THINGS ARE ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN, AND GEEZ WE’VE SEEN SOME STUPID, DARK STUFF THIS WEEK
By Shane Pinnegar
In 1650 English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller first wrote “it is always darkest just before the Day dawneth,” and 370 years it is a massively appropriate sentiment for these crazy, dark days.
I the past fortnight we have seen the worst of people. Significant portions of our society – our very neighbours, perhaps – have thrown themselves into a sensationalist media-fuelled frenzy of panic buying the most ridiculously non-essential items, rampant consumerist selfishness, and open aggression towards their fellow humans.
Most of us have watched aghast as this moron-demic has led to huge queues outside supermarkets before opening times, arguments and fights in the toilet paper aisles across the country, and in some cases, blatant profiteering from shortages they have caused.
It’s a disgrace. These people are a shameful disgrace. It’s not as if we are on the precipice of global apocalypse and will imminently be shopping for a nice cave to live in, is it?
It says far too much about our pathetic human race that major supermarket chains have been forced to place limits on how many toilet rolls, hand sanitisers, packets of rice or pasta we can purchase, because you have shown such bare-faced greed and lack of concern for those less well off in our communities.
My Dad suggested on the phone this morning that this was a result of a “herd mentality.” I must disagree. Most herds will protect their young and their old and infirm. What has been happening around our country – and in other places around the world – is pure selfishness to the exclusion of all others.
But as Fuller wrote [please excuse my paraphrasing], “things are always darkest before the dawn.”
What we are now presented with is an opportunity. A chance to do good. To revive community spirit, much of which has been eroded by the fast pace and relentlessness of today’s society.
Our leaders are imposing seemingly Draconian measures in an attempt to “flatten the curve” – to limit the strain on health professionals so they are able to cope with the virus. If it blew up all at once throughout all of our communities, they simply could not provide basic care to every case, and many more people might die. Yet still some people are complaining about the inconvenience to themselves.
Restrictions on travel and gatherings and contact with others certainly seem dramatic. It is arguably the strictest restrictions on our freedom of choice since World War II. Believe me – as a vocal supporter of our freedoms, and of self-determination, over the years, it pains me to admit that this time, these restrictions ARE necessary. They do NOT signal the end of days – merely an emergency the likes of which we have not seen for decades, and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
These measures should allow our health professionals the opportunity to properly deal with each case, and to slow the spread of Covid-19 down, in which case the death toll may be significantly lower than if it was a global outbreak. We may even have time to find a cure. We certainly have the chance to avoid the mistakes made when the ‘Spanish Flu’ struck in 1918 and killed between 17 and 50 million people! [Wikipedia suggests the death toll may have been as high at 100 million but accurate figures will never be known, what with there being a little squabble called The Great War on at the time.]
Apart from the threat of illness and death to the community, many people will lose work. Many already have. Touring and sports have been all but cancelled, and the latest discussion is whether schools, restaurants, pubs and clubs should all be closed. It’s not just the owners who will lose money, but their teachers and chefs and waiting staff and bouncers, as well as their suppliers and cleaners and the lady who does the artwork for their weekly advertisements. It’ll flow on from there, too – with all these people not earning anything, luxury industries will suffer. Waitress Jody won’t be getting her new tattoo next week, and bouncer William has cancelled his trip to Angkor Wat. William’s travel agent is suffering and can’t afford the power bill and Jody’s tattooist will have to stop her daughter’s ballet lessons. Not only that, but the freelance journalist whose bread and butter is reviewing the gigs that have now been cancelled at the venue Jody works at is now going to struggle to afford groceries next week.
Many sole traders, and small and medium businesses will suffer – I know, as my own business as a chef and caterer is in severe risk right now. Our household income will suffer greatly, and we’ll struggle to make ends meet. We’ve already cancelled tentative plans to go to New Zealand in August – there’s no way we could afford it now.
Some businesses will be fine, but many won’t. Without real governmental assistance a lot of people might lose their savings, their assets, their houses, their livelihoods… their future.
Yet still this is not the time to complain about the restrictions and how they will negatively affect us. I sincerely hope that our governments and mortgagers and utility companies and so forth will realise the problems we face financially now, and help out however they can. I hope that a real stimulus package is delivered – one that doesn’t only serve the already wealthy, but the real people like Jody and William and those around them. Supermarkets and fuel companies and giant retail chains don’t need bailouts as much as REAL PEOPLE need bailouts.
Because we are all in this together, and if those of us in the lower echelons of the food chain are comfortable, then we are further stimulating the economy with our spending. All the big guys seem to do is horde their wealth, so Premier, Prime Minister… think about us little guys for a change, eh?
And there is no shortage of things we little guys can do to help the crisis situation. If there was ever a time for us to help those around us, and for the 1% elite to put aside their lust for profits for a little while, now is that time.
We should, in my opinion, use these hardships, these restrictions on our freedoms, and – in some cases these tragedies in our communities – as an excuse to be the best we can be and to help others.
At the barest minimum, self-isolating, not complaining, and doing our small part to restrict the spread of Covid-19 helps our medical professionals deal with the crisis.
Even if you are isolated at home, you can spend the time making the lives of you and your family better. Spring clean. Listen to all that music and watch all those movies you have never had a chance to do. Play games with your kids. If you can, write a short story or a novel – or write your life story down for future generations. If you are musical, what better time will you ever have to compose a symphony or write an album or set up a basic home studio and record some demos? Plant that vegetable garden you always dreamed of having (you might need it!). If you are pining for those halcyon days of yore (three weeks ago) when you had the freedom to do whatever you want, then compose the best damn bucket list you can, and as soon as this blows over, start living your best life and crossing things off that list. Make wild plans, dream up huge plots and brainstorm ways you can achieve them!
And along the way, try to be positive. I generally have very little faith in our governments and big business – they have long proven themselves to be self-serving swine using the country as a feeding trough. But I am putting what little faith I do have in them right now in the hope that they will step up and help guide us through this. I liken it to being a passenger in a plane and hitting turbulence: there is nothing I can do to fly the plane straight, and panicking will only make things worse for my fellow passengers. Let the pilot do their best and we will laugh and cry and hug once we’re all safely on the ground again – and what a story we will have for our kids and grandkids.
[UPDATE – So called stimulus packages announced so far have resolutely shown no benefit to sole traders or freelancers, musicians whose livelihood is now gone, etc. The Western Australian government just announced a “stimulus package” in which the only real policy was to not increase household bill charges – no stimulus whatsoever, in other words. As usual, our government is failing us.]
But despite the hardships we may have to endure, let’s try to help others. Lend them a kind word of encouragement if they are worried or anxious. Offer to help if they are too infirm to get to the shops or cook a healthy meal for themselves. (PS – You don’t have to survive on dry pasta – vegetables are important, so the sooner you plant that garden the better!) Be there for your community, as well as for your family. And yes – be there for yourself. You’re no good to others if you’re no good to yourself.
Now is the time for us to show that we, as individuals, as communities, as towns and cities and states and countries, and as the human race, are able to rise above this crisis and work together to get through it selflessly.
Never in our lives has it been more important that we remember, “things are always darkest before the dawn.”
Let’s make tomorrow the dawn, rather than a darker day.