Some thoughts and advises on March 17 from BB33, a little office and hackerspace in Freiburg in the black forest. Sitting here alone. My 8yo and partner are good, a few streets further, as is her family, for now. My sisters and many other friends are less well but i won’t detail this here. School has ended but my 8yo is totally angry with Covid-19 … is asking if it could be killed by throwing a host of atomic bombs on it … to which my answer is: “nuclear power can not kill covid-19 even it would kill all human life on the planet. But yes, sincerely, i understand your frustration — let’s take a bicicly ride together.”
If you are like me and many of my friends you’ll get a host of demands because suddenly remote learning and working is in so many minds, also minds who have access to money while others are in urgent need. How to react and how to care?
TLDR; care less about work and exams and office work. Covid-19 induces planetary-scale changes and we need to act situational, not blindly bound by rules but with a caring attitude and focused on our neighborhoods, city and regional-level happenings.
How is your family, friends and the many strangers of your physical neighborhood? Can you personally talk to younger and older people to help them navigate and adjust to the new paraonia-normal? This is a time of massive fears and we need to talk with each other, 1:1 and in small groups and with strangers. Find and give emotional backing.
Now i didn’t talk about you yet … because i don’t know you and i’ll probably never get to know you, certainly never fully. I don’t even know myself fully. Each one of us is unique and has a unique situation — some have a sister who just went through intensive care because of lung problems, another has caring duties for someone with dementia or works in a care-home. Yet others have lost relatives in a different country who are experiencing far worse troubles and fear than you are. Use the phone if you can, make a call for those you care for. Don’t be angry with people who are upset and in fear. Relate humanly.
Take breaks from the digital. There are shitloads of news and now is the time to stop this bad habit of “news binging”, of trying to not miss a thing. You will miss tons of things — the question is: are you aware of and empathic with situations around you, first neighbors around your own living place, then the quarter, the city, the region and other states? You will also get filtered news from friends — try to make sure it’s scientifically rooted info, filter out bullshit before your communicate it to others.
The biggest challenge for most of us is an emotional one and dealing with fears. This will come in waves and be unevenly distributed. You can not constantly care for others, though. Try to establish rhythms of online/offline-ness that are healthy for your emotional state. Help others to re-arrange. Nobody has lived through a crisis at this planetary scale.
Try to get rid of the “White Knight” syndrome and the feeling of urgency to save the world. This is a deep running emotional arrangement especially with us male folks. And then we want to be applauded and seen as heroes or winners. This approach is dangerous on a planetary scale. Don’t think about platforms and how to promote your project now. On the other hand, onboard those who want to help with your resilience and decentralization and care projects. Resist urgency, care for yourselves and others.
Question your motivation if you or colleagues now are “out to make a profit” while disregarding the catastrophe unfolding around them. Just because you are physically safe and well-prepped doesn’t mean you’ll have a nice live if people and caring collapses around you. Those “profiteering” people will not be looked on nicely for the times to come.
Re-evaluate what remains important or what new importances emerges. A few random takes:
- support your local infrastructure: health and caring folks, sellers of medicine and food, those who transport away your garbage, homeless people — don’t look at it from the angle of regulations but of actual situations. Can the hotels who lost all tourists be talked to to accommodate homeless people and help them arrange in a socially distant manner?
- Can hotels and other free facilities be prepared to accommodate refugees? In Europe we need to find a way to help Greece and the refugee situation there — the Merkel Gov promised to fly 1500 unaccompanied children — let’s designate an area where they can be quarantined and cared for. This would be a signal also against the uncaring right wing who will sooner or later try to pin blame on “the people abroad”. Sidenote: I feel sorry for those folks who currently have to deal with authoritarianism (right or left wing). My best remote advise is: try to ignore and work around, move underneath and in between. Look out for co-operation and not for fights.
- Covid-19 is pretty egalitarian and doesn’t care very much if you are rich or poor, white, brown, yellow, green or black … male or female. Here it will be crucial to overcome what is called “social darwisnism” because nobody wants to live in a world driven by acceptance and ignorance of old, disadvantaged or fleeing people dying miserably. Consider helping to free prisoners who are in only for minor things and maybe take them to hotel rooms with a phone. Imagine yourselves in a prison being shut out from relatives and friend visits and calls, in the current situation.
- Can you talk with city and regional governments folks and see what you can arrange with them? If you find un-cooperative people ignore them, don’t fight them. Save your energy for useful co-operations. Political reckonings can wait.
- Is your work that you have been doing last week still relevant? Will somebody existentially suffer if you don’t go to the office, don’t preapre for the next deadline? Many of us knew it all along: officing work is overrated, caring work is underrated. There is no need to get theoretical or intellectual anymore about this: just look around and think yourself.
- “I told you so” attitudes are not helpful yet it’s so hard to get rid of it. Talk about the future and not the past because it is your own choices with the people around you that will shape the futures to come.
- Don’t fight over principles or rules or schedules. Try to evolve within your own situations and in the situations you find yourself in. Do 1:1 or small-group calls and don’t wait much for orders from above or from the assembly. The “above” has a tendency to try to fixate the past, to secure the future, but the future is already here, yet unevenly distributed on a planetary scale.
- Move and act and communicate before you can be sure. Don’t wait to be right or for decisions from above before you move. Relax and care for yourself. You are not the only one to be emotionally exhausted.
Take care, stay socially distant, and develop better caring practices. “Socially distant” can means more proximity as we start to actually look around more carefully. We can get through this as better and more healthy people, on a more livable planet, with more sensible and caring attitudes — if we and the still functioning parts of governments can avert even larger catastrophes than Covid-19 — pending nuclear reactor meltdowns, financial meltdowns, tele-communications outages, larger scale wars. Disaster planning, worst-case preparedness, caring and moving early … this is the new game. Never forget to rest.
Playing a “profiteering” game with the lifes of people is, most of realize in their faces now, a questionable stance. Cars, planes and global busynesses just hit the wall and we don’t know yet know how we re-arrange the social, the warez, the traffic, the financials, the electrical and other power systems and the caring and critical infrastructure work. A return to the previous known normal will not happen. Accept and embrace.
But let’s please all see that no nuclear reactor goes bust now because we would all otherwise see the current times as “peanuts” compared to what would happen then. Do your nearby nuclear reactor operators have sufficient local agency to shut down their plants or do they need to wait for some OK from a central place that might never come in time? Do you want to find out? Nobody is in this as a spectator who sits back and judges and then votes in an election. Consumerism must end and evolve to something different. Everybody bodily feels they are a participant now in something that nobody can yet determine what it will become. Trust that there are many others who think and care the same …
The animals and plants and forests are certainly feeling a big change as humans, finally, start to change their habits … The two birds who are nesting high up in a nearby Seqouia in the street where i live, the little animals who suddenly walk around freely at night because the streets are empty … i imagine the ecologies around us to experience the situations as a big relieve and many species are curious what is happening next. So am i and trust that our extinction rebellions are co-operative in nature and become cross-special. Stay safe and breathe. And by all means lough! Joy and joking and playing can help get us through. And Rest. Take care.