Crisis Morality: A Short Essay

A kind of tiredness that cannot be resolved by sleep. 

How long can humanity still hold on? The crisis has lasted for around one year now. Personally speaking, psychological resources are nearing a rapid dissolution. Fierce headaches, nightmares and fatigue are besieging my wellbeing. But the worst of all is the plain indifference that’s been holding me in a tight grip over the last month or so. My future self may not believe so, but this enormous, world-scale catastrophe, is gradually becoming the most boring, uninteresting and routine part of my life. 

Conditional Hope

Hope does not console when it is conditional, when it instantly needs to concede a wish for change. Hungry for hope, society sways from press conference to press conference, frozen in an utmost boring and predictable regime: numbers rise, more measures, numbers drop, less measures. If virology isn’t your thing, these times are anything but intriguing. Every month or so, the expected measures are conveyed to ‘the nation’ in a patronizing manner through an equally tedious press conference by a dispiriting prime-minister who lacks vision and imagination. 

As always, the nagging cliche ‘Only together we’ll get control over corona’, laughs at you from the pamphlets of the press conference room. But the ungratified hope has made this unrealistically militant phrase sound ironic by now; like an army general who still believes in victory, not knowing that he’d lost all his troops. Perhaps they need to come up with a new one and add some nuance. ‘Only together we’ll maybe, with luck, get control over corona’, might represent reality better. 

After having seen 835483 of suchlike press conferences – I try to avoid it at all cost- they can merely, with difficulty, squeeze out a cynical grin on my face, while sighing lethargy. Newsreaders on the other hand, tell about the tiniest crisis developments. They do so in an unsuitable uplifting tone of voice; British variant, mutation of the British variant, mutation of the mutation of the British variant and so on. 3rd, 4th, or 50th wave. It cannot engage me any more.

The Lower Compartments

Yet it helps to apply some sort of philosophy to this brain-melting crisis. For there is only one reason that people swallow this way of living -which can hardly be called living. It’s simply because they can still bear with it. Our psychological bunkers are damaged, but haven’t been destroyed just yet. Meanwhile, signs of erosion are slowly presenting themselves. And erosion usually starts at the bottom. At the lowest layer of our society to be exact. As always in human history, it’s the poor who suffer first; One hundred years later, we’re still aboard the Titanic, categorized by the sizes of our wallets.

The noble idea is that society strives to protect the vulnerable ones. We must pauze our lives in favor of the most vulnerable. But ‘vulnerable’, here, is in the physical sense: It implies the elderly, the sick and the weak. But the economically vulnerable ones on the other hand, crammed in small flats with entire families, remain unnoticed. They are locked in the lower compartments of the 2021 Corona Titanic.

But when they suffocate and try to break out, they are arrested, put in jail, publicly condemned and shamed for their behaviour. A more interesting question; not if but when, will the ‘higher economic classes’ try to break free and flee the sinking ship. And will the retaliations be similarly severe?  In another metaphor: when will the bunker’s higher parts start to erode? It’s only a matter of time. 

Temporality Morality

In addition to the previous note, I’d like to emphasize the frailty of normative structures by which we measure good and evil. Recent riots as an answer to the curfew demand a closer examination of crisis morality. For morally condemning an act according to man made ethics will always be faulty to some extent. One cannot have moral judgements about past (or future) events, based on today’s morality, without harming the truth. Those who fully supported the corona measures last year, but have reconsidered their opinion today, are not hypocrite or contradictory, or ignorant to the threat.

Liquid Virtue

They have simply shifted their principles alongside dynamic crisis developments. Norms and values are superfluous and deserve a healthy dose of scepticism. The rioters who’ve set the Netherlands in fury and flame after the dubious implementation of a curfew are condemned today, but might be understood tomorrow.

We mustn’t forget that we rely on a changeable set of fleeting, fluid normative structures, invented by imperfect species (humans). Morality has no ties with any natural order. Virtues are not infinite or universal, not even international. This sort of easy shifting might seem both terrifying and liberating; We claim to disregard violence in itself, label young protesters as ‘criminals’, but make an exception for police violence. Football hooligans on the other hand, who ‘helped the police’, become heroes. 

A Choice

Another example; an authoritarian regime might sound unthinkable in the Netherlands. Yet we live deliberately under such a regime right now.Every few weeks, the cabinet might decide regulations that affect our lives more and more severely, and of which the subsequent political debate is purely theatrical. For indeed, all regulations are implemented out of ‘inevitable (technocratic) necessity’. Discussion, the foundation of democracy, seems therefore obsolete. The political arena is surpassed. We live in an empty shell of what once could be called ‘democracy’. And we are (still) alright with it. 

But it’s only the government’s promise of temporality which allows people to acquaint themselves with this more and more restricted life. Normative shifting goes almost unnoticed, perhaps in a way that the so-called decent people will be protesting themselves when time and psychological exhaustion will grant them the possibility. Will they, then, be condemned by their past selves? It is good to remember that all of it is a choice, be it political or social. The reaction to the virus remains an intentional human choice. 

© Stefan Hoekstra & Marina Pribylskaia/The Social Writer, 2021. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Photo Credit: John Webster

Ode To The Restroom

Going to a public water closet can be a quirky experience. Not because of the traditional struggles, like a malfunctioning flush, or when running out of toilet paper and all of their shameful outcomes. No, the real thrill comes from an exemplary demonstration of human stubbornness.

If you’d ask me, a fine public restroom is of utmost importance for mental health, and I’m dead serious about it. Next to its primary use, which we hopefully all know, it offers something of grander value. Namely, that it serves as a great retreat, offering some welcomed minutes of solace amidst our stressful lives. A small but fortified space in which you can regain your breath. A pit-stop before rejoining the rat race.

Times change. And so do our water closets. The definition of toilet should therefore be broadened. As our lives got more and more accelerated, there is an increased desire for a room to rest: say hello to the restroom. An upgraded meaning of the word toilet, thanks to the way in which it has enhanced our lives over the past decades.

The restroom proves its effectiveness when trying to escape lengthy meetings in the office (preferably during a brain shrinking question round). And in particular, the unfortunate case of being dragged into a shopping mall or an IKEA for the afternoon. When trying to overcome the excruciating horrors of screeching children and ceaseless announcements, a swift slip into the restroom might enable you to survive. Nothing can interfere this modest moment of serenity. Right?!

As ought to be widely known; most reliable toilets have a functioning lock. This small device fulfills a simple but crucial role, since it’s the barricade between the hostile outside world and your two square meters of tranquility.

So, it’s clarified that the purpose of this device is obviously to lock the door. But more importantly, the essence is to show those waiting in the queue that it’s locked, so that they don’t have to come over and disturb your five minute retreat.

It does so by presenting either a white or red bar/lid. It can be seen from afar. Red, in combination with the door firmly closed, means that it’s occupied. There’s not much sense in trying to enter. The lock makes sure that the poor soul inside won’t be harassed for merely a brief frame of time.

Yet it appears not all that obvious to quite a few fellows. Especially during toilet rush hours, politeness is brushed aside. Those who cannot bear with the waiting, do something typically human. They intervene.

And so, ignoring all the clear visual signs of occupancy, these impatient individuals venture towards the sacred door, hoping that it will magically open. A fierce pull will do the job. They grab the door handle and pull it powerfully, just to find out what they already knew. Indeed, it is confirmed that the door won’t open. Nonetheless, they desperately try to shorten their temporary uphold and conquer the restroom, but are foolishly unaware of this attempt being rather counterproductive.

And to all the smart minds who had the mind-blowing idea to turn the door handle aggressively, attempting to shorten someone else’s pit-stop in favour of themselves: thanks, the effectiveness of the door lock has been proven.

In spite of this, the harmonious calmness inside has been interrupted heavily. It leaves the slightly irritated rest seeker in the cabin no choice, other than to annex his sanitary sanctuary a little longer. He decides to use the granted stretch of time productively.

Thus, after being reassured by the trustworthy door lock, he sits back, returns to zen mode and takes plenty of time to write a peculiar article in honour of a peculiar place: the restroom.

Now, if you would excuse me, I need to get back into that terrible shopping mall.

© Stefan Hoekstra/The Social Writer, 2019. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.