Fragements on Lock-down
How would it sound, if many years hence, a novelist starts his novel with
It was a time of uncertainty, it was a time of prediction, it was the age of realisation, it was the age of illusions, it was an epoch of science, it was an epoch of leaping in the dark, it was the season of end of the world, it was the season of new beginnings, it was a spring of staying home, it was a summer of giving up, we had everything behind us, we had nothing before us, we were all together in saving the civilisation, while we were tearing each other apart to save ourselves - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Would we recognise the time - or, is it indeed like any other time?
Would we miss the lock-down once it's over? Once the busy life starts again, if it does. Do we miss the packed trains, hurried lunches, noisy evenings, attachment-free conversations? And, if those charmless things charm us in their absence, this endless, enforced, lonely idleness would possibly turn into a nostalgia. In its absence, once this is behind us. We would ask - where were you in the spring of 2020? I was busy discovering the nooks and corners of the local park, starting and abandoning novels, growing and shaving beards, etc.
For me, I discovered Hercule Poirot. Some things require enforced idleness.
Rituals come to mind. Confucius was right - rituals keep us narrow and straight. There is nothing idiotic about showering and shaving for a 830 start! The structure is the only way to get work done.
But, after a few days - What work? The to-do lists are exhausted, unless we turn them into an inexhaustible fountain of making work. The ritual of getting done is transforming into a ritual of making work. Back to the life of the artisan, work is what I call it. It starts when I start and ends when I sleep. The guilt of the industrial man is chucked out of the window, in the eerie quiet of the end of industrial life.
The air must have cleared up, as the Satellite pictures show. The nights are clearer, stars are brighter and even some people in South London are reporting that coasts of Spain have become visible.
What's there not to like in this, except if you are a tree and starving for the lack of Carbon Di-Oxide?
Democracy's defenders always claimed it was the least bad of all the political systems. As long as we don't ask - is it good enough - we should be happy with democracy. But then, as the virus come knocking, that question pops up in mind. At the time when things fall apart, when all democracy has to show for itself is this Donald-and-Boris show..
If the ideal of socialism was easily corruptible by one ruthless dictator, democracy met its match with unaccountable plutocrats. Dani Rodrik may think democracy is at odds with globalism - and it indeed is - but the problem really is the mobile, uncountable, unaccountable money. Money can buy a really good fascist!
As we die, we may now see: Democracy may need a glasnost!
Talking of unaccountable money: Is this the moment of Keynes or time to finally bury him? In fact, as the governments keep expanding themselves, much-maligned Hayek may make some sense. Spending money one doesn't know one doesn't have - we are on our road to serfdom!
What happens if the keys to world's money are passed into the hands of a self-serving government in the middle of a chaos? A self-interested generation, caught like a rabbit in a headlight, is being led down the garden path by a bunch of incompetent and self-indulgent politicians, whose only get-out-jail card is the ability to print money! An equally clueless opposition, with no real ideas on offer, is simply standing by, asking for even more. COVID has unshackled our money from the last vestiges of responsibility and Keynes is being overdone to the point of being undone.
Only Austrians could really see how this may look like!
All together, a solid, eventless time means fragmented, momentary thoughts.
I am not sure whether because my thoughts are absent or they are crowded. But I know the appearances and disappearances of them are strung together by an extraordinary time.
But then, is this, the very end of a placid, continuous period of human history exceptional, or what preceded it, the normal as we knew it, was exceptional itself?
It matters, as life may never again get back to being the same.