Bo-Kaap, South Africa, 2017 © Jesh Latchman

The post Covid road trip

‘The new normal is already cliche.’

This is verbatim from a work meeting last week — it’s a little over 50 days of lockdown in South Africa and over a month longer in parts of Italy. And we are already so over the ‘new normal.’ Already we have gone from sharing poems about how the people read and baked, to snitching on neighbours when they break lockdown rules.

The entitled class have been fussing over the minutiae of government issued regulations and preparing petitions to have booze and cigarette sales restored. I was more hoping for the edibles creators to have jumped into this market vacuum created by the ban on the sale of booze and smokes. Alas, they got high.

There was (and maybe still are pockets of?) the initial relaxed, peaceful, going inside, yoga guru, baker extraordinaire enthusiasm stage. This stage appears to have gone past, just around the time people’s booze stash dried up and they were reduced to drinking Campari. Imagine that.

There is a palpable sense of strain against the confinement. Heavily armed civilians have staged protests at the Capitol buildings in Michigan; but that’s the US, where guns outnumber people like sheep outnumber people in New Zealand. Tension is building in the confines of the regulated existence of lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, some already extended until July 2020.

Somewhere in all this highly exciting non-activity, there is a growing chorus of voices and opinions about how the world and we are changed. And how nothing is ever going to be the same again. Yet, we cannot adapt to living without booze sold from liquor shops attached to major supermarkets? Or make such a fuss about being able to go surfing?

It feels like our collective slip is showing. But, it’s lockdown and you only need to look good from the neck up for the Zoom call. Pants that go all the way down to your ankles are optional. No one is looking that far deeply to see anything — and neither are we looking very far down the rabbit hole we’re in, to see how far it goes. Everyone seems to just want out. I feel that feeling strongly too, even with the three hour morning exercise window. I genuinely want to know if the Corona virus is not a morning person? So we’re safe until 9am, when s/he cocks one bleary eye open and gets ready for another day of being the only bit of news for the 2020 year?

Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2020 is likely to be CoVid-19. Or maybe it will be X Æ A-12. Either way, it’s not going to be the millions of people living already precarious lives on the margins of our very successful societies. To do that, would be to recognise that we are but in the infancy of our human civilisation.

I’d wager that, the moment the South African government lifts lockdown regulations, we will go back to our old ways, with even more vigour. Like bad New Year’s resolutions, all the talk about the new normal will be flushed along with the puke from the first post-lockdown drinking binge. Yeah, that’s ugly but no more so than the ugliness we manifest in the world by supporting the rabid capitalism that is our broken economic system. Join me in sending thoughts and prayers to our billionaires.

The absence of hunger, minimal safe shelter, the security of health, education and food systems designed to support our full human potential. The freedom to hope that tomorrow is going to be brighter and dream that your children will have it better. The majority of people in the holy land of South Africa, do not have this. They have not had this before the Corona virus outbreak; do not have it now while we remain in lockdown and are unlikely to have it (if and) when lockdown is lifted and the corona virus is a distant memory.

Ben Okri, delivering the inaugural Scotsman millennium lecture at the 1997 edition of the Edinburgh Book Festival (what we know as his poem Mental Fight), goes on to say:

Sure, the quality of life has been enriched / For many over the past centuries; / But true civilization is much more / Than the technological progress / Or well-being of part of the human race.

We cannot use the word civilization / As long as people die of starvation. /

Those who do are cave-dwellers / Of the mind

To get to that state of being and manifesting our universal humanity, is through this pandemic. And to do that, we are already being given a glimpse of what changes we must make to the ways we operate our governments, economies and our very lives. What we value and how we value it, is what will determine if we succeed in leaving behind this broken society we have created and make a new one. A ‘more fully just society as Nicole Fritz calls it.

She goes on to suggest a ‘more careful appreciation of the importance of limiting the effects of arbitrariness and its resulting injustice in our country…’ Nicole is referring to our holy land, South Africa — but she could be talking about pretty much any previously colonised country. She could be talking about the United States.

Now. more than ever, the cliches of the past, from words to deeds and ways of working and being should be left behind with the detritus of our varied failures as humans. The present and the future will be built with thoughts, words and deeds that acknowledge, nurture and celebrate each other. Let us take only the best of our past, as we plant now, the seeds of futures we may never live to see.

I humbly share a susurration that reached me via a friend on Twitter; into the space we share; if it resonates in this moment, that’s enough.

There is inspiring work being done by all kinds of people, all over the world.

Explore them and support what you like.

Share the information in your network, quote the work and people every chance you get.

Build up people, initiatives and actions that are our best humanity, our best futures.

Nurture the murmur of change.

In each single step we take; collectively we take many steps forward.

May the ongoing susurration of conjoined voices, guide us to re-make the kind of society that is worthy of our fractured past, precarious present and potentially bright future. Then, we can take that road trip, together.



Comms practitioner, aspirant writer and absent-minded baker at #WakeAndBake

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Oppi Stoep

Comms practitioner, aspirant writer and absent-minded baker at #WakeAndBake