”Respect the sea and the sea will respect you”, I’m told, is the mantra my grandfather lived by whilst at sea. Being a fisherman in times of yore, safety was not much guaranteed as he plumbed the depths of the Atlantic around Iveragh with lobster pots, in search of…well, lobster. The network that protects today’s seafarers was not available, to say the least. Yet even today many have fallen foul of what can sometimes be a cruel temptress…the sea.
I’ve never had the privilege of meeting my grandfather on the Kerry side, as he had succumbed to ill health far before his time. Yet much of my childhood was permeated with tales of the man. Oh how I longed to have a conversation with him, and learn much from what seemed like quite an erudite and genial man. I have come to admire and try to assimilate many of the finer traits my mother praised, in her enriched anecdotes of her childhood. That mantra was the main one that stuck with me, and has been useful in many situations. Little did I realise I would lean so heavily on it though, in this the age of Covid-19.
I could never be accused of being a clean/germ freak, just ask the other half. However, since this has happened I have found myself becoming increasingly conscious of what is acceptable and safe, and what is not. So much so, that I get very concerned for the characters on the tv show I’m watching who are not social distancing correctly, despite it being made years prior…very concerned indeed.
The thought of passing something on haunts me more than the thought of getting something, considerably more. So another mantra comes to mind – a little bit more vigilance, for a lot more piece of mind. If wearing a mask and being uncomfortable at times means I can look myself in the mirror when all is done, then it is certainly worth the hassle. Is it a pain at times? Of course!
Can We Just Be Done With It?
Prior to the pandemic I always assumed that should we face such a crisis we would all just row in together and do as we must. Certainly it was so, for much, so far. Yet in recent times, a certain I’m done with this attitude has crept in. If only it were so simple. I’ve been done with paying taxes for years, yet here I am still paying taxes like a fool. Covid doesn’t care that we are done with it, it is not, I fear, done with us. The thing is so contagious that even New Zealand, which looked to have it quashed, saw a jump in cases out of nowhere, literally.
In a previous blog entry I wrote: ‘They said that by staying apart, we would come together, yet it is by demanding that we be allowed come together again, that we may truly fall apart for good.’ (A Return to Wonder, May 2020). I fear that this may be closer to the bone now than I ever imagined. It is in demanding things get back to normal that we are actually placing barriers to our recovery and return to normalcy. Like a sprinter waiting for the gun, we must be patient and not risk losing it all for a temporary advantage.
Attitude Reflects Leadership
What are the features we admire in a strong leader? For me it’s decisiveness, steadfastness and courage, to name but a few. Are the traits that come to mind readily recognisable in our government at the moment? Not for me. As I’ve said, courage is key in strong leadership, and at times I fear this regime are more interested in being liked than making decisions that, whilst unpopular, may be for the best.
NPHET are working to the bone with public health at the forefront of their mind. They make recommendations based on what is best for public health. The government then have to marry this with economic concerns, a task I far from envy. I would hate to be in such a position at such a time. Yet that’s what these guys have campaigned for, admirable you might say. Except, there are times when it seems to me, these guys are still canvassing. They want to be re-elected and make sure they stay on the gravy train, so why not let NPHET take the heat?
Critical Thinking & Experts
I am all for critical thinking, and see it as the main thing worth teaching at the minute. We must constantly question our world. Yet we must also respect experts. People have studied immunology all their lives, so I don’t have to. NPHET is made up of the best scientific minds in the country, who am I to question them? We can and must question inconsistencies of course, but often I fear our questioning of them is based off the fact we are not liking the answers we are being given. In most areas of life people don’t like being told they can’t.
Reminds me of my days behind the bar when people struggled with the idea that we had no Kopparberg. Whatchamean? I mean we have none.
Row in and get on
Yet questions on leadership and mixed messaging still lead back to personal responsibility. It wasn’t unclear not to holiday abroad yet some acted like it was. The GAA sought clarification from an acting CMO up to his eyes, who had made recommendations, to some approval. Yet it was clear they understood, but didn’t like their answer, and wanted to try old school intimidation. Otherwise of course they might have approached those who made the actual decisions, The Government.
The Clifden affair has caused a lot of hurt and rightly so. Lots of us who have sacrificed much and adhered as best we can with it thrown back in our faces. Although, that is not a reason for us to turn way from what got us to this point. ‘Whataboutery’ is stifling these days. One person acting the goat does not entitle someone else to act the goat. Think about it, if someone stood in the dock accused of murder and used someone else having committed murder before, as their defence, we’d be rolling in the aisles. Yet it is somehow acceptable in the court of public opinion. We can and must move on from the tyranny of whataboutery.
On the eve of heading back to school, as I write this, I am filled with excitement at the thought of it. It is vital for our society that schools remain at the fulcrum of it. As an educator, I naturally believe that education is the most powerful tool .
Yet, whilst we want a return to schools, as most are simply burned out from homeschooling, a homeschooling of a different sort must take place now. In order to fully move forward together we must inform ourselves fully. Pretending it is not here won’t wash anymore. Thinking in terms of only what we personally want, won’t wash anymore either.
We each have a responsibility to read evidence-based information about this virus and how best to deal with it, rather than focusing on the social media statements from non-experts that say what we want to hear.
It has rightly been said that we must get used to living alongside this virus. But, I fear some who use such words simply mean we should live as normal and act like it’s gone. Who cares once we can have dinner out like before, right? Before is gone, time to accept that.
Living alongside it, for me, means borrowing my grandfather’s mantra; ‘respect the virus, and the virus may respect us’. What choice do we have? Coming together must be a state of mind…for now.