Saturday, 21 March 2020

Navigating the Pandemic Craziness - What to do?

Well well...

Can you feel the tension? Can you feel the fear? Jesus... 

How can we sum this all up, eh? 

I'm a massive fan of Hunter S Thompson, and he used the phrase 'atavistic freak-out' in his writings to refer to the frantic, anxious, perplexing, uncivilized and boozed up culture of The 1970 Kentucky Derby. 

'Atavistic' means "relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral' (Google Dictionary) 

I think the term might be applicable in this fucked up times we find ourselves in. It's like some elemental force is forcing people to catastrophize and lose the power of rational thought. People are swarming together with their tribe, battening down the hatches and peeping out through a crack in the door at the world outside. Everyone outside their tribe is a suspect; everyone outside their tribe is a threat. 

And you know what? 

I don't blame anyone. Based on the situation and the fear ratcheted up my the media, how can people think differently. If all your neighbours are panic buying rice, then what you going to do? 

24 hours news channels show nothing else than bodies on stretchers being tended to my doctors in Fukushima suits; Social media is saturated with news of the stock market plunge and imminent financial meltdown. So what else can people react when this is pumped into their brain from dusk till dawn? I don't know about you, but I'm rationing my news intake to once a day now. As it's enough to send a man over the edge. Where does it all end?

Last night in the super market, queues snaked back from the cash registers with masked people looking twitchy. Families huddled together in silence with multiple shopping carts beside them. Mini-skyscrapers of food - eggs, rice, breakfast cereal etc. towered upward. One man stood with his back to his cart and swayed defensively from one foot to the other, his arms folded and head pivoting rapidly from right to left. It was as if he was on guard, alert and ready to punch anyone who got too close. I looked around the packed meat section and saw at least 100 people skittering around avoiding each other. It was like the scene from a movie in which some sick weirdo released a leper into a supermarket and announced it over the intercom. Frenetic movement; no eye contact; go, go go! Let's stock up and fuck off! Surgical masks everywhere. When people wear a surgical mask, you try to suss them out by their eyes, poker-style. The eyes I saw yesterday looked different. For those who dared look up from their device (an all too rare event these days) their eyes told me a story. I saw cold, dilated pupils and either frenetic eye movement or long stares into the distance. 

So what is this story? Why are people so afraid? Should they be? Is this pandemic really an existential crisis? Is this global tsunami of anxiety warranted or have people lost their marbles? Is what is going on worth destroying the global economy?

Undoubtedly, it's a shit situation. Countries around the world have had, and continue to have deaths caused by the virus, with China and Italy leading the pack. But, the question is - where will be next? 

Lock-downs, self-isolation, social distancing are the now the norm in many places around the world. Citizens are staying indoors and scratching their heads. 

What has just happened? Where the fuck did this come from? 

Here we were a month ago patting ourselves on the back with 10 plus years of a bull market under our belts and then... WHAM! SMACK! BOOM! Before anyone had the chance to look up the Earth shook beneath us and a black, toxic mist enveloped the globe. This mist has descended and now covers communities like a suffocating, wet blanket. 

One minute there wasn't a bargain to be had in the stock market and now there are so many it's overwhelming. What's a man to do? One the one hand, this could be the buying opportunity of a lifetime, but I worry more about the future, economic ramifications all this will cause. Seismic shock waves are being sent out throughout our interconnected world, and the extent of the destruction they will cause in the near to medium term is too frighting to behold. 

Could we be on track for a 1930s style depression with families in rags wandering the roads looking for work? Who knows? 

Some nations are in a better position to deal with the economic fallout than others that's for sure. Look at other countries in SE Asia, Thailand for instance. A large percentage of its population operates within the middle income trap doing basic office/factory/restaurant/bar/massage work that pays (under normal circumstances) a wage barely above subsistence. With most of Thailand now shut down, or in the process of doing so, millions of people find themselves out of work with few saving and high levels of household debt. 

What are these folk going to do? Get help from the government? Forget about it. They will have to fend for themselves. What they will do is anyone's guess, but as each lockdown days passes, peoples' options get narrower and narrower.

This pandemic needs to be taken seriously, but it's important not to get too caught up in the craziness. We all need to maintain composure and the power of rational thought. Meditation is an invaluable tool at this time, for it gives us the opportunity to breathe, gather our thoughts and come back to the centre. 

My thought are fizzing about in a million directions at the best of times, and the current situation had multiplied this 100 fold. Thus, we all need to take deep breaths and calm the fuck down. If we don't we run the risk of destroying the our mental health and that of those around us. 

So, during these challenging times please try to do the following:

1. Limit your time on news websites and social media
2. Practice mindful breathing throughout the day
3. Get your fear and anxiety to yourself
4. Remember that this isn't forever (although it may seem that way)
5. Be positive 
6. Use humor

Anyway, who am I to give advise? I'm just a blogger jacked up on caffeine and in need of an outlet for my own anxiety before I have my own 'atavistic freak out'.

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