Pandemic Times

Over the Easter Period I had plenty of time and space to reflect on the current, fast changing situation that we find ourselves in with this pandemic. It is a difficult to understand, and complex situation, with a huge variety of factors. There are no easy answers in reality. Our perception depends on who you listen to, your upbringing and history, how your family, friends, and work colleagues think, and what they believe... add to this the incessant News coverage, TV & Media, and social networks it creates a minefield of information, which is often confusing, unclear and divisive.

We're very familiar with divisive events though. We've had quite a few over the years, as well as the routine general politics of democracy that keeps on rumbling along in the background. Some of the events that have polarised folk are John Kennedy assassination, the 911 terrorist attacks, Climate change, Brexit, Trump, and now this pandemic.

All these events have created division. People arguing their point, their truth, that they are right. This current pandemic is no different. The whole situation is being analysed to death, and, as it is ongoing, it provides enough data and examples for new opinions constantly. You cannot turn on the TV, Radio, open a newspaper without some pundit sharing new 'facts', theories, explanations and perspectives about anything from where and how it started, the speed of growth, what the actual virus is etc. etc.

I am sorry, and apologise profusely, because in my own way, by sharing information (from different perspectives) I have unwittingly contributed to fanning the flames of division.

By posting anything related to the virus, either information supporting the official line or inviting discussion from the sceptical perspective it has further divided folk and encouraged anger, personal insults, abuse, bullying and sometimes even fear.... But it stops now... my concern is less with the virus but more what is happening in the arena of connection and our relationships with each other.

The real Virus

It appears to me that this virus we are focusing on is not the main "dis-ease" at all, that claim must go to the growth in division amongst us. As time passes we seem to becoming ever more virulent in our efforts to get our points across, "and be right", seeking to shame and mock our fellow man, who did nothing wrong apart from owning a different perspective to ours.

Surely we are all at liberty to think the way we do, as we are all affected by what is going on. Irrespective of arguments "this way and that" about the virus, we are all impacted as individuals differently.

Some of the population are elderly folk, others are vulnerable people who need constant care and attention provided by others, these people need special support in what must be a very frightening time for them.

At the other end of the spectrum younger people, wondering why they aren't at school, or able to see / meet their friends... or that they won't be able to sit their exams, what was the point in working so hard? ... and highly concerned about what happens next in a world which appears to be crumbling around their ears.

What about the families where the main 'earner' is looking at their business. Often built up over many years of sweat and tears; now laying in tatters, stressing over how the mortgage payments will be met... or facing the difficult task of 'letting people go' once the furlough period ends. Many of those employees would be friends, and now their lives or homes, also compromised.

I have many people say over the past few weeks, "why did this have to happen now? ..." which reminds me of a quote from Lord of the Rings :-

I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

We are all going to have to change, adapt and make some decisions going forward in response to what is going on around us...

  • What can we do?
  • Do I need to work on myself, develop new skills, find a new direction?
  • What support or help are we going to need and whom do we ask?
  • How and who can I help?

Instead of getting wrapped up arguing about...

  1. Where did the virus start?
  2. Was the virus man made?
  3. Who was to blame for its release?
  4. Is it like the flu or pneumonia or worse?
  5. Was the response fast enough or adequate?
  6. How are we measuring the deaths?
  7. Is this virus just a massive hoax?
  8. Is this all just part of a Master Plan / Bigger Agenda?
  9. Do we really need a vaccine? ... or is it really our only salvation? 

There are a million other questions and more appear daily as events unfold. The world is changing to what? Who can tell? None of us has a crystal ball but we can all play our part, and we are playing our part whether consciously or otherwise.

The future is ours to collectively co-create. But let us find a different approach other than wars. Wars are never won... dominant players kill more people that the other side and subjugate their foes... but... division still remains, the cancer was defeated for a time, but the war is not over...

We seem to be escalating division at the moment, co-creating a situation through aggressive rhetoric that polarises people rather than unifies. But... we have seen this before maybe not on this global scale. Although we don't want to admit it, perhaps this was a necessary step? It is sometimes only when we are pushed into extreme levels of discomfort that we are able to see the lessons that we must learn.

Have we entered World War 3?

 If we have, then this is not a war that any of us might recognise. It certainly doesn't look like any previous incarnation of war, but the build up is beginning to look very similar.

- People and countries beginning to blame each other
- People are dying
- Propaganda is rife
- Fake news (whether fake or just unpopular ideas) is everywhere
- Lack of trust
- Manipulation of people to cause emotional disconnection
- Encouraging people to 'inform' on their neighbours
- Fault finding, blaming, and scapegoating
- Polarisation
- Propagation of fear
- Reductions in freedoms and human rights

The rate at which information can be passed, whether the 'official line', or views that question it,  is at lightening speed these days via the internet and social media... human rights and freedoms are being stripped away routinely, and without resistance as a fearful population devolves greater and greater powers to the authorities who "will protect us", and save our lives. We have never witnessed a battle such as this, and technology has made this global almost overnight.

We cannot change another's mind

It does not matter how bitter the slaughter of individuals and groups becomes on social media, it still does not change people's minds. This became acutely evident in the last high stakes battle in the UK over Brexit.

Millions of hours spent putting our energy into voicing our opinions and doing battle with those holding alternative views to no avail. Perhaps a handful of people changed their views over that difficult 3 years...

Why do we do it? Why do we get enraged with people who have a different view? Why can't we accept that others can hold an alternative perspective, and that this is ok? Why is it almost impossible for most of us to just let it go... and then chat about something else? ... is it ego? ... a desire to win? ... to come out on top? ... to be right and defeat the other person, proving our superiority or 'Intelligence' in some public battle that no one else even cares about?

I am sure ego is in there somewhere fighting to prevent someone from "getting one over on us" but also there is this desire to be heard, to say our opinion which we believe is way more important and accurate than theirs.

Perhaps the lesson we need to unlearn is the thinking... "that the person you are talking too needs to hear what you have to say, regardless of whether they've asked to hear it or not"

When we cut to the chase...

Whatever we do, support, or fear, one thing is guaranteed; time is going to pass, and outcomes are going to happen, whether these outcomes are good for us or not, we will have to deal with them, and help others that we know and love work through them too.

We have the opportunity to use the information that is coming to us in a myriad of ways to prepare and even attempt to predict what might happen, but in these unpredictable times nothing is certain. All we can do really is work on probabilities, and likely outcomes, then figure out how we can participate to positively influence things in our favour.

Some people are using this time to reflect. There has never been a time when the world (the entire world pretty much) has been stopped. This is a one time opportunity to take stock, and use this time to look at ourselves. Where are we? What have we been doing? Who are the people in our lives? Are we happy? What is most important to us? ... such important questions but when we are busy spinning around on the hamster wheel of life we just never 'get time to ask'... Going forward... what do you want to be doing? How do you want to spend your energy? ... do you really want to go back to how it was before?

This post has been possible because I connect with many different people with a variety of views and perspectives. I don't share all views I read, but I do understand they make up the rich tapestry of life we call community. It is incredibly useful to see how others see the world and I'm curious to know why they think the way they do. Facebook shows more threads from those we interact with often and so by engaging with all kinds of people with different views I receive a good spread of varying perspectives which is invaluable in finding balance, in a world which looks like it has gone crazy.

Final words...

We are where we are... I know it is hugely tempting to be arguing about how we got here? What colour is our vehicle? What fuel are we using? is the driver competent enough? Did we start from the right place? Was that a bat or a pig? ... or even why have some countries got more old people that others... How does this help to deal with the concerns of real people on the ground who are hurting right now?

Maybe our bountiful energy could be better directed at how we as individuals can use our talents to support the vast numbers of people who are suffering right now and who are likely to be struggling in the future.

Personally I believe the fall out from all of this is going to be a magnitude of many times what we have experienced so far. Somehow we are going to have to open up our ability to communicate, discuss and find agreement on moving forward.  Each of us is unique and we are all able to contribute in ways that work for us in what is likely to be the biggest rebuilding collaboration we've ever seen...

Let us hope that we have learned from our mistakes and we co-create together something much more fit for purpose than we had before, and that works for the majority not just the few.


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