I’ll skip the introduction because I know what you may be thinking.
Do I have it? How bad is it? Can my dog get it? Why is everyone wearing a mask, that doesn’t even do anything – or does it? Is binge buying toilet paper a clever anti-corona strategy or the only insurance that I will have toilet paper for the next few weeks, as everyone else is binge buying it? Should I get a mask? Book a flight to Bora Bora? Paris? Should I quit my job? Write my will? Should I get injected with it for £3500?
Get rich or die trying they said. And we are– one of the many underlying tones of this virus. Obscurely insensitive and inhumane, but definitive of a society always too hyper-aware to properly prepare, a society too engulfed in headlines to fact check and a society ran by politicians who get off on gaslighting us.
Many will not make it through this is many ways. The devastation is deeper than economic or physical. As it seems, the mindset that we revert to in a pandemic is selfish nonetheless, not shy of coping mechanisms that are triggered by headlines or Facebook posts that we don’t know are real or fake. We don’t know if much is real or fake.
What do we know? We know that we were more upset that the NBA season (along with every other sports thing) is canceled than the fact that the US president answered our dismay with a speech as relevant as a bike is to a fish. Why? Well, we have no faith in leadership when it comes to the words of a politician in 2020.
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Things are not as personal as they feel. Indoor activity: Think of the last time you took something personally. Then ask yourself, what could that person be going through that you don’t see? Everyone is trying their best to respond to the world with what they know and the things they’re dealing with. Very little of that has to do with us.
Perhaps say Churchill or a Kennedy wouldn’t fit the modern bill, as we know they wouldn’t be “woke” or politically correct in a postmodern society. Nonetheless, they had many different, successful tactics when it came to moving people in crisis with powerful speeches. They had the ability to aid us through words like a bedtime story– hence how their powerful presences linger in our history books.
Will a Trump tweet follow up? No! Boris? Not even close. Each speech is as predictable and painful as a hangover. They don’t leave us inspired, just angry either at the ‘leader’ or whoever they are choosing to scapegoat. This new reign of manufactured consent politics always leaves us ready to smell the ink of a politician’s pen, especially around an election.
Ulrich Beck, a German sociologist, and Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” flirted with this idea of a risk preventing society in their work, and this has fossilized. We do not try and lead or fix: just manage risk and experience.
Nothing makes micromanaging in the media easier than fear. Marshall McLuhan emphasized the power that the media has over society in the 60s with his famous book The Medium is the Message, which highlights the personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that the media leaves no part of society untouched. In simpler words, the medium is the message is an emblematic term that proves there is a systematic relationship between the influence from the medium and the perception of the message. The ‘us versus them’ narratives plastered all over the coverage of the 2016 election would be the perfect example. The McLuhan media theory reiterates the postmodern debate that the media will always be biased and controlled by specific influences. For some institutionalized media, this means advertisement and public economy.
So, with that in mind, why are we letting the media– or the politicians– provide us primary direction in this crisis? The media hits its targets by amplifying ratings, views, and clicks. And as far as stories to drive that? If it bleeds, it will lead. Really, there is not a more perfect story for any media outlet than the coronavirus. Especially at the time of an election, where all the world’s a stage and politics is that of a civil war.
Sometimes it’s hard to think rationally when faith and reality seem so far apart. How to live equals how to avoid any risks, Beck says. No solutions, just precautions. How to just make do and get by, and not question because the answers were too unfathomable. We know we can’t trust the news, the banks or the politicians but we don’t think of why. This is a norm and it’s what we’ve been handed so we must just make it work somehow. Therefore, we don’t need truth, or trust or leadership because to us it’s not reality.
Why did we believe the news and mainstream media more than shock doctrines and conspiracies? We should let our unconscious be subservient of our conscious: if the headline was plastered everywhere and engraved in our brains; there was some sort of capital or political persuasion in the works. When everything seems like it’s in peril, how do we find reminders that the world isn’t so bad and that if we just blew it up– that wouldn’t be the best thing for it?
However, this isn’t all the politicians and the media’s fault. Some of this reflected us in such a mirroring bizarre way. We can’t help ourselves to not become obsessed and analytical of events that only impact us in an unsure, untrue way. For the virus laminated a portion of society, the one in which suddenly held no importance to anything. The one in which seems more concerned with buying in bulk just because, and ignoring statistics such as the estimated 99% survival rate.
This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since it’s been human nature long before coronavirus, but Karl Marx and evolution itself have often said and shown that some people will try to eat all the food they can consume long after they are full, and some will starve because of that. As Charles Darwin said in The Descent of Man, “The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”
When it comes to this virus, there has been little thought control, starting with our politicians, and trickling down into our own feeds. If you’re sick of hearing all the references to Darwinism, think of the inspiring words of Roosevelt if this all has you feeling a bit unsettled, because “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
All this paranoia has left us all a bit nostalgic for days when things made sense, had control and truth. Not in peril or paranoid. When we were people, not bots. Like our political parties and ideologies, we just bounce to one headline to the next, one extreme, one hashtag one trend. Maybe lives we lived post-virus were such an unreality that our post-virus lives are nothing but chaotic hysteria.
Photo: The White House via Flickr