Coronavirus: Have we reopened Pandora’s Box?

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Artist: Charles Edward Perugini

I like metaphors. My thoughts about this pandemic have brought several to mind…

Anyone who takes the time to think about such things is aware that we, as a species, are on a fast track to absolute destruction.

Firstly, I know that people are scared and anxious and it’s certainly not my intention to disregard the seriousness of the situation. I know I am blessed to be in a position to be philosophical about the whole thing but I’m a writer and so I write.

I have over the years become increasingly aware of the fragility of our societal system, particularly when it comes to our most basic needs: Food, shelter, a planet to live on!
Environmental matters finally seemed to be getting the attention they deserve with the recent climate emergency declarations but sadly, the response is sorely lacking in urgency. Seemingly, our governments still rate this somewhere below economic priorities!

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The truth is that among the panic, the fear, the conspiracy theories, the blame and excessive use of toilet paper we are seeing some unexpected silver linings emerge from the clouds of chaos…

As Martín López Corredoira recently wrote:

“Neither Greenpeace, nor Greta Thunberg, nor any other individual or collective organization have achieved so much in favor of the health of the planet in such a short time. A miracle happened, and, suddenly, all the excuses to avoid a reduction of contamination have been shown to be spurious.”

It has to be said that the response to coronavirus has proven more effective in tackling climate change than any of our half-arsed single issue campaigns! Slamming on the brakes is exactly the kind of action we need.

I believe that our current social structure is flawed and contributes to poor mental health and spiritual wellness. Children and elders are institutionalised while the able are pushed to work away the precious hours of their lives and the unable are treated as an inconvenience.
To my mind, a well-functioning society works together and plays together. The live-in-the-moment spirit of the young is as useful to us all as the wisdom and experience of the old.

One of the nice things I have noticed during this pandemic is communities rallying together and looking out for each other.
My recent trip to the supermarket yielded little in the way of groceries yet a surprising sense of camaraderie amongst my fellow shoppers.

This pandemic has certainly highlighted our vulnerability when it comes to essentials like food and shelter. This is something I have become increasingly concerned about over the years and I know I’m not alone in my observations.
In the last week I have seen several petitions calling for a Universal Basic Income during this time of uncertainty. This is something I have been passionately in favour of since I first came across the idea, years ago! Many of us can relate to the crippling anxiety that comes with financial uncertainty, often leading to a downward spiral of chronic stress, depression, addiction, homelessness and suicide.
I sincerely hope that the current crisis will add weight to the arguments for UBI.

“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.” Buckminster Fuller

My choice to home educate my daughter was born of my own dismal experience and strengthened over the years of observing the experience of frustrated parents and broken children.
Though, I’m not qualified to judge the wisdom of our governments decisions regarding school closures, I do think that many valid concerns have been raised during this time. Among them, parental autonomy to make important decisions for the welfare of their children.
Parents should be able to choose when to spend time with their children or let them rest without fear of prosecution!
I will begrudgingly admit that there is a place for school in our society but I firmly believe our current system is in need of a radical overhaul. We force children into academic learning far too early in most cases, often leading to mental health issues that can be long lasting.
I cherish the precious years I have with child, they are already too short. Families being inflicted with financial punishment for the simple pleasure of spending time together is abhorrent!

As I pondered these thoughts and the right metaphor to convey them. I thought about how perhaps it might be easier to rebuild a collapsed system than to repair a broken one… A phoenix rising from the ashes?
But it was Pandora’s box that really called to me. If you’re not already familiar with the Greek myth, here is a brief synopsis.
In the original story Pandora’s curiosity compelled her to open the box, releasing all the evils of the world. Realising, too late, her error she slammed it shut, trapping hope inside.

I know I am not alone in seeing new hope amidst the madness lately, and I wonder if perhaps the box has been opened again?
Interestingly, (and yet coincidentally on my part) the words Pandora and Pandemic share the same prefix originating from the Greek language and meaning “all”, “whole”, “of everything”.

I hope you’ll indulge me as I haphazardly mix metaphors myths and meanings to suggest that perhaps in 2020 it is Pandemic who has opened the box. Releasing hope and perhaps while the box is open we should choose wisely what to keep and what to shut back in the box.

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