I had a bizarre situation this grey, dull, humid morning. I was ten minutes late for a writing group. I was happy to see them in the corner of the cafe where we meet every Friday. I put on my mask and got out my covid certificate. The barista said, ‘Sorry we are closed. I’m in a break’
‘Oh don’t worry,’ I say, ‘I don’t want anything just now, I’m with them, I’ve come to write,’ and point the 4 metres to my potential space of creation.
‘I’m sorry I’m in a break,’ she repeats as if she were immigration police.
Incredulously, I sensed her cold, unscalable wall.
Cut a long story short: it would have taken her half the amount of time to check my certificate than to explain why she could not check it. She was the only employee in the cafe. She had a legal break.
In short, I was ordered to wait outside for 15 minutes. My choice: zero.
There is a step change in mental maturity to be able to see past black and white into the whole array of combinations that arise in each irrepeatable moment. In Jungian analysis it is labelled ‘being caught in the animus complex’.
She was right. It was her legal break.
This week I watched photographer Nan Goldwin talking about her exhibition ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ – a snaphot of her life in the 80’s and 90’s. She, presently 68 years old, expressed how hard it was that her tribe has disappeared, that there is no-one with the same internal compasses to commune with (her photos were of NY free souls embracing with breathtaking depths both the light and dark aspects of the human psyche. Many died from AIDS). She continued, in her American drawl, to state that everyone nowadays is so extremely conservative.
I’m not sure if this has been an effect so gradual that we have got used to it. Have we been microdosed with conservative fears? Perhaps, it is an effect of technology (and the sense of everyone knowing what you are doing and where (especially lovers)). Perhaps it is just something that was always going to happen – but the truth is I feel it too. It is like we are all shackled into a sheep pen of norms. Of rules. Of regulations. All of which have progressively become more restrictive.
It certainly feels like, as my friend this morning wrote from Spain, that we are all having some sort of collective pandemic-fatigue episode.
As a solution to this morning’s little debacle, I imagine shops having automated code-readers at the door to save employee time in reading our codes. But in this conversation with myself, I take devil’s advocat, would people push through? Without the electronic code-reader being aware of people, would people respect it? And consequently would we need technology at the point of purchase to communicate to the cashier machine, not the human cashier, that we had been correctly swiped?
And suddenly I was in dystopia. This is 1984 but worse. Would George Orwell, Aldous Huxley et al shudder in their graves?
When I had more energy to protest, I felt a lot of 9/11 was to create control. Suddenly we had so many controls for travelling, projected onto ‘the Arabs’ as danger (there always needs to be an excuse, now we have the more generalised ‘covid’).
I remember travel before. It was a luxury experience. It was GLAMOUROUS. It was something that felt wonderful. But now, along with Ryan Air and competition for suitcase fines, there are no free peanuts or complimentary drinks – there is stress and paperwork and a general feeling (for me at least) that I’m going through some sort of danger. Airports, the primodial soup of (world) society, are a representation of what we are living in.
Of course people are going to be conservative.
Of course young people are going to find it hard to break out of black-and-white thinking.
Of course Unabomber’s theories made sense – even though his final actions and consequences were demonic. He was a genuis child, went to Harvard at the age of 16. He was massively intelligent, but not emotionally mature. He used sophisicated theories, with black-and-white mentality. He was one of the most expensive cases of the FBI. He sent mail bombs to academics who were working in progressing technology. He worked out technology = wrong. He killed 3 and injured 23 people. If you were to read his manifesto it would be hard to disagree. Honestly. He really was a genius. Honestly, he couldn’t handle it.
Along with phrases such as ‘the slow cancellation of the future,’ Mark Fisher writes that the upcoming generation find it easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. I do too.
I remember talking to a great friend, an independent thinker (though close to extinction they do still exist) who had binge watched ‘Twin Peaks’. He mused that at no point did the step forward seem unreasonable; however going from an initial feasible, sustainable situation, suddenly as if from nowhere, they were in chaos and destructive madness. Looking back it was impossible to say at what point the line was crossed from healthy to pure horror. It’s impossible to tell. It was too gradual.
The idea of the frog thrown into cold water, that is slowly heated up, that sits there unjumpingly, slowly boiling to death has been debunked. But should it have been? And who are the frogs?