New Plague

Anybody heard about this coronavirus thing? Yes? Oh, neat. Me too. How about that.

I will admit right from the hop that I don’t follow the news. I am woefully under-informed about most current events. This doesn’t bother me none. I’m someone who wants to banish themselves to a secluded parcel of land and the cabin the woods narrative kind of begins with a mental withdrawal from FOMO-inducers. Either that or I’m just checked out and in the same little world that I’ve been in my whole life. The reality of me not giving a shit about the answer should give you one as well.

Before I set into the crux of this piece, I will- as a side- mention that it rankles motherfuckers that I don’t keep up with the news. They throw their arms and tell me that I live in the world, that all these things are important, and that being savvy to the fluxes of global politics and trends is important. I wager that is only half true: I basically retire from the world when I am in novel-mode and my dome-piece out of my hovel’s hole, take a swift appraisal and retire to think of ways to innovate, soak-in what I’ve gleaned and mix the Erlenmeyers. I digest, ruminate and use that as fuel for my writing. Most of what is out there is designed to scare you, we all know that, and I have much more fascinating bullshit to talk about with people than ephemera and other topics which are soon dissipated, like gasoline rainbows, as the night clasps its molars.

Plus, I work in a restaurant, I hear a lot of jawing, I can pick it up as I go along. It’s also kind of entertaining being like a child surrounded by adults having adult conversations; being grown, and hearing how different people slant the subject with nuanced speech and self-serving statistics.

Anyways. The bat-flu, or whatever. It seems like it’s a thing.

The interesting thing about this son of a bitch, to me at least, comes from my necessary usage of social media. I use it, Instagram mostly, but also Facebook for shoring up posts, because: you have to. Don’t worry, this isn’t about to start a social media driven post, I wouldn’t subject you to that on this fine day.

What interests me is the (and I don’t know a damn thing about this, whether that be statistics, body counts, spread, etc…) wildly divergent subjectivity on the seriousness of the malady.

My cursory scrolls on IG would lead me to believe that this thing is a simple weekend flu that fucks up a weekend and that people look silly with their Optimus Prime facial coverings, which apparently, do not serve as anything more than a ninja-fashion accessory, with the actual masks needed to dispel the virus being more expensive and even sillier looking.

Facebook, obviously, is signalling the end of times, just as they do with politics and everything else that picks up speed. That annoying feature where infographs and self-playing videos kick on whenever you happen to move past them; lots of red, black backgrounds with white letters, words I let sail by me like a free t-shirt from a bazooka at a sports event.

People, as they are wont to do, play both sides. Some believe it’s a new-plague, others believe that it’s the first 2020 year-end wrap-up on the highlight package videos that’ll manifest in late December.

Me, I agree with the great Billy Burr anytime something like this happens.

The idea that drove me to write about it, similar to the post about Remembrance day, was the overload of information that is delivered to us with such sensationalist enthusiasm. The burnout comes from an over-familiarity with doom and dread, it makes the hoi polloi reticent, sarcastic, and maybe even cynical.

I thought about Hitler, as is the standard. That fucker is the benchmark of colossal news and sweeping events of a generation.

I thought that it may be the way we absorb and deal with heavy discourses that fall like lead clouds, too heavy for the sky to hold. Maybe we’ve burnt the motor to a crisp. Maybe we’ve become so sardonic that we are unable to take anything seriously. Maybe we’ve become too much of a ‘prove it’ species that needs gruesome videos, shocking figures and our own loved ones to perish in order to earn a sense of respect and galvanize a communal fear and understanding.

I thought, what if Hitler was storming through Europe. What would the social media posts look like? They’d probably make fun of his mustache, the Poles, and the French, using tried and true epithets about submarines with screen doors and effeminacy. They would, of course be the sharp coloured posts that bellowed statistics: land usurped, people killed or imprisoned, and the like. Yet, there would be tantamount absurdist memes and sarcastic social commentary, I reckon.

I thought that people would ignore it until it was dropping buzz bombs on Her Majesty’s playground, U-Boats were seen off the coast of Newfoundland, and a harmless tanker was suicide- bombed in the Pacific. All the while, the content creators would be lessening the seriousness of the damage inflicted by the Furor and his axis-crew.

Then, I realized… That’s already happened. Exactly like that, only lacking the information age’s certain pedigree of detached whimsy and Lambo-fast reaction time.

Playing things down, ignoring them until they’re (almost) on your shoe, that’s what we do! I wonder what the plague was like… There was little conveyance of information in those years, and then, ka-fucking-bang. Or, is this it? (Cue dramatic violin screech)

Do the majority of people not concern themselves with the plight of others out of laziness? Lack of concern or the ability to care about what is largely unseen or unfelt? The necessity for a tunnel-vision to adhere us to the biological imperative of self-preservation? Do we lack empathy as a people? What about the individual? We all acknowledge and chose our side of the fence about most everything, but what makes us raise our fist and care?

Conversely, why do those that do care, care? What bones do they have that we, I, do not? What makes someone, with little to no stock invested in another, care?

Being in a particular location or group, a direct member or a closely linked affiliate elicits action: It’s your cause and the equality you are seeking, or the treatment you are trying to change, is direct: cause and effect.

But the casual onlookers, the cats outside of the sphere, people far away: what makes them fight? Even more, what makes them care?

Beyond the tacit head-nodding I do with minority groups, global women’s rights, and the environment, I do nothing more. I agree, but I don’t often keep those things top of mind. I make my bed and leave the room. It doesn’t directly involve me. Other than changing my behaviour, my outlook, my speech, my cognizance of others feelings, I don’t do much as far as action.

Maybe it’s just a lot to handle for the average human being, lucky enough to not be persecuted or sick or negatively impacted by one of the lotto balls of mayhem that find its way to the surface of mainstream attention.

We seem to have always dealt with catastrophe by shrugging or ridiculing it off until it becomes so salient that we have to, or have to pretend, to give a shit. Until it directly impacts your life or someone you know is involved or suffering, that is. It’s hard to say if it’s always been like that (cynical, reluctant, macabre even), the Greatest Generation didn’t do it for the Gram; but if they had it, I bet that they probably would’ve. I think we’ve always been the same, more or less, things just get normalized, but the potential is resonant.

Nowadays, with many people deservedly fighting for many causes all around the world, about things that in one way or another impact the ascribed or manufactured traits of so many, the level of concern necessary can take up a person’s entire day, brain, and life.

Maybe it’s just easier to joke about it and pretend like it ain’t a thang.

Sorry for cussin,

Papa Croft

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