The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

Swearing at the virus

Charles Flores Sunday, 18 October 2020, 10:54 Last update: about 3 months ago

To say that this COVID incubus currently plaguing the world is no joke would be a reprehensible understatement. It has cost and continues to cost thousands of human lives, both family and social life have been turned into a nightmare of masks, sanitizers and measuring tapes, and frontline workers remain caught in a vicious grip of desperation as they watch the sad cycle occurring before them.

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There is no doubt the pandemic is also having a huge effect on the mental health of people across the globe. Life as we have known it has disappeared and there is yet no certainty that it would return to how it was. It is no wonder the World Health Organisation has come out saying that “fear, worry and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats and when one is faced with uncertainty or the unknown”. It has declared it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO insists that added to the fear of contacting the virus in a pandemic are the significant changes to our daily lives while our movements are restricted as part of the efforts to contain and slow down the spread of this vicious virus. People are faced with new realities; like working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children and a lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues, all of which lead to a threat to our mental and physical health.

We all have our ways to cope with the situation, but blessed are those among us, who can vent their frustration at this moment in time by resorting to their keen sense of humour. It is like taking out a locked baggage from under the bed, dusting it, opening it and bringing out its magical contents. Humour works against every pain, though not necessarily one’s own, as every comic will tell you. No wonder Netflix and other such TV and film fodder providers have been making far more hay than there really is sun?

Each to his or her own, really, as to how to exploit and self-administer the humour vaccine. An old friend of mine wrote in the other day to say he has had enough of restrictions and limitations; that in one especially desperate moment, he ran up to the roof of his home from where he screamed, at this Coronavirus, a well-worn but highly morale-boosting Maltese expletive. Thirteen times; yes, he counted them! He did not say whether the swearing worked, for the relentless spread of infections has unfortunately not subsided, but it may have given him the much-desired mental respite. He also did not say what the neighbours thought about it, unless they too joined in an impromptu profane chorus.

In my case, I have found refuge in good, old Spike Milligan. Re-reading, probably for the 20th time since their original publication, the seven volumes of his famous autobiography has helped me retain my sanity pretty adequately, as of course does my writing. But while septuagenarians and slightly younger dinosaurs can manage to beat the frustration in their own strange ways, young men and women understandably find the going much tougher. Imagine living in Indonesia, for example, where people caught without facemasks are being forced to dig graves and get into coffins. Going to their favourite haunts and wanting to go on doing their own things is not only understandable, but completely natural. No one in his right mind should take it as an affront. Being young actually means not wanting to feel bound and prohibited. Hence the spontaneous cricket games in London’s Piccadilly streets after pub closure time and our Paceville clusters.

Reality, however, soon hits young people in the eye. As with wars, it’s the young who end up carrying the heaviest part of the burden. It is when they realise all this that the collective recovery can really begin to occur. The health and other authorities do not need to fret over septuagenarians and their clumsy attempts at outliving the crisis, but more on how and when to embrace the young generation, convincing them this is not a new dance routine but a serious, life-threatening menace to the world at large.

Back to Spike.

 

Welcome to a world of hate

Mitchell Feierstein, author of Planet Ponzi: How the world got into this mess, what happens next, and how to protect yourself and a popular social commentator, recently came out declaring that US political discourse has become so toxic and divided that friends of 30 years no longer talk to him and that the America he loved has gone forever.

He wrote how the bitter divisions in American society are turning neighbour against neighbour and tearing families apart “amid an atmosphere of indoctrination where freedom of thought and speech is outlawed”. Feierstein went as far as to say he fears the US is on the road to civil war.

American politics have always been colourful and boisterous, but never really malicious, and we Mediterranean nations have always marvelled at that, given our Latin penchant for expressions of hate emanating from the deep ravines which divide society over politics, the protagonists and all that oscillates within the power cyclone. Old-timers among us, now gone, used to talk about the hatred and the bitterness of political scenarios in the 20s and 30s when even speaking Maltese was considered an insult to the Italian-parroting elite, among them the Church hierarchy.

This world of ugly hatred persisted into the post-WWII period when entire families were divided and the venom flowed during the politicio-religious dispute, the scars of which still surface today on our socio-political fabric. The late 70s and 80s became synonymous with hatred, alas, traces of which have survived into the 21st century and today poison the very roots of society, particularly on social media.

That Trump’s America has now been transformed into this same world of hate is not a good omen. The next such scenario could very likely occur beyond the planet. The US has in fact signed a treaty with seven countries governing exploration and exploitation of the Moon and its resources. While signatory countries like Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy, the UK, Luxembourg, the Emirates and Japan have never landed on the world’s natural satellite, Russia and China, both of whom have, were not invited.

The so-called Artemis Accords were first proposed in May to set “reasonable boundaries” for the growing number of countries eager to stake a claim to the Moon. So will lunar hate begin here?

Save me, Spike.

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