Seeing clearly is not yet, or never was, a core competency.
Here in the UK it has been a remarkably good week for facing realities, for reassessing monumental myth-takes, and for exposing empirical evidence.
What happens next — what we predict will happen next — will be informed by the extent of yesterday’s ignorance. So, it is no surprise that well-researched opinions, compiled and reported to high academic standards, are now rendered redundant because someone, thankfully, turned on the light and shook us from slumber.
How long does it take for entire nations to dump their delusions?
The truth is that the things, the events, the realities, remain — it is our perceptions of those realities, the ways we choose to remember them, that shift and slide. Can an entire nation confess to ‘false memory syndrome’?
Look back, if you must, but the rear-view mirror is no guide ‘going forward’. The past now looks very different. Today’s truths, the full unspun truths, wait to be revealed. As Leonard apocalyptically sang, “Things are goin’ to slide — slide in all directions”.
It is far too easy to distance ourselves from ‘foreign forces turned feral’, too easy to imagine ‘Oh surely, not here’, too easy to not question our inbred ignorant assumptions, but also, far too easy to despair.
Many observe that Covid-19 should not be described as a great leveller — it has crushed some groups far more than others. But in another sense Covid-19 has triggered a good pandemic — the reckoning of societies’ ills and inequalities, the revenge of hard truths, and rediscovery of neighbourliness. Fortuitously, against this pandemic there is no known political vaccine, but we have discovered Community Cures.
We may feel we’ve been let down — but why did we not take responsibility ourselves?
Only now do we grasp that we didn’t need some central authority to tell our local school to close. Only now do we realise that the local agency has lost authority — though, thankfully, not all were governed by Councils of Despair. Did we really need to be told to wear face masks on public transport? Did hospital directors not have the power to control visitors or test departing patients? Did we need to let passengers fly in without checking for the virus? We did few of these things because long ago we had given commanding powers to central government and they in turn have given most of it to ‘free market forces’ for the convenience of thought avoidance and private gain.
Re-empowerment (taking back local control?) is never easy. Some will call you anarchists but you didn’t know what you had ’til it was gone. Empowerment demands community engagement, astute local leadership, individual responsibility and the good sense to realise that only a very few things need higher authority.
Now we might see more clearly, that the over-centralised alternative was never a good choice: extreme inequality was not a good choice, being unprepared was not a good choice, blaming others was not a good choice, not listening to the science was not a good choice, creating homelessness was not a good choice, or fuel poverty, or cutting back on funding for education, police, libraries, health services — all, Not Good Choices. Climate threats have been known for generations. Will you shrug off the challenge for others to deal with?
We may choose to pretend otherwise. Stuff happens. The planet is run ragged. The people distressed. You, me, all of us will stand accused by future generations for making bad choices if we do not now dump the delusions that block our vision.
Seeing clearly is not yet, or never was, a core competency, and the rains have not yet gone — but we can lighten the load, expose the truth, and dump the delusions.