Monday, April 27, 2020

Covid Lessons?

The thing about this Covid-19 menace is that, in addition to threatening your health and life, it also is supposedly teaching you lessons. A strand of RNA clad in a protein sheath is the new guru to the modern world. On all sorts of things ranging from the benefits of a work-from-home culture to the planet to the benefits of spending time with family; from the realization of which professionals the world truly needs to the realization of the hollowness of a material culture; even from the powerlessness of human beings against an enraged Nature to the worth of a rich inner life compared to a rich external life. Back to school again...and I never did like learning.

You know, this reminds me of the time I went on a diet. (Oh, yes, I did. There WAS a time when I too indulged in the futile endeavor of trying to exchange a beer barrel for a six-pack!) It was a 15 day diet, so I gritted and bore it, dreaming every day of all the goodies I would eat once the diet had ended and waking up to a pillow wet with drool. AND, when the diet ended, there was this huge eating spree as though I was in a hurry to put back on all the weight I supposedly lost during that period of semi-starvation.

THAT, then, is the issue with these Covid lessons. If you grit and bear it, waiting for the lock-down to end so that you can get back to your 'normal' life, what exactly are going to be the lasting effects? Exactly the same as my diet had on my weight. If anything, the damn thing INCREASED.

The point about learning lessons relating to behavior and attitudes (NOT facts, like what 5 x 3 works out to. You can grit and bear it or enjoy it, you could still learn the FACT)  is that you need to EMBRACE the experience, see what in the new way of life seems better to you compared to what used to be. THEN you possibly could learn from it, adopt a modified way of life going forth. If, instead, you see it as a detestable temporary interregnum in your 'normal' life, when the time comes you will revert back to your normal life with a vengeance.

Of course, even if you DO grit and bear it, your life can still change. But THAT will happen only if it lasts for long enough for it to become the new normal for you. Which is HOW humanity has always changed. By being dragged kicking and screaming into a new way of life because the old one is irretrievably gone. Especially where the new way of life does not make things MORE convenient to you.

So, yes, these Covid lessons will stick only to the extent that some changes in the way of life have been proved MORE convenient than before. OR if it lasts long enough for it to become the new normal. Otherwise, it will be largely business as usual, once the problem is no longer visibly serious.

THAT's the reality of humanity. We never learn just from experience. Only if there is an immediate carrot or stick!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Lockdown musings

Thanks to avoiding newspapers and cutting off TV, I am invariably late on any news. And what I do get to know comes from Social media, which as you all know is well-known for its impartial and neutral accuracy and completeness of information.

Which accounts for the fact that I first came to know of this Covid-19 menace from Social media shares about people hoarding toilet paper and guns. Obviously, it gave me the impression that this was a diarrhea epidemic and people were, therefore, stocking up on toilet paper; and the guns were so that they could defend their stocks against all comers.

It's funny how all the layers of altruism get peeled off in a jiffy when something threatens to affect your lifestyle. Take all this hoarding for example. It's not like people think that the poor malls are running out of storage space for all the goods that they stock and, so, it would be a favor to buy it and stock it at home. Obviously, you think they are going to run out of goods and you may not get what you need if you worked on a business-as-usual basis. Which, essentially, means that you think some people WILL end up having to do without those goods and are rushing to ensure that it is not you. Which, when someone else does it in some other country, you would deride as 'the devil take the hindmost' attitude of selfishness.

But, then, that's the truth of most of the morality that we preach. When it is something that does not directly affect you, you can readily see the right thing to do. The moment it starts affecting your own lifestyle, your reaction varies from 'ideal, but impractical' all the way to 'totally stupid and probably not even moral'.

That, perhaps, is the reason why there is a schism between how the intelligentsia sees the world and how the rest of the world does. From the vantage point where any of the choices do not seem to affect you, it's easy to assess the fairness and the morality of the choices. From where you ARE the affected party of a moral choice, it's difficult to see beyond your own loss. The child from whom you take a candy to give to its sibling can only see that it has lost the candy to the sibling; not that the act has ensured that both children now have an equal number of candies. AND when you take away its lone candy to give it to a poor child...

Privilege is something that all of us find easy to see in other people. Never in ourselves.  And to be in a position where the choices do not affect you is a big privilege, a privilege that you cannot see. But, then, when you see privilege as a fault, it's quite obvious that this is the way it will work.

Since when has any person been able to see his own flaws or admit to them?

Monday, April 13, 2020

The head and the heart

"You know what the problem with people is?"

"What is it?" I asked tentatively. True, this did not seem like it was heading towards a listing of my flaws but you never know. Experience had taught me that the most innocuous of beginnings can end with my being compared to a snail for IQ, with the snail winning in a canter.

"They use their heads when they should use their hearts. And use their hearts where they should use their heads."

This was getting...what's that word starting with 'e', esoteric!

"Why are you looking like a drunken donkey? No idea what I am talking of as usual, I suppose."

Well, I was actually wondering about when he had had occasion to drink with donkeys but...Too often, questions like that had landed me with the reply, "Every time I drink with you, of course!", so I kept silent.

"You see, when you are going off on a business trip and your five year old kid is crying about that the time to be teaching him about the market economy and labor markets?"

"What? But who..."

"Almost everyone it appears. 'You love chocolates, don't you? If Papa has to get you chocolates, he had to work. Only if he works he will get the money to buy you those sweet sweet chocolates'. BAH! Give the kid a hug and tell him you will be back soon. Ask him to give you a smile, kiss the tears away. He is only missing you, wants to know you will be back soon, wants reassurance. Instead people think it is the right time to teach him economics."

This WAS esoteric. I mean, I don't have kids of my own, not having entered that state of marital bliss, as someone with a sense of humor named it. If I had and if that kid had any sense, it would be crying alright...when I returned from the trip. And as for me as a kid, my interest in my dad being home depended upon whether it was the time for my monthly test results to come or no. IF they were imminent, I'd send him off on a trip myself, if I could. So, this kid crying and the means of consoling etc was so much Greek and Latin to me.

"And when it comes to the time where you need to use the head, what do they do?"

I looked up apprehensively. Did he expect me to answer? No, thank God, it was one of those so-called rhetorical questions.

"Like, you are discussing a new law; or the Budget; of some diplomatic mess. You expect people to assess the facts, understand the pros and cons and come to a conclusion."

You do? Well, I must confess I used to expect the same, yes! But, come on, really who has the damn time. And, for a lot of things, you also needed to acquire knowledge even to understand the facts.

"Instead, they go by the heart. Is the guy who is saying this someone I like? Then HE is right. Is it someone I hate? Obviously he is talking nonsense if not outright lying to mislead people. Is the guy who is saying this someone who likes someone I like? Then..."

Now THIS was making me dizzy. So dizzy that I lost my customary caution and blurted, "Alright! I get the point. They go by the heart."

"Yes! Deciding issues based on whether they like the person, instead of checking whether what he said is right."

Yeah, Right! As though you could. I mean, in these days there are multiple sets of facts depending on what you want to prove. You don't even know what is true. Even if Truth has not gone all relative like Time and Distance and all that, its impossible to find what is the absolute truth. So...

"God knows why we think we are an intelligent species", he said, and walked out.

Now THERE I agree! Essentially, since we have ALL lost our heads, we might as well go with the heart!

Monday, April 6, 2020


I have always wondered about priorities. I mean, you think you know what your priorities are. Like, say, ensuring that THAT slimy so-and-so does not get ahead of you in the corporate rat race and things like that. Then you fall sick and suddenly find that your biggest priority is to get through the day without puking your guts out once every half an hour. THEN you sort of decide that this stress of corporate rat race, this acidity and loss of well-being is just not worth it. You recover, and back you are, sidling to your boss, and telling him how that ass messed up that project and you had to enter and save the day. Priorities!

Anyway, having read enough dystopian fiction to sink the Titanic, I was always under the impression that a crisis would show up what the priorities of the human race are, even if my own are totally messed up. Not that I wished for one, understand, and I'm quite sure that I could have readily done without the knowledge if I had been given the choice. But now that there IS a crisis and I necessarily have to live with it...

Yeah, I know, this is altogether too heartless of me and all that but I, like you, have to live with a lock-down and have to spend my time some way. Some choose to do exercise videos, others need to show that they know the way to their own kitchens; some love to issue a doomsday message every 5 minutes, others need to talk of a new what if all that I want to do is check out what the priorities of humanity are. Crisis is supposed to bring the real priorities into sharp focus after all.

I must admit that the initial data does not support any massive change in focus. True that it has wrought significant changes in my own behavior, added a huge dose of fear into my everyday life but...

I am now afraid to step out on my balcony. I mean, apparently, the least little action I do there has cosmic consequences. If I clap, five planets, the sun and the moon as well as the lunar nodes all shudder in response, or so I am told. If I light a candle, the entire Cosmos heats up. Every time I step out on the balcony now, I cast a fearful eye at the Sun or the Moon to see if there is some adverse reaction. (I mean, true, that people did say that it was when it was done in unison but then what do I know about whether there is a critical mass of people doing it at the same time?)

And then there was all that solicitous regard for the national electricity grid and its collapse. THAT's put the fear of god in me, let me tell you. NOW I cannot even switch off my tubelight without shuddering in fear at the thought of bringing down the national grid. With more reason, really speaking, because I am given to understand that most people prefer to switch off their lights while sleeping so it is much more likely that, when I switch off the light, enough people could be doing the same across the country. I don't know when next I will gather the courage to touch the darned light switch.

I digressed...but with reason. See, all that may seem outwardly new but it is much the same as before the crisis. One lot is bent upon finding meaning of cosmic significance in every act of its leader. The other lot is equally as determined to see every act of that leader as likely to lead to catastrophe. THAT's how they were before, that's how they are now, nothing has changed.

So, then, have the priorities of humanity not come into sharp focus? Not even during a crisis?  Or is this not crisis enough? As in, does it require something more serious for humanity to start thinking in terms of what the priorities of the race as a whole ought to be, sinking individual likes and dislikes in the process? I was almost veering to that conclusion, that the sort of crisis which brings focus on the real priorities would have to cause much more disruption in the everyday lives of people (I am NOT wishing that it happens, thank you!) than has been the case now. And then I realized that I has not studied my data properly.

China had concealed the seriousness of the epidemic. Maybe even released it as bio-warfare. There were these people congregating when the epidemic was feared. Perhaps that was an intentional terrorist attack. Then these governments - some don't do enough screening, others did not start in time, this government is to blame because over the last so many years the health system was not made robust, that is to blame because they dismantled the system...

I think I KNOW what the biggest priority of Humanity is during a crisis.