This weekend I’ve been catching up on episodes of ‘Jack Taylor’. It’s my kind of thing anyway but I must admit that I’m really watching it for Galway City, and people moving freely through each others’ homes, shopping centres, restaurants, pubs, club and – funerals. I’m watching it thinking will I ever get to visit Galway again and I’m sad and confused to be thinking that way. But the truth is that I haven’t been in Galway in years – so the upset isn’t about that at all. It’s a displacement activity. At Christmas, I travelled via packed-to-bursting public transport from County Down to my parents in County Cork without a second thought. I’m really worried about the road I took so easily five months ago and I’m afraid to even take that line of thinking so I allow myself to be lonely for the once-lively, bustling atmosphere of Eyre Square instead. I am very grateful to those who have been looking out for the ‘cocooners’ in my home town. I am very grateful to all who have stayed at home, to all who have endured losing a loved one whom they bewilderingly couldn’t visit, nor properly take leave of – and still thinking beyond their immediate circumstances, made the most unthinkable sacrifices to halt the spread of this highly contagious disease. I’m taking the guide from governmment and ‘obeying the rules’ but, to be fair, mostly because the rules I follow align with my wish for those most vulnerable to be protected, and for all to be safe and well. There are no right answers, or failproof strategies, but I am grateful for any kind of good direction that takes into account all citizens. I hope very much that the Oxford Vaccine will work, or for a better solution to be found and quickly.
Rule and Misrule
This post is prompted by the Cummings debacle. Not so much what he did, but reading tweet after tweet, on the back of this news story breaking, written by those who had stayed away from the final hours of their loved ones, who have, in these past weeks, endured the awfulness of no proper rite of parting, as they followed the rules set out. Thousands upon thousands, in this same position. I can’t even find a way to take in the sheer extent of it. The only right response from DC is to apologize and resign. That is all. However, I want to propose a theory that Cummings was obeying his preferred rules – herd immunity, people die anyway, the NHS are grand sure (despite years of underfunding), if there’s a problem, it’s people’s own fault. It can’t be a surprise that he displayed an integrous (I use the word ironically) lack of human care for his own parents – no matter what the reason was for the visiting. I think many of the senior members of our communities would be all too glad to don the heroic cape to muck in and mind their sick or overwhelmed children and grandchildren – or welcome an unsanctioned hug – but until a vaccine or something is found, it’s risky to be close – and adult children have had to hold the line of distance, against all normal family instinct. As one who comes from a culture known for its gregariousness, community/family orientation and well-attended funerals – the whole set of rules behind trying to keep people Covid19-safe fly in the face in any kind of natural human instinct. So why obey them?
I’ve always been interested in the medieval concept of misrule – rather than the dictionary definition. The link with the quotation below is an article summarising various theories regarding the reason for the existence of misrule festivies as part of the prevailing circumstance of government – with their masques and music, and subversion of the normal order of things. Covid19 is very clearly neither laughing matter nor any kind of occasion for festival – so to be clear the parallel I am drawing is simply that the will of the British people created the protective regulations around lockdown, not the current administration – and the field of vision of the people looks further, in this instance, than individual or consituency interest. A compassionate and generous unwillingness to participate in the original strategy, moved the situation from the terror of ‘herd immunity’ to a properly organised strategy that offered at least some measure of response to the crisis. This is above and beyond political agenda and divisions. This is the stuff of the hell realms no matter what the response. What I wanted to point out rather is the power of the quiet insistence on ‘Ar scath a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ ( ‘There’s more foreby yourself.’). It has saved lives. But that has to be cold comfort for so many. My heart is with those who have lost loved ones in these awful times. I do not know how or what comfort could be offered.
Victor Turner proposes another theory. The order we are mocking is important but not ultimate; what is ultimate is the community it serves; and this community is fundamentally egalitarian; it includes everyone. Yet we cannot do away with the order. So we periodically renew it, rededicate it, return it to its original meaning, by suspending it in the name of the community, which is fundamentally, ultimately of equals, and which underlies it.from: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2017/08/22/the-world-was-turned-upside-down-feasts-of-fools-lords-of-misrule/
Like dolmens round my childhood
The poem below is dedicated to the senior members of our communities – particularly those most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, and those who care for them – whether at home or in healthcare settings.