever setting foot on a plane, train or automobile; making up songs; writing books (damn that reminds me); baking bread and cakes… lots and lots of cakes; making new friends, reaching out to old ones; knocking on neighbourhood doors from two metres away to ask if they can assist the old and isolated (note to self – thank my mum’s neighbours); volunteering to help the NHS and coming to that… hold, on this requires a new para.

The true superheroes of our day, the soldiers of a strange new kind of war (and make no mistake this is World War III we’re experiencing) are the medical staff that have risked their lives, experienced exhaustion, surfed the fine edges of emotional trauma, and given their all, above and beyond their mediocre pay grades, to serve humanity when the Hippocratic Oath kicked in.

It’s at times like this when faith in humanity is restored as goodness bubbles to the fore – even if it was only momentary, sadly, as evil racism rose back to the surface and enraged a nation causing a domino ripple right across the planet as a profusion of black squares made the web a channel for our collective outrage.

Thanks a lot bigots. Just when it started to feel like universal harmony could finally be here. Still could be I suppose, let me come back to that.

3. our lives are so fragile

No not because a deadly ‘invisible enemy’ is only a metre’s cough away – although that too. No what I’m talking about is the inherently corrupt top-heavy economic system that has us bound in fiscal chains and deep in debt even when we think we aren’t. The slightest disturbance in the Dow Jones and the rug is pulled from under our FTSE and the houses we build from volatile IOU banknotes tumble, as stocks of nothingness crash on a bar chart and paper money reverts to being little more than a thinly shaved piece of tree bark.

Incomes vanish, work abandons us, savings vapourise and the future becomes an abyss of uncertainty in which the only likely surety seems to be immiseration, anxiety and hopelessness. Unless you’re rich of course. Because in your case, you’ll suffer a momentary if massive loss (actually ‘massive’ just wishful thinking on my part) as share values decline to fractions, before which you’ll pull all your money out of everything – even if that means shuttering businesses and firing staff. Then at the right time you’ll roll the dice and put all your money on S&P and rake in the gazillions once again as the bounce back sees stocks soar.

You’ll buy more mansions, build bigger yachts and buy private jets, as using airliners is out of the question now. Then you’ll post it all on Instagram, and millions of idiotic follows will repeatedly press Like in a vain aspiration that one day that’ll be them sitting where you, simply because you put an ‘inspirational quote’ on your picture telling them it could be. All the while knowing it never will be, because you’ll make certain of that.

Meanwhile we’re back to roasting toilet rolls and making sawdust soup, and using the final demands and eviction notices as kindling to light the fires as winter winds back around again – oh the current scenario could be THAT long term.

4. This could save the planet

You will have noticed, because even as an octane-in-my-veins petrolhead I did too, how beneficial a couple of months of us lot not going about our wasteful ways and practising prolific consumption was to the environment.

Particularly in the use of combustible fuel-based transport systems thereby expelling a toxic virus on the planet, one that had it gasping for air and crying out ‘I can’t breath’ – gosh I just realised an epiphanic connection between the oppression of the underprivileged and the exploitation of natural resources – ‘Planet’s Life Matters’ make that a new mantra too.

The reduction in prolific and polluting mass travel saw the world healing itself. Going back to that earlier discussion about me dismissing all conspiracies out of hand, here’s one I would contemplate subscribing to – that the planet itself instigated this viral phenomenon to force us all into lockdown to give the Earth time to heal – and to teach us all one heck of a lesson.

Is it a lesson we’re have learned anything from though? And that brings me to the final point of this excessively voluminous composition.

5. there’s gotta be a better way

If we can ourselves take a leaf out of Mother Nature’s playbook and allow humanity to a break to rethink and revaluate, once we, of course, manage to quash this coronavirus into extinction (although that might take a while we’re told), we could come up with a new way forward.

We need to stop being slaves to oppressive and controlling regimes that keep us at holding station zero, and maintain control of an artificially created wealth subjugating us into that servitude via debt and depression.

Yet when it came to it, after years of the British Government cutting back on services, letting people sleep rough and starve, suddenly it that manage to find that fabled magic money tree and cover the costs for everything from sustaining the arts, to housing the homeless, to paying millions of people’s salaries to a few corporate bailouts along the way. So anything is possible after all.

When an enemy as intangible as a virus we can’t see spreads across the globe and grinds it to a halt, disrupting our social, economic and cultural systems with such ease and immediacy – we’ve got to really think about just how fugacious and fragile our current and future is.

And perhaps radical thinking needs to explored. Universal incomes? Equal distribution of resources? Abandoning traditional financial systems altogether? Greater use of cleaner forms of energy? Moving forward on the basis that cost should not be the defining dictate of our actions but justice, generosity and doing the right thing for humanity and habitat must be. After all the planet can sustain us, it’s the greed that gobbles up all the goodness.

Imagine a world in which you didn’t have to work your butt off, creating consumer products that marketing people desperate brainwashed the unwitting, to buy in greater and greater numbers each subsequent year, simply to appease shareholders who would thus be able to one-up their peers in pursuit of extravagant opulence, that is wasteful and pointless as far as the well-being and benefit of 99.9% of the rest of the world’s population is concerned.

What if instead we were all free to pursue our desired roles of creativity, or service and assistance, helping fellow man towards betterment and achievement. How quickly would we progress together? Especially in a predicted future in which automation and mechanisation will make most menial and mundane jobs obsolete.

Am I presenting a utopic fantasy? Undoubtedly. But what’s the alternative. Look the screwed up mess we’ve created – a way of life so delicately balanced on flimsy foundations that a single infectious agent collapses it all in the space of weeks.

A re-evaluation is a must as we face shock and upheaval both man-made and beyond our control, I can’t think of a better excuse or time to do so. Otherwise we’ll have to wait for a hostile alien invasion, and considering we can barely beat off a few germs, it doesn’t bode well for humanity if that happens.

Let’s hit that reset. And do things better next time around.

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