I don’t really understand. The available facts don’t match the reaction, so the reaction isn’t rational. I do understand that; we now live in irrational times. But the irrational manifests in ways that are of course unexpected, and it is this which keeps me spinning, unable to find a balance. My mind is tired from trying to comprehend.
Shifting on my couch with a creak, I reach out to heft a mug and sip at my caf – barely registering that it is unpleasantly cold – and dully return to my game. Click of buttons, unheard sigh. Empty eyes. My world is the black and grey of shadow, lit only by the blue, green and white of screen-glare. The entertainment terminal has been keeping me occupied over this past week as I try, so hard, not to think. In the shadows of my hab night and day, outside, lose meaning. Blue sky, grey sky, black sky. Green leaves then glowing lamps. One after the other, and again and again.
Could we, should we, have expected this? I feel that we have to give a degree of faith and trust to those in charge, while remaining cynical and alert for manipulation – power must never be trusted outright. But we must also presume that they are aware of, and have, more information than we do. They must have to think about the bigger things than us – not just ‘is the hab clean enough? and ‘do I have a paycheque that meets my needs?’. They have to think through the large, societal risks. The big stuff. The much-scaled-up version of our own concerns, I guess. Is the country clean enough? Does it have enough credits?
You and I, we don’t have to think about that. We gaze longingly at lifestyles advertised on our screens, then spend our credits to have those trinkets delivered the next day, trying to find the completeness we sought. We travel to places at incomprehensible speeds, to share images of ourselves there on the social feed, hoping to feel fuller for having proof that we travelled. We stream our entertainment across the information-filled air, from server to hab, to read, watch, and play. But rarely to learn. Rarely do we become more for the experience than we were at the start. Giddy with the the heady thrill of consumerism, we don’t have to think about the bigger dangers that face us all, all of the time.
But those at the top, they do.
I doubt they ever have enough credits. I doubt they can ever be ready for everything. Even at my most optimistic in their intentions, I’d still safely bet that they have to cut corners and take risks; never being able to do everything they want. So maybe each successive leader cuts a little more from something, hoping with each roll of the tumbling dice that their bet doesn’t collapse. When you’re gambling with everything, every time, you never want to stand in that silence of the finished roll and look into those heart-stopping eyes; eyes looking right back into your soul.
We just rolled the snake.
Underfunded, under-resourced, and leaning hard into the honest compassion of the poorest among us, we now try to survive. We move into a social lockdown and isolate from each other. A hidden virus runs through our streets and our cities and our countries. We are social creatures and it uses this against us, infecting and spreading unseen.
We try to fight it by breaking and slowing its ability to spread with our isolation; aware all the time that this can’t possibly beat it, alone. We don’t know at any give time who has it, who has had it, and who is immune, and who is at greatest risk. We can’t perform a snapshot test of everyone at the same time, with immediate results – so we can never be fully aware of where the thing is. Our tech level just isn’t there yet.
Rumours and misinformation run faster than the virus; crackling with raw energy and power across our networks, driving irrationality and panicked response ahead of them. Everything they touch is burnt to cinders. We can lock down society, maybe for a little while, and maybe with only a small amount of permanent damage, but we can’t lock down the information spread.
To kill the rumour and the misinformation we would need to shut down our use of tech to communicate. But in doing so, removing that slim advantage of contact without being present, we would cause damage that we could never ignore. A vivid scar would mark whatever was left of our society.
When this is done we will try not to gaze at the holes left by dead industries, trying not to see the slick veneer of fresh corporate ownership over previously-independent enterprise. And we will skirt around the gaps where people once were, those who cried in silent terror as we forced this isolation upon them.
So we have to face the anxiety, the doubt and the fear – in others and in ourselves. We have to watch the irrational authoritarianism of our fellow, scared, citizens. Where we find it, we may cringe at the ignorance, the rage, and the addition of each small error on top of each small mistake. But sometimes we must admit that it is us, our own selves, saying and doing and sharing these things.
But we have to take it. We have to hold on, finding ways we hadn’t thought of to keep our minds, our bodies and our small communities knit together. We don’t know when this ends, and we don’t know what we will look like when it does.
There’s no way out.
We are in Lockdown.