March 21, 2020 by hasheyehosh
In these very uncertain, unprecedented and tragic times, it is only right that I should return to my blog and share my thoughts on the ongoing issues around us, if anything to crystallise my views and opinions on the morning after the evening before when British life was enormously interrupted by the state in an effort to curb the spread of this novel virus.
To start with, I wish to analyse what I believe to be going on with regard to recent events, particularly the surge in online social interaction between total strangers in “self-isolation” which started in Italy and spread throughout Europe and America, possibly even further as I write this article.
If we were to adopt a definition of “life” it would look something like this:
The activity between any two points in space and time from the existence to demise of an entity, usually an organism, and in particular a humanoid being.
In other words, whatever happens between birth and death, or even creation and destruction.
This then gives rise to an age-old question: what is the meaning of life?
To begin to answer this, we must first note that for any given person, the answer to this question is unique to them and their circumstances.
I have come to note that, in the early stages of human development, one particular notion that keeps cropping up is parenting:
The process by which life is guided towards a particular structure based upon the experience, knowledge, instinct, imagination and intuition of an older person or group of persons, such that the guided person may acquire similar knowledge etc and make the best use of the time between existence and demise (life).
However, parenting is not the only way that societies attempt to answer the question of the meaning of life, we have societies themselves organising into different forms and, adopting several norms such as cultures and governments, suggesting or indeed dictating and enforcing particular ways of life onto the individual experiencing life, with or without that individual’s will, consent or support – not to mention input – thereby providing a potentially and most likely different meaning to that individual’s life.
Inevitably, this meaning, being inadequate, leaves behind a huge void, still in thirst for the answer to “the age-old question”.
I suggest that it is because the individual is not initially permitted to determine or discover, let alone exercise their own activities in order that they should fill the void and provide their own meaning to their own lives, that the question tends to remain pertinent to them throughout their lives, and, until it is answered in a way that deals with it or at least if they agree with society’s version of meaning attached to them, then no satisfactory answer will be found for the question.
Take for example the case of coronavirus that has befallen us; you can see that the hugely popular internet social activities such as the spontaneous singing done online by strangers in choirs, celebrities entertaining their fans live online, sports coaches offering exercise classes online to large groups, all by self-isolated persons; what looks like ingenuity, I would argue, is actually rather in our nature as well as a being product of our circumstances throughout life up until that point.
It is in our nature because we always want to have our own meaning of life but this is not easy when society precedes us, which is also why it is a product of our circumstances.
Many people have been used to going to work every week (perhaps five days) and have to fit in all the other activities and commitments that happen on either side of work, so, to be told to put on hold these activities, to isolate themselves, to keep a distance (at least 1 metre) from each other to avoid further spread of the virus risking the most vulnerable in society suffering severely from COVID-19 symptoms, and potentially even dying from them, must be mind-blowing and unfathomable even two weeks ago.
It has made such people believe that this is their life and it cannot be altered without considerable damage to the economy and other aspects of life in unprecedented ways (which is true) but they did not for a moment consider that it actually could happen, until it did.
Then, they were forced to think for themselves of a new kind of meaning to life other than that which the state just prohibited them from pursuing; activities like going to pubs, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres etc were all proscribed by the state. This is when they turned to music, sports, puzzles etc and online learning for children who have had schools closed indefinitely and exams that were due in May and June cancelled.
They now are firmly aware that life is not just what government, culture, individuals in authority or positions of trust, elders etc say it is.
Now they have had a taste of a life congruent with their own ideals and that offers a more favourable answer to the meaning of their lives, I highly doubt that they should want to go back to their hated, taxing, overworked, stressful, costly, unnecessary lives. Even for those who enjoyed comfortable lives, they will want to make their own choices about whether to keep living it or to improve and make it accessible.
At the very least, I expect there to be, perhaps in the medium-to-long-term, a negotiation between the state’s and other external versions of the meaning of life and the average individual’s version.
I use negotiation rather cautiously, because this does not guarantee that it has to be amicable, smooth or easy on either side, as people tend to risk everything in order to achieve what they believe they deserve, especially if their eyes have been opened by the most unfortunate events warranting restrictive efforts to curtail the virus and its spread.
It is evident that the state does not want people to get too used or comfortable with this lockdown situation because it gives them too much time to be so acquainted to the point that they will not want to roll back or hand over their new found pastimes when the restrictions are removed in full since the majority of them cannot work for now.
It is this reason that I believe to be behind the recent state intervention the like of which has never been seen since the English civil war of 1649. The state is pumping billions, and prepared to get into the trillions if required in order to keep its version of life over that of the average individual were they to be left to their own choices.
“Whatever it takes” seems to be the phrase being adopted by different states in an attempt to justify their humongous interventions.
But, the reality is that the state really will do whatever it takes to maintain and protect its version.
It sounds hugely unlikely and incredible that an arm of society like a government could have largely ignored countless experiences of the pain and suffering of its poorest and most vulnerable citizens for many years, but when the economy as they know (and designed it) is threatened and its normal currency structures are failing, suddenly billions can be found to the rescue of businesses, yes, business first, and after much pressure, eventually yields to a package for workers.
There is a small extension of the universal credit by £1000 a year for those not in work and other measures to help those needing a safety net, but nothing in comparison to the businesses, mortgage owners and those who do the most to maintain the version of life that the state advocates and enforces.
One thing is for certain, life as we know it is changing before our own eyes, and there is no guarantee that we will return to the ‘old normal’ once we cross the bridge to the other side of this terrible pandemic of COVID-19.
People will be used to the benefits of working from home; learning online; saving money on unnecessary travel; ease of communications technologies, greener cities, online deliveries etc and the future will either be a complete move away from their old life or a hybrid of the two. My bet is on the new life. If there is a hybrid, then I will concede only that it would be heavily sided towards the new tech-oriented life against the old-fashioned system favoured by the state.
This outcome is far ahead of it’s time and will take many years to arrive at.
But, I am not discounting the remote scenario where the government or a sovereign group or even an individual concedes to major demands from the ordinary people to retain the majority of its new interventions (not the restrictions, obviously) and avoids a non-amicable approach to resolving the demands or determining whose version of life is followed, and therefore taken to be the preferred meaning of life that in turn becomes the daily grind, to replace the previous grain or fabric of life of the average individual.