Before I get to the black, rotting heart of the matter, I want to qualify that I’m one of the lucky ones as far as Covid goes. I didn’t lose a job or any people that I know of yet, I moved to a better domicile in a much safer area, and was already working from home full time before the first lockdown. I’m aware of my privileged circumstances, but also aware that I had to walk through several circles of Hell and a few districts of Limbo before that. So while my critiques of individual and group behaviour in the pandemic are coming from a more protected space than most, I have also endured fucked up personal circumstances that have uniquely prepared me for this era – some of which make the current public hardships look pretty tame in comparison.
But enough about me, let’s talk about the rest of you. The pandemic has been something of an acid test for society – priorities have been laid bare, tendencies proven. History, as always, repeats itself. Those who live for the weekend are withering on the vine, while those who operate day-to-day seem to mostly be coping. The herd is being decimated, but the mentalities behind that herd are not sadly, despite nature giving us some fairly obvious hints that certain behaviours are outmoded.
It’s an era for individuals, and the days of large groups being a guaranteed constant may be behind us. We talk about a return to normality, but really there’s no going back, nor should there be – the normal we had before was anything but natural, and unsustainability was the mantra. Cuts to public healthcare and education, long the bread and butter of conservative policy, are now exposed for the unforgivable, inexcusable folly they are.
Those of us who have worked in the service or music industries, to name a couple, are struggling more than ever, while other sectors are now only beginning to understand the seasonal economic volatility that has been ‘normal’ for those of us who make our bread at concert halls, cafes or other ‘non-essential’ venues. It has also shown how easily a week (or a month) off work can throw you into a debt loop or spiral, and that the average person is not as well off as advertising would have you believe (take note, smug Boomers).
Everything plays perfectly into the hands of the big corporations – more small businesses drowning, more dependence on the likes of Amazon, Uber Eats and so on. Restaurants, clubs and so on operate at limited capacity, while sporting events pack full arenas and stadiums with minimal mask enforcement. Of course, organized religion enjoys packed houses because apparently people need buildings and large groups to observe ancient customs and believe in fragile premises – such is herd mentality.
Boxing Day and Black Friday sales, which are already utterly reprehensible and attract the worst kinds of people, continued unabated despite people being urged to have smaller holiday gatherings, New Year’s celebrations and social occasions. It proves once and for all that Big Business dictates government, and not the reverse, as if there was any doubt.
Elsewhere, it’s been alarming to see just how eager some parents are to get their kids back in school as Covid case counts soar, with basic education somehow being more of a priority than keeping their offspring alive and healthy. I get the need for personal space and professional availability, but I question where these parents would be if their offspring were stuck at home permanently with a severe disability, or some other tragic affliction.
It reeks of parents wanting to pawn off the kids they CHOSE to have on others rather than actually parenting, which begs the question if they were mentally equipped for the duty to begin with. Given the low quality of education these days thanks to budget cuts and cancel culture, and how a degree is just as likely to guarantee crippling debt as it is gainful employment, this urgency feels like parental selfishness more than concern for their kids’ development. Admittedly, easy for me to say – I’m not a father.
On an individual level, the era of the loner is now in full swing – it’s been on the way for a while technologically and socially speaking, but now those who define themselves by their relationships to others are finding their edges totally blurred. I see friends who have done nothing but work long hours and then work FAR too hard for too little in romantic relationships suddenly lacking purpose, when perhaps they should be relieved at not having to follow orders and massage fragile egos for the first time. Talented, clever people, left to be their own bosses for the first time ever, simply incapable of self-direction in an era that is all about the self. Everybody allegedly wants independence and autonomy, but very few seem to know what to do with it.
I’ve had to distance from some of these friends, I’m sad to say. Not everyone is bored in the pandemic (I haven’t been once), and some of us never slowed down on anything but social life. For me, this is the first time as a fully employed adult that I’ve been allowed to be my own man, on my own time, and I’m thriving in the autonomy. Others I know seem to be shocked, perhaps even offended that some of us are doing quite well away from the bleating masses and their needy bullshit.
There are many who assume that because they are now suffering, everyone must be, and their boredom must be universal. It’s kind of offensive to those of us who have been working towards self-sufficient states and are thriving in an era of overwhelming digital choice and convenience. Some of us were having a much harder time being out there at the mercy of others pre-Covid, in a society actively designed to marginalize and destroy anyone who lives in grey areas or outside of traditional binaries, be they gender or political.
Being alone can be scary, but not as much as the potential misery imposed by others. The Devil you know is less scary than the whims of the modern God complex that has become so popular amongst those raised on social media and reality TV, and the manufactured drama that comes with it. Chances are if all you can do with the extra alone time is feel sorry for yourself and play with a phone, that’s likely all you were doing before Covid.
Covid lays the ugly truth bare. For me, I have discovered I’m emotionally shallow compared to others, and I’m better off that way. Selfish productive loner is an archetype that many people are threatened by, and they needn’t be as long as it’s not laced with sociopathy. Busy is the new happy, and the pursuit of actual happiness seems trivial and archaic, but that’s just me. For those more dependant in external reinforcement, it’s tougher, and some are more wired to need it than others – no judgement from me. Just know that you may have to wait, and that internal reinforcement is what really changes lives. Take the opportunity to work on that while you wait to reconnect to the world at large.
You don’t need a gym membership to get fit, just imagination and dedication. You don’t need a house of worship for spirituality, if you truly have convictions of faith. Covid has undermined group social structures in a way that nothing short of war has beforehand, and even war often has a unifying effect. It’s an era for self-starters and flexible thinkers, and with the hivemind as brain damaged as it is, it seems like a good time to ditch the band and work on that solo project. It might be now or never – if Covid ever goes away, most of us will be so busy catching up with people or making up for lost wages we may never have time for ourselves, by ourselves, again.
In the first couple of weeks of the initial lockdown, it amused me to see how fast people were to determined to go off the rails – day drunk and living off ice cream, self-pity at not being able to do what they want and rely on others to validate or entertain them within days of being locked in. It was like they were waiting for an excuse, and a lot of them turned on those of us who weren’t panicking and had faced severe hardship and restriction before. It was pretty revealing as to who was actually being told no for the first time – usually white, straight and Gen Z, Millennial or Boomer, while Gen X mostly tried to stay positive and hold everything together AGAIN.
To those of us in gig or grey area economies and fringe subcultures, the uproar of the mainstream at sudden restriction is almost laughable. Their ‘new normal’ was our old one for years, and it seems that we only get to thrive when they leave us alone. Lockdown protests seem to be dominated by white, heteronormative conservatives, proving just how soft these fake tough guys really are, and how easily their vaunted ‘freedom’ of dead gods and false flags is undermined.
While the mandatory vaccine scenarios are getting awfully dystopian, and my views on that are fairly nuanced, the mask situation is pretty cut and dry. Either wear it as required, or fuck off quite frankly – it’s not a real hardship, and if you think so then as far as I’m concerned you have forsaken the right to medical attention going forward. From those of us with genetic medical issues that require surgery, stay the fuck out of our way on the street and the hospital waitlists. Our lives clearly ARE worth more than yours.
If you think wearing a mask is tough, try being shot for being a black man in a black hoodie, or attacked for donning the burqa. If a month without access to a bar seems tricky, think about those of us trapped at home with raging alcoholics in lockdown, just trying to work and stay sane, and hoping we will get to sleep tonight, instead of another fight at 3AM that we will never be allowed to avoid. That was my reality in the early months. Of course, the drunk abusive person is the real victim in that situation – right?
I have surgeries that I need that were being arranged pre-covid, and now I’ll be waiting years for them. Because people can’t wear a fucking mask and stay indoors for half a year, I’ll be dealing with my own breathing issues indefinitely (I spent most of last winter with sinus pain). Cancer patients are taking a backseat to Covid ones, which is ridiculous. I don’t think vaccines should be mandatory, but masking regulations need to be enforced, violently if necessary.
Covid is trying to teach us lessons, but most of humanity can only sustain change for three months at most. Rather than take the opportunity to learn, pivot and evolve, most of us wait for life to be handed back, and to return to freedoms that will soon be taken for granted again. It’s an opportunity wasted, a message unheard. Too little, too late perhaps.