Cogito Ergo Sum

I was wrong. Unfortunately. In a previous post, in a moment, I can’t say, either of mental weakness or optimistic trust in human nature, I boldly stated that the experience of disasters, like Covid-19 outbreak, might boost social changes, as communities naturally come together in order to help one another. In short, the worse the situation is, the better people become. Of course, somebody commented that it was more likely to be exactly the other way round, namely, people would have much more easily given way to their evil instincts, like in Saramago’s “On Blindness”, in such circumstances, but nobody even remotely imagined that Covid-19 disaster would have actually turned people neither better nor worse, but rather, more stupid, and without even being infected.

Jonathan Swift had always been convinced that human reason was overrated, parlicularly by those among his contemporaries who boasted to be living in the age of  Enlightement. Of course, he couldn’t deny that men were somehow endowed with reason, but his focus was actually on how they used it, so he made his “Gulliver’s Travels” be the perfect place where to pour his thoughts, which can be summed as follows: whether men are dwarfs or giants, cultivated or Yahoos, in whatever latitude and longitude they have organized their more or less advanced societies, the great majority of them lack in one important constituent: wisdom. That is because the force of men’s instinct, their greed for power, their drives are too strong to be effectively and constantly controlled by reason alone:

My little Friend Grildrig. . . . I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth. (Gulliver’s Travels. Part II, Chpt VI)

These are the words of a misanthrope, and indeed he has been considered so, but was his vision of man truly so deformed or is there some truth in it? I’m sure, if he could comment our present situation he would say: “Told you!!”  After of 8 months of Covid-19 outbreak we can affirm that little is known about the virus, nothing about future outcomes, no vaccine and only a few certainties: the importance of wearing masks, keeping ourselves distanced and washing our hands, which is exactly what was recommended one hunded years ago for the Spanish flu. These recommendations are the product of reason and science, even if, I must say,  there haven’t been significant developments since 1918/19. Hence, if wisdom were at work, we’d follow what advised by virologists and look forward for a vaccine as soon as possible, wouldn’t we?

But it is not. It seems incredible, at least to me, but thousands of people prefer to believe that wearing masks causes cancer and that this pandemic is just a strategy to control everybody keeping them distanced and at home and that, of course, all this goes against their acquired freedoms and rights of doing …what they want, let alone those who are firmly no vaccine, any vaccine. Even if there is evindence that lockdowns have worked to control the spreading of the outbreak, they would be ready to confute those figures as fake, or that covid does not exist, hence, claiming that our rights are at stake. Why does this happen? I don’t know. I can only say that believing, after all, is effortless. You believe in who/what charms you or sounds convincing – many are ready to believe that the earth is flat too – but proving needs undestanding, hard work, knowledge, wisdom and this is still for a minority.

Of course, with the coming of summer, it has been impossible to deny anybody one last unquestionable right: the right of vacation. After all we have gone through, I guess, it would have been wiser to restrain this impulse for a while, since the virus is still circulating, but no way, the dream of vacation has been stronger than the primordial survival instinct and millions of people have started to move around Europe. Of course, you don’t go on holiday to be distanced and wearing masks, you want to enjoy a full life made of fun, restaurants, beautiful spots, discos and I may understand it. The result is that after having been able to control this outbreak quite well eventually, people are coming back infected and cases are increasing exponentially. Of course, according to a negationist logic there are obscure forces at work that want a new lockdown. “Cogito ergo sum…..” an idiot.

27 thoughts on “Cogito Ergo Sum

  1. I suspect a lot of Swift’s supposed misanthropy was due to his observations and era. After all, he was a scholar in Ireland watching as the English continued to exploit and degrade the already impoverished Irish, talk about solving “the Irish problem” as famine wracked the island, and did nothing substantial about it because they were still profiting. Thus “A Modest Proposal” (which, if delivered today, would swiftly be adopted by the White House).

    I can’t speak for Europe, but in the States, we have the (now deadly) combination of politicization, a strong anti-science current, the attention span of a toddler, and the emotional/empathic development of a three year old. Add in a lack of top-down leadership and a (as described by his psychologist niece) “high functioning psychopath” at the reins, placing profit, petty vengeance for imagined wrongs, and desire for power (including multiple attempts to sabotage the Nov. election) above saving lives . . . and we haven’t even gotten through the first wave of Covid in 5+ months.

    • The conspiracy thing, I think, has caught on because science (while correct) isn’t telling people what they want to hear. The conspiracy theorists (here: Alex Jones, Breitbart, QAnon, the White House, etc.) are telling them exactly what they want to hear, so confirmation bias kicks in.

  2. “… words (of) a misanthrope …”

    Sadly, this whole affair did, does, and will do nothing to dissuade me of my preconceptions about the majority of people (hint: not a favorable preconception).

    The amount of idiocy I cross every day would be delightful fodder for lots of social commentary on my blog . . . but there are no words that compare to the reality of it, and anyway, it’s as pointless as describing a mountain using words like big and tall and wide.

    As an unofficial member of VHEMT, were it not for the needless suffering of millions, and, if it only affected idiots, I would welcome our current situation. Plus, you know, it affects me too . . .

    . . . because, until a few decades ago, as a human, I held some pride in my species for the accomplishments and the progress we made toward fulfilling the notion that humanity is destined for greatness. Since then, not so much.

    The hopeful take:
    As a species, we’ve gone through worst times, and the moral and intellectual arcs do point upward (with the occasional — as in present times — setback) . . .

    The selfish take:
    . . . but, that does me and others like me not a bit of good, and little comfort is had by imagining that 40-50 years from now we *might* have clawed our way out of the current pit of idiocy. That is the downside of not having kids (if it is a downside): I really don’t care that future generations might have it better. We should be striving to have it better right now, or, at least, to not go backward in our development.

    • I think I might be an unaware VHEMT member myself 🤔🤔🤔, however, I think our pessimism, at least mine, concerning human beings depends on the spreading of social meadia. People chat /write without using any filter, thus giving way freely to their hatred, frustration and idiocy. What was once kept secret for decency or fear of judgment, now is all out in the open : homo, homini, lupus.

    • I’m not in a better place mentally if I know people are keeping certain thoughts to themselves as opposed to voicing them. In fact, I prefer knowing because it then directs my actions.

      It’s a bit like an infection; I rather get early warning signs and be able to react to it than wait until it’s spread all over the place.

      And that, perhaps, is what bothers me most. The reality that people were keeping these thoughts to themselves . . . they had them and probably directed their everyday interactions.

      At some point, we have to assume that these thoughts and hatred will go away, and not merely suppressed.

      BUT . . . selfishly, I suppose it would be better if people still kept them to themselves and at least acted as if they were decent human beings.

      And, yes, VHEMT member you are . . . unless something changed during the self-isolate period.

  3. You’ve caught it all exactly, the exasperating, unbelievable… baseness of human nature on display at this time. The litter, aggression, greed, littleness….
    So many of us hoped for better things from this ( is this the dip before the soar? O, optimism you heart-breaker).
    I’ve got this subject looking for a home, in my head at the moment, and it ties in with what people expect for themselves… deserving. Do we deserve… vacations every year? Have we ‘earned’ the right? Do we deserve…this that and the other?

    Looking around here where I am, I find myself thinking: the ‘bulldog Brits, stiff-upper lips taking it in on the chin’?No, they folded in a month or so. Spineless.
    Another side of this the current research project of a number of groups: resilience. Why do some have it, and others not? Is it nurture etc?
    I like this approach, it is more humane, and less angry.

    • It is not only a matter of being resilient, but, as I wrote just wisdom. Do you think I am happy to wear a mask with the heat of these days in Rome? I hate it, but I feel I have no better option if I want to contribute to make this thing end as soon as possible and go back to normal life. Healthy. 😉

      • I was talking to my neighbour. He was complaining about the local shop, having to wear a mask: ‘I’ve been going there 30 odd years…’ The owners are an Asian family, very likeable. But so vulnerable to Covid.
        He just could not see beyond himself to others.
        To be forced in on ourselves, it would seem is about the worst thing for some people. They get stuck there.

  4. My dearest wise teacher, welcome to the (my forever) pessimist world! Not only Jonathan Swift with his great Gulliver’s story but as we can see and read in the history of arts, there’re many other writers and filmmakers and poets who tried to show this creature (man) his idiocy but it seems there’s no hope to move its brain in a positive way! 😁
    Cogito ergo sum…..” well said by René Descartes but I think the first step is Cogito: the fact of its thinking or awareness, which failed.
    PS: I have got my travelling vacation and luckily with no problems, my wife (as a teacher like you) couldn’t stay home in her holidays, therefore, we had two weeks nice trip to Crete, Greece. 😎👌
    I wish you all the best mia Cara Amica, take care and stay safe 💖🤗💖🙏💖

  5. I can’t add much, if anything, to what you and responders here have said, except to say I agree. I know we ought to engage with people who have irrational views and try to persuade them otherwise but, honestly, it does depress the spirit, and I’m sure we’re depressed enough already.

    • We ought to, really ? Every time I wish to talk, even to try to understand that train of confused thoughts I just find a wall before me. It is useless. Few days ago I commented a post of a person I know about masks causing cancer. I was very careful to use inoffensive tones and I just said: if it were so, all surgeons would be dead by now. I was insulted. 🙃😂

      • It’s almost as if they pride themselves on being open minded when in fact they’re simply gullible, without scientific evidence to back up their beliefs.

  6. I agree with both Jonathan and you bella. Like him I am not enamored with the majority of our species. So that makes me a misanthrope as well. As for what you said about reading into his work, you are perfectly correct. Each one of us gives the reader an insight into our deepest feelings, likes and dislikes – our loves and hates. If only the average reader bothered to take note, maybe they might just begin to appreciate all writers as human beings!

  7. It is all rather depressing. I hope for more sense but see little. Humans are such complex and at time stupid creatures. I think there are two camps emerging: the longing for a better world… and the let’s do whatever we want and are entitled to brigade. Sadly, I believe there are more in the latter camp than the former. All we can do is stick to our own beliefs, ignore the idiots, and use our own common sense to make informed decisions.

    • Even if we may ignore idiots , we cannot do the the same with the consequences of their idiocy. You can use common sense, being informed, but if million of people decide to go on holiday, refuse to wear masks etc…, and another lockdown will be necessary, can you imagine the consequences ?

  8. During the pandemic the gun sales in the US went up. Such knee jerk responses have replaced calm and collected thinking. Man only wants to believe what he wants. In order to do that however inconvenient truth is he treats as fake news. Human intelligence peaked some three millennia ago. Thereafter we see people have steadily become dumber and now there are some 25 to 65 mutations in the DNA taking place. In these critical intelligence genes what difference it makes we see in the manner the nations have approached the virus. Do we save economy or lives of future generation? Even an arrant knave and fool can become the President and also continue despite the approval ratings going down.

    • “Do we save economy or lives of future generation?” This is the dilemma. Here our Prime Minister chose for lives, and very soon he will pay for this choice as economy has collapsed, in your case……….elections are close, aren’t they? 😉

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