What yet to learn from Covid
If Covid has taught us anything it is that Governments are not Magicians, Science still has a long way to Go and Discipline is not a Tyrant but a Saviour. Of course, we knew all these things before. We’ve just learnt them more vividly. Or have we? We need to answer this question if we are to avoid stumbling into that style of life known as: “Everything not compulsory is forbidden”. Oh yes, it was a joke when first coined. Then it began to be quoted seriously. Today there will even be some who do not get it, I’ll wager.
For them, it means ‘if it isn’t illegal then it is legal’. Obviously. But if we live only by the law, we hand the world to lawyers and to cleverspeak, something better suited to pantomime than to daily living. We could easily turn justice into plea bargaining and honesty into not getting caught. Our judgment might become intentions – with which the road to hell is paved. And I’m talking about hell on earth, not the other kind. The earthly variety is more than enough for many to bear.
An important lesson of Covid-19 is that the machinery of legislation moves slowly, especially in a democracy where every Tom, Dick and Harriet must have his or her say. And we do want them to have their say, don’t we? Of course, but do we know the price of that? It is personal responsibility, also known as ‘freedom in action’. You can make a case for the opposite. The United States tried to and is still trying. Litigation has become a game, for some a laugh, for most beyond reach, which means they have no chance of justice.
So what do they do? They riot. I can’t blame them. Then people of intelligence and moderation start to say ‘you can’t change things without force’ and our aim for peaceful and conciliatory dialogue turns into thoughts of terrorism. Followed by acts. We know that violence begets violence but believe that, just on this issue, it is justified. But all our issues are vital, you see. Go down that road and even small friendly states come close to civil war. One did, just the other day.
War in a largely uninhabited earth was avoided by the tyranny of distance. War on an overcrowded planet could easily become unavoidable. The cost of peace is common purpose; the price, personal responsibility. There it is again, that key to the next and future generations. Every parent, each school, all the seats of learning should be putting thinking about this as their first responsibility. Why aren’t they? Because the material parts of life have overrun the philosophical.
Because the answer is seen as better than the question – though not, I sincerely hope, by any mentors or coaches. Because the ‘now’ is better than the ‘then’. Because process and rule excuse the need for thought. In my lifetime the importance of physical exercise has been recognised and adopted by all sensible people. When will the importance of mental exercise be recognised beyond the internet game and the gamble of luck? Not soon enough, I shouldn’t wonder.
The lesson of Covid is that even in a perfectly planned world each must make his or her way, must create their own life, must fashion their own personality. Priceless jewels are no substitute for gems of the mind. Frozen food does not compete with homemade pie. Apps galore do not beat a thought or word or picture of personal creativity. No law can oust a choice of personal responsibility.
And there it is again. The Snark* was right when he said “What I tell you three times is true”.
Worth thinking about?