What if?

Here are a few unfinished and not very sophisticated things that I am currently thinking about. Feel free to add anything that might help via email or Facebook.

I’m pretty certain that covid19 is not the apocalypse despite all the headlines using similar terminology. Not any sort of Biblical endtimes apocalypse, nor the zombie variety, nor any other doomsday scenario. For the adults among us, we have already lived through a lot of bad stuff in our lifetimes. The main difference is that most catastrophic events were a long way away and we were barely aware of them because they were happening to other people. Writers and readers of apocalyptic, or indeed any other, types of headline, are almost entirely from the affluent Global North and therefore by definition, we have been shielded from experiencing the real effects of poverty, conflict, and disease. Basically we need to grow up and decentralise. I am not the centre of the universe; it isn’t all about me. Bad stuff isn´t intrinsically worse when it happens to us (or because we fear it might happen to us). Bad stuff that happens to other people is still bad stuff. The fact that we were asleep when it happened to someone else doesn´t mean that it didn´t happen or that it didn´t hurt.

Malaria is a mosquito borne disease that the world health organisation estimates affects between 300 million and 500 million people every single year and causes approximately 450,000 deaths every single year. In Argentina we don’t have malaria, but we are currently experiencing an outbreak of dengue, which is also a mosquito-carried pasasitic disease. Dengue is less lethal than malaria, killing 25,000 people per year, but it is also estimated to affect globally up to 390 million people per year, of which 96 million cases are deemed to be medically significant, and approximately half a million people go on to develop severe haemorragic dengue every single year. This is but one example of a human catastrophe that the Global north is mostly unaware of, because if the news ever covers it at all, it will be three lines in a column filler halfway down page 17. It also raises the question as to how much closer we might be to solving these and other problems if we were throwing covid-scale resources into finding the answers.

So what to do. What to do? I disagree with the folk who want to say that covid is sent by God. But that doesn’t mean he might not find a use for it. And I’m wondering if one thing that this time might be understood as is an invitation to stop. Just stop. As nature takes over the spaces vacated by human activity, social networks have exploded in a frenzy of motivational messages, pressure to do stuff, learn stuff, achieve stuff, keep to a lock-down timetable broken into half-hourly activities and keep ourselves and our children busy and achieving in order not to lose momentum and keep up to speed ready to explode out of the traps when the race resumes.

But what if momentum was exactly the thing we were supposed to lose? What if this time was given to us as an opportunity to ask ourselves the purpose of our frenetic race to self destruction? What if this was our chance to question our capitalist doctrines of productivity and measurable achievement?

We are so enmeshed in a system that measures the value of a person according to our perception of their production that we can’t stop doing it, even when the world at the moment requires that most of us produce frankly nothing. The world will not change one iota if I spend the lockdown knitting a life-sized replica of the Taj Mahal. And more importantly neither will my value as a human being.

I will not ruin the life-chances of my kids if they don’t learn quadratic equations this year. Personally I’m horrified by an advert I keep being pushed in Facebook on how I too could teach my two year old to read fluently if only I purchased this system. How about if two year olds were allowed to be two year olds and do normal two year old things like eating mud and draw on the wallls without profiteering twats playing on parents’ anxieties?

What if it was time to start by stopping and asking questions about what is important. What are we going to pick back up again? If I am fitting in seventeen meetings before lunchtime, how many of those people am I really seeing or hearing? Or more importantly, how many of them would say they had felt seen and heard? How far am I meeting my own need to believe that a lot of people need me? And possibly, which two of those people could I really make a difference to if I had some proper time for them?

The phrase “think globally and act locally” still needs a lot of unpacking, but I think it may be a key, to use this time of un-planning and un-doing to help us to ask on one hand, “What sort of post-covid world do we want to live in?” and therefore, “What can I do to make a small but real difference to that?”

Maths Homework during Lockdown

I’d like to share with you a funny incident this morning with Joni.Joni had this question in his homework, translated below

In a pen there were initially 192 birds, chickens and ducks. For every 10 chickens there were 6 ducks. 92 birds were then removed and now for every 6 chickens there are 4 ducks. How many chickens and how many ducks were removed? So, I set out to help him solve it.

I have to admit I haven’t done ratios since school so it taxed me a bit but then I got there. I decided to work it through with Joni and we arrived at the answers. However, I lost him along the way. The following conversation then took place:

Joni: It doesn’t matter that I don’t understand it I have the answers so I’ll just submit them.

Me: Yes it does because the whole purpose is that you learn maths not just provide the answers.

(conversation continued for a few minutes)

Me: Actually Joni, you cannot simply go ahead and submit the answers. It’s not possible

Joni: Why not?

Me: Because in the time we’ve been discussing it you’ve forgotten the answers.

Joni: (pauses) Oh yeah!


Love in the time of Covid19

We are bored but healthy, for which we give thanks.

Necessity is the mother of invention. The oven is dead (I wrote about that before, we are really missing it until the shops open again) and it was Boyfriend’s birthday, so I went experimenting and discovered that it is possible to make cake on the stovetop, in what they call here a “baño maria” I don´t even know how to say that in English, it literally means Mary´s bath, probably shouldn´t think about that too deeply. It´s where you cook stuff in a pot (or cake tin) standing in a pan of water. There were two colours of sponge and lots of sweets. It worked great.

We would very much like to go to the plaza, or out cycling, horseriding, dogwalking, anything outside, which we aren´t allowed, but we have found that the flat roof of our house is a good location for alternative fun. The sunsets are pretty nice too from up there. Yesterday we were playing volleyball with some of the team on the roof and the rest on the patio, which might not have been the safest but was entertaining and everyone survived. Danny´s favourite rooftop game is pretending to be an extreme parkour runner, jumping over pipes, wires and chimneys.

The ancient bedspread which I cut a chunk off in order to make last year´s advent calendar came in handy again today to make not-very-surgical masks. The latest municipal ordinance is that anyone out in the street has to wear a face-mask, so I ran up a few this afternoon. I thought for about one and a half seconds about going into business but decided I´m better suited to rooftop olympics. It´s way more fun anyway. And probably more useful.

And not only have I participated in a couple of zoom meetings, and just about come out alive, but I even managed to set up a zoom account and organise a meeting. Not only did I not die of anxiety (despite thinking I might), but everything worked and there wasn´t even any bad language in the process. All of which is pretty amazing, and the fact that I even attempted all that probably means we have been shut in for a while. Needs must. This picture isn´t mine, alas, but it seems appropriate for the circumstances. What the Last Supper might have looked like by Zoom…