An appeal from the new space of thought

By Saturday March 21st, 2020April 9th, 2020Food for thought

In the new times of silence a space of thought opens up.

It’s an invitation to enter it. To actually think.

Today (21.3.2020) I have thought about the following photo.

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Screenshot from the BBC News page (21.3.2020)

A shot of Bondi Beach in Sydney. Because it is still summer in the southern hemisphere (about 27 degrees), people naturally want to go swimming. But they are not allowed to anymore. Corona has also arrived in Australia. Social Distancing is now the order of the day.
The whole stupidity of the current debate, one might think, is shown in this picture.
Hey folks, it says, stay at home, keep your distance!
As if sitting around at home is healthier than walking on the beach or swimming in the sea.

Wrong. Almost every child knows that sea air helps with respiratory diseases. The same applies, of course, to walks in the woods, visits to the park and, in principle, every walk out the door. That is why some doctors are already warning of the negative consequences of curfews and domestic locked-in. The consequences of lack of exercise will be seen in overcrowded orthopaedic and cardiology practices.

From Sydney, where the summer is slowly fading away, to Berlin, where the winter is just ending. The 10 degrees on the thermometer feel like much more. The sun glistens silvery in the spring air. I put on a protective mask before I enter the hallway, but take it off again outside on the street, taking care to keep a safe distance in case I am unknowingly already a carrier of the infection.
People come towards me. Some of them move past me in sweeping arches, showing that they have understood the commandment of social distancing. Others run straight at me as if on rails. Because of them I jump onto the road several times. Not because I am afraid of these people, but to protect them from possible infection by me.
That’s how I wander the streets, avoiding people. People avoid me. Some give me a nice smile. Others seem to be already by themselves. All alone in a kind of introspective state of mind. Probably arrived in this completely new space of thoughts that has opened up these days.
Except for grocery stores, everything is closed in Berlin Kreuzberg. Cafés as well as fashion boutiques. So there are hardly any possibilities to distract oneself through consumption. A very pure and immediate feeling. What do I need? What do I not need?
Berliners currently need so much toilet paper that it is always sold out by noon. For a moment I toy with the idea of entering a supermarket. It’s still just before noon. Might get lucky. What for? I think then. I think I’ve got enough for another week. But what if I’m unlucky at the end of the week and there isn’t any left?
With these thoughts in my head I wander on and suddenly find myself in front of a barbershop. Astonished, I look in through the window. A small shop. Twelve people are getting their hair done at once. The chairs on which they sit are very narrow. So narrow that when they cut, the hairdressers just fit through the gaps. 
I consider taking a photo with my mobile phone, but immediately discard the idea. But the sight irritates me so much that I decide to write this text.

If Corona were a Buddhist deity, she would certainly be counted among the angry gods. The wrathful goddess Corona obviously wants to show us that we should change our behaviour.

Really? What behaviour is that? And change it how?

It may be that the worldwide reaction to Corona has many questionable aspects (as some doctors say). It is possible that the fear associated with corona is part of the actual disease. However, 800 people have died of Covid-19 during the course of today in Italy alone. The fact that the virologists’ predictions are exaggerated, as larger parts of the German population still believe, thus seems increasingly absurd. Comparisons with the severe flu epidemic of 2017/2018 therefore fall short. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is apparently attacking much harder. Nevertheless, a fundamental mistrust of official figures and announcements may be guiding the steps of some people. But are doubts about the official version according to the virus an invitation to join Corona parties? The anarchist counter-proposal, call it Corona-punk, sounds like this: Forget the virus, let’s have fun!
Weird, but a lot of people think: I don’t care what’s happening right now. As long as I don’t see it, don’t feel it, don’t suffer from it, I don’t care at all. And yes, I would like to have all that behind me. So, where’s the celebration of contagion taking place? Then it will be all over much sooner.

People had very similar thoughts at the time of the great plague epidemic.

A basically understandable escapism. People are impatient. You want to get rid of unpleasant things as quickly as possible. And: Whatever Corona means medically, the fuss about it is already unpleasant. Besides: Who does not know the paradoxical impulse to want to do exactly what is not appropriate, nor helpful, or healthy?

But are impatience and paradoxical impulses helpful in the fight against Corona?

I don’t think so.

Could be that all predictions concerning Corona are still understated.
Because at present no one can accurately predict the exact extent of possible devastation caused by corona (the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease COVID-19), because a pandemic could, in the worst case, result in millions of deaths – because this possibility cannot be ruled out, responsible action is now required of every individual.
Move as attentively and cautiously as you can to protect others (and thus the general public) from possible infection by you – this could be the categorical corona imperative (freely adapted from Kant).

Corona? It’s just hype, created by stupid politicians to spoil our mood, that’s what people in Australia my have thought too. As proof a second photo, shot the day before (i.e. on 20.3.2020). Again the Bondi beach, another perspective:

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Screenshot from the BBC News page – one day before (20.3.2020)

At the time the photo was takenn there were already over 600 corona infected people in Australia and a ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people. You could start counting the people in the photo now. But it is not about the number. It’s more about the personal space that each individual in the photograph occupies.

As beautiful as the casualness in the photo is. It is wrong under the present conditions. Anyone who does not understand this by now will be punished with curfews, cordoned-off beaches and forests that are no longer allowed to be entered. The latter is also wrong. But unfortunately the lesser of the two evils. So that we are spared this, here is an appeal: Let us show our government by acting responsibly that curfews are not necessary!
In this sense: Stay healthy!!

Yours – Otmar Jenner

P.S. Dear readers, English is not my mother tongue. If you find serious mistakes in the wording of an article, please let me know (oj@otmarjenner.de).

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