If you are a bird, an ozone layer or a panda in Hong Kong, this is a good time for you. Not for the rest of us, especially those who spend their lives negotiating the river rapids of anxiety and depression.
In a few short weeks, the engines of capitalism have been brought to a shuddering halt and countries that spend billions on defence find themselves with their useless guns and fighter jets, defenceless against this invisible enemy.
Some of us here on the Bipolar Writer spend our lives in a form of lockdown – although probably a less extreme form than we are now experiencing. At the same time, mental illness – for those that have never had to think about such things – is becoming if not an issue at least a consideration, a bit like a threatening sea lapping around the good maintenance of a daily schedule.
Our helpful newspapers are full of suggestions about how to be, how to think and what to do during this period, bombarding us with articles on everything from recipes to try, cocktails to mix, books to read, exercise to take, to how to maintain relationships over Zoom. I’ve even seen one piece advising those working from home how they should dress appropriately for a zoom meeting! Well I suppose it is important to someone somewhere that a white shirt is laundered and ironed, despite the gruesome toll of rampaging disease beyond our windows.
But beyond taking normal precautions to keep in good health and good spirits, what can we do? I can only reiterate what Her Majesty the Queen said a couple of days ago on national TV – echoing the wartime sentiments of Vera Lynn’s songs – that we will be with our friends and families again. We will meet again. This will end.
We all long for a return to ‘normality’. Yet what kind of normality do we want, or can we afford to go back to? It may be time to have the courage to imagine something new for ourselves.
A normality in which so many people suffer from poverty, sickness and despair is not one to be treasured or returned to.
Author Arundhati Roy writes in the UK Financial Times (4th April 2020):
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway, between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”