If you are self-isolating from COVID-19 related articles, this is not the blog for you . . . so please just skip it. You're not a captive cashier at a check out! No worries if you are a regular commentator here: I'm exploring an idea or two which interest me.
Joseph Brean in the National Post is writing about a philosophy of death from a perspective absolutely new to me.
He says that for most of human history, death was associated with disaster -- being attacked by a wild animal or another human, falling victim to a natural disaster such as a forest fire or a tornado. But now most of us most of the time aren't worried about such disasters.
And then, after disasters were more or less manageable -- fire departments, military reserves to be called in for emergency relief -- for a period of time, death was associated primarily with communicable disease. Tuberculosis. Polio. I'm just old enough to remember when everyone understood the need for quarantine from TB or polio and accepted the rules without any sense their personal liberty was being infringed. Tuberculosis and polio hospitals were unremarkable in their era prior to universal immunization which we thought had wiped out such diseases.
In the late 20th and early 21st century, death has been associated most often with decay. We die of old age. The non-communicable diseases we experience in old age that finish us off are mostly decay-associated: cancer, heart attacks. Even diabetes and obesity. We stave off decay with exercise and optimal nutrition. We discipline ourselves to work out!! We fight the temptation to eat hyperpalatable foods!! Junk food manufacturers are the enemy!! Seventy is the new forty!! Yup, that's what we tell ourselves. .
So, to sum up: Death was first about Disaster, then Disease and now Decay. Not so much the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse but the three Ds.
Warding off disaster and even disease absolutely DID require an adversarial approach.
We fought off the sabre tooth tiger or the Viking marauder. We did whatever it took to battle with communicable disease. And we have tried to apply the same battle attitudes to decay: even though we absolutely know that more and more and more exercise, more and more and more rigorous self-denial around food doesn't actually work. And we will get old.
That ancient battle attitude was imported into our justice system: the notion that an adversarial presentation of opposing "sides" in a legal dispute would result in the emergence of truth through proof. Medieval knights jousting on horseback, each trying to poke the other off with a long pike. It's outmoded. Doesn't work very well to resolve, for example, family law disputes over children -- or many other complex legal issues.
That battle attitude was imported into our system of democracy too. Partisanship. Retaining power at all costs by slagging and demeaning the opponent and glorifying our side's unnuanced position.
Right now, we're dealing with disease again. But what the average citizen needs to do doesn't actually require much fighting.
We just need to wash our hands. We just need to stay at home.
We just need to accept that our precious right to do whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want can go on hold for awhile.
We can balance rights (long too much in the forefront) with just a little uptick in our sense of communal responsibility. We can support those who are actually fighting on the front lines for our benefit-- the health care workers, the truckers, the cleaners, the grocery store cashiers -- by suspending our individual liberties just a little.
Here in Canada, I've been so impressed with the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that is emerging between our federal and provincial governments. Our federal government is Liberal. Many of our provincial governments (including Ontario's) are Conservative.
But long term political adversaries are speaking of each other in glowing and complimentary terms. Some very unlikely people have become new best buddies as they work together for the common good and provide sobering transparency of clear scientific information to citizens so they understand what is required of us.
Canadian laws and social institutions have been pretty effective (not perfect, but pretty effective) in dealing with disasters and with diseases up until now. We don't have the universal right to bear arms. Gun stores are not deemed "essential services". We do have universal health care.
What's a potential legacy of COVID-19?
Maybe in future more citizens will be moved to vote for political candidates less along party lines and more from a perspective of weighing the individual's propensity to get along.
To work together.
We may be seeing an evolution of human consciousness from what Michael Neill calls that place before thought.