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Friday, 27 November, 2020
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Lost in the madness

Lost in the madness.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Victor Frankl

I write this as we wait for the second UK national lockdown. 3m self-employed people have been excluded from any income or support or benefits since March, and arguments rage over whether to extend free school meals.

Some struggle with being solitary while others struggle with spending so much time with their family. For every person concerned about the risks to their health (or their loved ones) there is another frantic with worry about how to pay the rent or keep their business going.

What is clear is that we are all affected differently by the lockdown and we all respond differently. While social media is awash with people complaining that this adversely affects them (and it does adversely affect most of us) and weird conspiracy theories about the deadly nature of wearing a piece of cloth over your face when entering a shop, or vaccines and 5G – you name it, someone has argued it and suggested it must be true because of YouTube videos.

Others are rightly concerned that the loss of personal and civil liberty will not turn out to be temporary and what has been obediently given up may have to be fought for, if we want it to return. Each of us has focused on what we value most and what hurts us most. Each of us has argued and theorised in support of those arguments. Some even believe the virus does not exist, while friends who are Doctors in ICUs unfriend the people they regard as crazy to protect their own mental health.

Lost in the madness …

These are difficult and challenging times. Strange tribes and alliances are formed between people who once would not have given each other the time of day. The swirling anger and fear makes strange political and social bedfellows. We blame politicians, the Chinese, the Government, unknown conspirators, or sheer incompetence. Yet still it keeps on coming.

We look to the stars, or to the Gods, or to secret world governments to give meaning to our distress and to our suffering. It seems impossible that such a mess should simply have just happened. It must be someone’s fault – someone must be to blame. And so, we look for someone to blame. The more we are distressed and stressed, the more we seem to need to do this.

Yet in the noise, the madness and the despair, there are people checking on their neighbours, doing their shopping, and giving what little they have to people who have even less than they are. It is truly humbling to see the posts in groups for the 3m excluded business, where people who literally cannot feed themselves, put money in the meter, or buy nappies for their children or food for their pets, are modestly supported by people who have just got a few hours work, or managed to find a brief financial foothold out of the mess.

And in the groups for people dealing with long covid, or bereaved by covid, there are heartfelt offers of support from those who have lost and are grieving and struggling.

Mavericks tend to stand outside the group or the pack. It is our nature. Whether we are setting off crazy conspiracy theories or making insightful connections between apparently unrelated things – it is way too early to tell.  

We see the world differently because our minds are different.

But our hearts are as prone to compassion or cruelty, to hope or despair as any other person. We are not immune from crazy or cruel responses. And we are not immune from being deceived or making a wrong analysis of incomplete information. Mavericks may be intellectually smart, but we are not naturally emotionally smarter than our fellows. In fact, we are often less so.

We are at the mercy of events we cannot control. We can choose to lessen the burden on those around us. Or we can tear down everything and everyone who disagrees with us about the slightest thing. It is our choice how we respond.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E. Frankl

Lost in the madness. What shall you choose to do?

Annabel Kayehttp://www.irenicon.co.uk
Annabel has spent almost 40 years helping growing businesses sort out the practical and legal side of paying people and has been a guest expert on both tv and radio talking about all things gig-economy. She founded KoffeeKlatch in 2009 specifically to support organisations outsourcing to freelancers. She supports micro entrepreneurs with systems and contracts and is running a number of dedicated GDPR support groups. She is a professional speaker and she is well known for combining common sense and humour when tackling compliance and legal subjects.

8 COMMENTS

  1. You rightly highlight that in the big picture of lockdown, with its risks to liberty and livelihoods, sits the small detail of community and support and love for others.

    You are so right that it is our choice how we respond. I choose love.

  2. A moving and compelling post Annabel. You are right we are living in challenging times and many are struggling. But despite that there are so many acts of kindness that give us all hope. This should be a key driver today. Be kind, show empathy.

    I think the Biden / Harris win will move the needle globally to pull us into an era where sexism, racism, name calling and hate speech are no longer normalised. I am feeling a sense of optimism, the first for a while.

  3. It is surprising how deadlines can pull us forward to a future we want and yet drop us off an emotional cliff if they slip.

    Managing our expectations by creating an expectation of a better future has to be carefully done to avoid a slough of despond.

    The end of lockdown if postponed may cause a similar spike unless we find a, way to prevent it.

  4. Thanks for this powerful thought piece! People, all of us, try to make sense of their worlds in different ways and you rightly point out some of the paths followed. I particularly like the references to Viktor Frankl and they reminded me of a poignant section of “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Here Frankl told the story of the prisoners who believed the Americans wold rescuse them by the turn of the year (1944/45)-the Americans didn’t arrive until some months later. There was as I remember, a significant surge in the death rate among those who thought they’d be rescued. It is sometimes better to suspend hope until there is a realistic focus and deal with the day to day support for each other.

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