In case you were wondering, I have, so far, successfully evaded the patrols trying to catch me for the “crime” of wanting to sit alone in a quiet green spot with some sun on my face.
Friday was particularly difficult as they were out in force, many armed with checklists (but not guns) to verify that people on mandatory quarantine were, indeed, inside their homes.
I ducked down to the river, but there were way too many patrols there, so I circled through the park still called De Wollant on retarded Google Maps (it’s actually now the Catherine the Second park).
There, I saw a man in his 50s, sitting alone on a bench, get swarmed by three masked male cops and one female masked cop, so I hit the jets.
I ended up finding a hidden nook near Suvorov‘s equestrian statue that served my purposes quite nicely. There’s some construction work being done in that area. Apparently, it’s okay for unmasked guys doing physical labor to mingle around, so I “hid in plain sight” so to speak.
But I can’t become too regular in my patterns, or else they’ll catch me for sure! 😎
The Pridnestrovie of the East
A couple of months ago, I did some work for some clients based in Singapore, and a friendship blossomed that long outlasted the actual job.
I’ve never been to Singapore, I’d always heard good things about the country. And the more I learned, the more I saw just how similar it is to Pridnestrovie (aka “Transnistria”).
For one, they’re both tiny countries, physically. They both used to belong to larger entities (Malaysia and Moldova) that continue to have claims on them, and they’re both far wealthier and far less corrupt than their “parent” country.
And they’re both inhabited by a diverse population united, more or less, as one, while still honoring and preserving those cultural, religious, and linguistic differences. They’re also both widely seen as undemocratic and authoritative by many of their neighbors but democratic and a great place to live by most of their citizens.
Basically, the only substantive difference between Pridnestrovie and Singapore is that all former British boundaries, no matter how ridiculous (seriously, check out The Gambia some time, to say nothing of Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Cameroon, et al), are considered inviolable while PMR’s substantial claims of legitimacy were never once given their due consideration.
But now, there’s another reason why I really love Singapore, and it has to do with its government’s response to this new coronavirus, especially with how they are handling their media output.
Here’s what Singapore state media published yesterday:
Notice anything “weird” about it?
- It’s calm and matter-of-fact, not panicky and excited.
- There’s no “death count” or other scary facts.
- It doesn’t just list confirmed cases but also the number of survivors.
- It also breaks down the number of hospitalized cases, separating the seriously ill from those who aren’t.
- There’s no mention of what’s going on in other countries, especially the “badly hit” ones like China, Iran, Italy, or the USA.
Approximately 70% of Singapore’s citizens are of ethnic Chinese descent, and the country is, obviously, a hell of a lot closer to China (physically, culturally, and economically) than any European country. But the Singapore government has had the situation under control since Day 1.
Where else in the world can you find such an example of decorum, calm, and restraint in media?
I’ve long since cut out any and all other media (including PMR’s, which went into paranoid fear mode two weeks ago), but I’m loving Singapore’s daily feed, even though it has nothing to do with me, personally.
That is how you do it, folks!
A Rebirth of Joy
I’ve seen plenty of scary, “concerned” messages from politicians, mainstream journalists, and rich shitheads like Bill Gates (seriously, he created possibly the most toxic office culture in history over at Microsoft, to say nothing of the colossal fraud that his company perpetrated during his time as CEO) that the common folk are going to experience massive upsurges in rates of depression and suicide during this period of lockdown.
I was wondering about the same thing, too, for a bit. But then I realized that the complete opposite is true. In fact, I’m willing to wager that suicides are going to go way down during this period.
Why is that? I mean, shouldn’t people being trapped (more or less) all day long in their houses, sometimes completely alone, succumb to depression, anxiety, and dark thoughts?
Well, perhaps in the short term, yes. But what really makes people feel good is when they go through things together.
Communism in the Soviet Union was really tough for ordinary folks, but one of the reasons why so many people look back on it fondly is the fact that everyone was, more or less, equal.
They all had the same shitty apartments, queued in line for the same shitty food, and got paid about the same. They drove the same shitty cars or rode in the same buses together, and all of the entertainment, culture, and arts were the same for everyone and accessible to all.
There are plenty of other examples when “social equalization” leads to a lot more happiness. For example, during natural disasters, which affect the rich and poor alike, people come together in “unprecedented” ways, and suicides go way, way down.
At first, that sounds a little odd. After Hurricane Maria smashed Puerto Rico to bits in 2017 or Hurricane Katrina smashed New Orleans and Texas, lots of people suffered, and that suffering was quite real. People were rendered homeless. Others struggled to get adequate food and water or medical care. But suicide rates went way down despite the panic-fueled media claiming the complete opposite.
Despite the estimated prevalence of mental illness doubling after Hurricane Katrina, suicidality was unexpectedly low. The role of post-traumatic personal growth in ameliorating the effects of trauma-related mental illness on suicidality warrants further investigation.
Junk, scare media:
Gina says after the devastation of the hurricane, she lost her job and her medical coverage. Some of her friends died in the hurricane; others committed suicide. She says the city [of New Orleans] became dark and dangerous to her.
In reality, it was only after the hurricane storm was long over, and people were left abandoned without medical help (or proper housing or jobs), that they started getting depressed. During the storm and the immediate aftermath, suicides were at an all-time low.
In 2020, more people than ever are getting medical help, unemployment payments, and other forms of care and assistance than ever before, even in the notoriously cruel United States.
Even more importantly, I think, is the psychology of seeing the rich and powerful suffer “equally” to the common person. The British PM is allegedly in the hospital right now, and dozens of other leaders (Iran, Burkina Faso, Brazil, et al) have been confirmed to have the coronavirus.
Hollywood celebrities right and left have been confined to their houses. Even television shows are being filmed and broadcast from the presenters’ home. Sports stars, too, are confined to their homes.
Therefore, we are all in this together, equally, and that increases our sense of connectedness, thus lessening the psychic burden of feeling alone and alienated.
Cut a Rug
I’d also wager that a lot more people are dancing these days than ever before.
That may sound a little strange, especially with most traditional dancing venues like bars, clubs, and concert halls all being closed, but I do believe it is true.
People, all over the world, love to dance. And dancing makes people feel good.
But prior to the virus, most people in the Western world had very little opportunity to dance. About the only places to do it were bars and concerts, and not everyone has the time or inclination to go to a bar or fork over $100 for a concert.
Locked inside your home all day long, though, there’s plenty of time to fire up your favorite music and boogie.
Why not? Nobody’s watching, and nobody cares if you’re “good” at dancing or not when you’re doing it in the privacy of your own home. And plenty of people are dancing on their balconies as well.
Said the Spider to the Fly
One of the most tragic developments in the Western world over the past 400 years has been the division of our homes into “public” and “private” spaces.
Just about all of us have a room or rooms that we feel comfortable receiving people in (parlors, sitting rooms, etc) and other rooms that are completely private and off-limits (bedrooms, basements, etc).
Pre-virus, most of us were expected to go “out in the world” and wear a kind of social mask, carefully tailoring our clothes, attitudes, and even facial expressions to “fit in.” But in our private spaces in our homes, we’re much different, sometimes wildly different, people.
But when you’re locked in all day, you’re no longer forced to suit up, slather on the make-up, knot that tie, and screw your face into its appropriate setting. You can wear the clothes that you like. You can do what you want to do. You can eat with your fingers, wear pajamas all day, and play video games at 9:00 AM if that’s what you want to do.
In other words, millions of people are finally getting permission to “let their hair down” and be their authentic selves. And that feels really great!
The greatest sources of anxiety for most people are social situations, whether it be a job interview, showing up to work, attending a party or “function”, sitting in a classroom, or simply getting dressed and interacting with the public, and those have nearly all been eliminated.
Globally, I’d wager that anxiety levels, too, are at historic lows.
Riding the Hobby Horse
When’s the last time that someone under the age of 65 had the time or inclination to devote to a hobby? In fact, the word “hobby” itself is rapidly becoming an anachronism.
It used to be that you logged in your hours at work, and then the rest of the day, you devoted to your own passions and interests, whether that was carpentry, knitting, toy train building, stamp collecting, landscape painting, or something else.
But these days, most working folks are expected to be “on” all the time. Work emails and Slack conversations et al are conducted around the clock, seven days a week. The Western “work ethic” is epitomized by braindead assholes like Elon Musk who slept under his desk to “maximize efficiency” and shoved junk food into his mouth instead of taking a proper meal break.
Yet when you’re working from home, suddenly, millions of people are finding that there just isn’t all that much actual “work” to do. The actual “work” stuff can get done in just a few hours, leaving you the rest of the day to do whatever it is that you like.
Already, there’s been an explosion in home learning, whether that’s (re)discovering the joys of cooking, mastering a foreign language, gardening, making your own clothes (sewing), or something more arcane like kite building. Why not? You’ve got lots of free time now, and watching TV gets old pretty quickly.
Sharing IS Caring
I cannot even begin to count the number of positive, interesting emails that I’ve gotten over the past couple of weeks.
Some are from people discovering this blog (and my long-forgotten podcast!) for the first time. If that’s you, a big hello from me 👋
And some are from people I’ve known for a long time, sharing things with me that would’ve been considered “too intimate” in pre-virus times.
I, for one, think it’s great! I love hearing feedback about the books, stories, documentaries, podcasts, articles, and games that I’ve created. And I love hearing the personal stories of people making their way through this crazy experience that we call life on Planet Earth.
Whereas many folks hesitated to be honest or bare their souls or reveal what’s really going on with them out of a fear of interrupting someone else’s “busy” life, now, the walls seem to be coming down. After all, almost no one is “too busy” now, not with work and not with endless distractions like sports games, bars, theater, exhibitions, “openings,” showings, galas, restaurants, and the opera.
If you’ve got broadband internet and a device to log on, the entire world is now within your grasp, and there’s bound to be someone out there who is interested in talking to you – and has the time to do it.
And nothing helps alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression more than connecting with your fellow human beings.
Regardless of the actual lethality of this virus, I must say that the actual result of the global panicking is manifesting, surprisingly, as a huge outbreak of happiness, joy, and love.
Of course, Red April has only just begun, and things aren’t looking so good for the millions of people too poor to have their own home to isolate in or a connection to the internet.
But with the world getting cleaner air thanks to the lockdowns, an increase in respect for science thanks to doctors being at the forefront, and a surge of optimism and hope and energy coming from rested, happier, and mentally healthier folks, I think this crazy old planet is going to end up in a better place than where it started.