Keep Calm & Carry On – As Far Away As Possible!

Stuart White's focus here is "soapbox topic for this week - “When do we get back to ‘normal?”" in this period of uncertainty.
Keep Calm & Carry On – As Far Away As Possible!
“When do we get back to ‘normal?”Source: Pixabay

I would really love to talk about anything but Covid but whilst it continues to dictate our lives and how we live them, I really can’t! So this is my soapbox topic for this week - “When do we get back to ‘normal?”

Yes, I know the new buzz phrase is the ‘new normal’, implying that our lives have been changed utterly and inexorably by the current pandemic, meaning that life can never go back to the way it was. Proponents of this Brave New World predict that we will all become much nicer, kinder people, considerate of others and happy with our lot in life; that we will have lost the ‘shop till you drop’ consumerism that has, well, consumed us all, if you’ll pardon the pun, because the enforced closure of stores will have weaned us of real-life shopping and a temporary impecuniousness will have imbued us with a money-saving mentality.

It won’t happen, of course. True, many small shops will have closed their doors once and for all, brought down by economic force of circumstances but anyone who has been monitoring news reports from the UK, for instance, where Lockdown rules have been relaxed enough to allow certain retail business to re-open, can’t have missed the sights of packed car parks, overflowing trolleys and queues snaking for metaphorical miles at the re-opened hardware hyperstores and garden centres – so much for losing the desire for extreme retail therapy.

And as for us all turning into saints after our monastic incarceration, sadly human nature being what it is, it surely can’t be long before most people go back to their ‘true to form’ – some nice, some naughty and some downright wicked.

Nevertheless there are many amongst us and in charge of us who opine that life in future can never go on as before, that social distancing will be the new norm, that we will never again be so kissy-kissy and huggy-huggy as before, eschewing the Gallic cheek bussing and the embracing of strangers in favour of a slight nod of the head from a distance; that we should make it a permanent habit to sit apart in cinemas, theatres, restaurants and on public transport and oh yes, it’s probably a good idea if children never again go back to school where they can and do pick up all manner of bugs from their peers, bringing them back to the sanitised home.

This is a very Cowardly New World, according to author Lionel Shriver, who recently wrote thus

‘By inference, we're going to permit a pandemic with relatively mild lethality, in the context of historical infectious diseases, to utterly transform our daily lives until the end of time - and largely for the worse.’

She’s right! Here in Botswana, where out infection rate currently stands at 0.00014% - in other words, inconsequential, we are all being forced to appear in public mouths and noses covered, rather like a country of bandidos and burglars. We must sanitise our hands a dozen times a day, have our temperature taken whenever we enter a shop or other place of business and record our details in a log in case of…..well, in case of what exactly? There is only the remotest chance of contracting the virus from any of our fellow men and women but such a sense of terror has been built up in the public consciousness that such regulations are accepted as necessary, normal and utterly essential. The virus may not be making much of a killing hereabouts but manufacturers and purveyors of masks, hand sanitisers, plastic hoods and check-out screens certainly are!

Ms. Shriver paints a grim picture of the world that politicians would like us to inhabit for the foreseeable future. Whilst acknowledging the benefits of the experience such as the increase in remote working and the re-evaluation of our relations with still-red China, writing of the UK she describes a country which is walking and talking itself into a dystopian nightmare of social isolation and germaphobia.

“Some of the primary victims of this outsize anxiety are children, whose medical risk of serious infection is virtually zero. (For pity's sake, 47% of Britons were recently polled as wanting home-schooling to continue indefinitely. That's tantamount to the end of public education.)

The lengths schools are already going to in order to appear "safe" are so absurd that very little real learning could conceivably be taking place.

Instead, children are memorising ditties about hand washing, whirling their arms to ensure no one comes near them, standing all by themselves in isolated chalk circles, and relinquishing any toys or materials that can't be bleached every five minutes.

These kids are learning something, all right - to be neurotic. To avoid making friends, who are mere sources of contamination. To be so obsessed with safety at the expense of any sense of adventure or enjoyment that they're no longer children, but worrywart old biddies and geezers who just happen to be short.”

Were this to come about I can predict with a deal of certainty that there will be a future pandemic of allergies. The old adage that we will all ‘eat a peck of dirt before we die’ is ironically what keeps us healthy, by building up an immunity to the everyday germs and bacteria that are all around us. Scientists have discovered a causal link between the new-age desire for hospital-grade cleanliness in our homes and the increase in severe food allergies in children. Imagine how that will increase exponentially if we continue to treat our houses as isolation wards, disinfected to the nth degree and void of any un-sanitised human touch. Perhaps ‘insanitise’ might be a more appropriate term, for surely that’s where madness lies?

Consider this advice to anyone taking advantage of the relaxation of isolation in the UK where people may now meet others outside of their own families in groups of up to 6, so long as they maintain social distancing. They are allowed to visit other homes but this must be confined to the garden, regardless of the weather conditions. Should a visitor have to enter the house to use the loo, they must go straight in and out and make sure they don’t touch anything on the way - don’t ask! - and for non-co-habiting couples who wish to meet up for…….er, relations, shall we say…. , they also must conduct their activities in the garden whilst being mindful of public decency.

You couldn’t make it up. I’ll finish with another quote from the eminently sensible Ms. Shriver who sums up the madness thus

“You'd think nobody had ever got sick before. Get a grip. London is expected to have virtually extinguished this virus by the end of this month. Sod "the new normal". Give us back the old normal, and as fast as possible.”

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