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Premonition of January 2020

I have never considered myself to be a particularly intuitive person. I have the odd hunch, and I know that foresight does play a role in decision making. However, since January 2020, I have been grappling to come to terms with the idea that Climate Awareness was going to be my project for the year.

Having facilitated monthly groups for seniors in which we examine what it means to be a Conscious Elder, I announced at the first meeting of the year that we would be bringing the topic of climate change awareness into our discussions. To set the tone, I invited my grand-daughter Keren who has transformed herself from an artist to a business woman. In her new capacity, she is manufacturing bags which are environmentally friendly as they assist shoppers to cut down on their use of plastic.

It was in February this year, the world outside China, heard about Covid-19.   March 26th is the date of the initial Stage 5 Lockdown in South Africa. “But, what is the connection to Climate Disaster?” was constantly running through my mind. Comes August 7th, not only my eldest daughter’s 60th Birthday but news of The Great Reset. At last, someone was articulating the connections I had been feeling in my gut since the beginning of the year.

Covid-19: The Great Reset by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Mallert

By June 2020, Klaus Schwab the founder of The Economic Forum had started to articulate the long term significance of what a minute virus was doing for humanity. Before that date, I had felt embarrassed to even think that the world wide suffering of the past six months may have a silver lining.  I shared my ideas with but a few broad-minded acquaintances. I was cautious about suggesting that maybe this microscopic non-living matter was here to humble us. But yesterday (Friday, August 7th) I decided I can come out of the closet.   I received an email from The World Economic Forum which stated:

“There is an urgent need for global stakeholders to cooperate in simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. To improve the state of the world, the World Economic Forum is starting The Great Reset initiative.”

The process has been started. The World Economic Forum is leading The Great Reset by recommending that politicians, economists and sociologists as well as climate activists consider a radical transformation of both values and goals – a new world order and a major transformation of objectives is projected.  One important aim is to close the gap between those born with advantage and those who come into the world with multiple challenges. If you have any doubts about the advantages of being born both Male and White then read Rob Wijnberg, Editor of The Correspondent who wrote an article entitled, ‘What I learned about racism by talking to people who experience it.

When I heard about The Great Reset, I was really happy about the letter I wrote last week:

“Dear Jeanne

Covid-19 has brought some unsettling features into the life of people all around the world. It has affected my sense of security and my perspective.

When, earlier this year, I learned that you were offering the one-year training for Sage-ing Facilitators online, I was very excited. Whilst it was impractical for me to participate in this course if I needed to travel to the USA, doing it online seemed an entirely feasible project.

Hence my excitement when I learned from you I had been accepted on the course.

However, on reflection, and due to the circumstances, I feel that someone on your waiting list could make better use of the training than myself. This past week I participated in an international training run by Climate Reality. This opened up my awareness of the emergency of our situation on planet earth.

Despite scientific predictions over the past century that the warming of the planet would destroy life as it has been known, those in power have chosen to ignore many of the warning signs. Politicians in league with the oil and gas industry have allowed pollution, which has already caused massive climate disruption in the form of droughts and floods throughout the world, to reach a situation of irreparable damage to our ecology.

In addition, the untimely and brutal death of George Floyd has emphasised the discrepancy in economic status between the rich and the poor on this planet. The spread of Covid-19 has also effected the poor disproportionately.

The juxtaposition of Covic-19, the Climate Calamity, and Class clashes has made me feel that there is something more important for me to do than enhance my “Sage-ing Ability.”

I feel the urge to expend my limited energies and time left to me to try and do something in the form of Climate Activism. Helping to develop structures which may diminish the discrepancies of the opportunity between the rich and the poor.

So, it is with reluctance that I wish to withdraw my participation in the training offered by Sage-ing International. I appreciate the time and professional manner in which you have handled my application. I am indebted to you for treating my wish to undertake the training, with both compassion and professionalism. I am really sorry to have to announce my decision to withdraw from the program.

My best wishes to all the personnel at your organisation. I big thank you to you Jeanne for your kindness and hard work.

Best wishes

Grace”

South Africa has been in lockdown since 27th March 2020 – that amounts to 13 ½ weeks at the time of writing.    What have I learned about myself, society and the human condition during that time?  How am I making sense of all these constraints on my personal freedom?  How am I coping with the anxiety of an ever more threatening future?

Being Subjected to Outside Disciplinary Measures

I live in a village for Senior Residents.   I was told by the Village Manager yesterday that I was not allowed to visit my daughter who lives about 15K from my home and has just returned from hospital after a surgical procedure.   I was somewhat stunned to internalise this restriction on my liberty, but realised that a protest would evoke unpleasant repercussions from my community

So my plans were thwarted.   Despite spending yesterday morning making vegetable soup and kneidlach, spring rolls, and stewed apples;  topped by homemade rolls and a fresh carrot and cabbage salad, my aspirations were stymied.    My intention was to share these symbols of my love with my two daughters over a celebratory supper.

However, when my younger daughter arrived at the security station to fetch me and the fondly made repast, she was not allowed inside the Village grounds.   Not even to collect the food.   Furthermore, I was told by the village Manager that if I left the village to visit my recuperating offspring, I would not be allowed back into my home again!   And, I did not even protest!

School Goers also have Disciplinary Features in the Daily Routine

Our local scholars have just returned to school after three months of home learning.   They are not allowed to play in the grounds during the break, but must sit in their desks to eat their snacks.   Teachers are not able to walk between the children’s desks, let alone hug them or shake their hands.   Standing in line to have temperatures taken and hands sanitised is the opening ritual on arriving at school.   So, I am certainly not the only person in the world whose activities are being thwarted.

Some Sanity from a Wise Psychiatrist and Environmentalist

I had the privilege of listening to Ian McCullum putting into perspective the anxiety-provoking circumstances of our present lifestyle.   He drew my attention to some profound new understandings initiated by the confluence of the Covid pandemic, together with the virulent reaction to the death of George Floyd.   There have been many demonstrations over the years when police violence in America has been out of proportion, however this particular event was witnessed all over the world with the 8 minute 46 second video, circulated by a bystander.  The unexpected consequences have been monumental.

Our Defence Mechanisms

Dr McCullum offered some profound insight.   He described the response to the present unique circumstances in terms of four “viruses.”  More traditional psychological theory might have labelled the qualities ‘defence mechanisms.’

  • Ignorance is manifested by those who do not have the ability to recognise that all humans and animals are interconnected. Many do not have the curiosity to internalise this concept of inter-dependency.
  • Entitlement is a quality possessed by many people who are in denial of their privileges. The present challenges have demonstrated clearly that it is the poorer and less privileged who are the worst victims of this scourge.    It is not true to say, the virus does not discriminate.   Statistics show that a lower socioeconomic status puts the individual at greater risk.
  • Indifference is displayed by arrogant people who think it is their right to come first, and are incapable of internalizing the significance of their privileges.
  • Defeatism is used as a tool for those who declare it is too late to do anything about climate change. They declare that to be optimistic is to be foolhardy.   However, active hope is an essential tool for humankind if we are going to find a “new normal”
Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change.

The confluence of the challenges of Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change has brought to my attention the necessity for each and every one of us to examine their personal values and beliefs.  We have just undergone a massive worldwide change in our behaviour.   All over the globe citizens of many countries have had their freedom curtailed by government regulations.

The threat of the virus is immediate, whereas the threat from climate change is long term.   There is no immediate repercussion for the individual if he or she continues to use plastic indiscriminately.   Racism has existed all our lifetime and the destruction of the spirit of those with darker skin hues gets condoned because their hurt feelings are not visible.

We can change our behaviour, turn our lifestyle upside down virtually over-night when potential death is on our doorstep.   What an amazing demonstration of the fact, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

My Hope

The unprecedented times through which we are passing allow us to slow down, feel our feelings, examine our thoughts, meditate on our actions and re-evaluate our belief systems.   My hope is that the wisdom bearers amongst us will be able to use the present circumstances to mobilise human resources to create a more fair and equitable world.   And, I predict that it will be the generation of my grandchildren who will come up with the necessary revolutionary perspectives and creative ideas to enable the transformation of human behaviour and its relationship to the environment.

 

Man’s Footprint and its consequences

Do you believe there is a connection between the appearance of the virus that causes Covid-19 and the disturbance of the natural environment?  I posed this question recently in a meeting which had been transferred to an on-line app,  because of the current lockdown. The suggestions was met with silence other than the response of one participant who said, “Grace, do you believe there is an association?”    I could determine through the sound of his voice he was totally sceptical of my perspective.

“Yes,” I responded tentatively.   And then I found myself launching into my understanding of the present predicament. “I believe that because of our destruction of forests and savannahs, wild animals are venturing into populated areas, bringing us into the orbit of viruses which cause deadly diseases.”

Habit of Consumption

My comment was met with a deathly silence.   It is now one week later and I have been listening to some enlightening presentations in a range of on-line meetings.   Consistently I am hearing about the detrimental effects of the selfish habits of consumption perpetrated by the human species.  Whilst this tendency was recorded for the first time over a century ago, consumerism has seriously escalated during the past couple of decades, accelerating the deteriorating conditions of our environment.

Early Warnings of a Pandemic

Bill Gates in his TED talk of 2014 predicted this outbreak.   He lamented the fact that so much attention and money was being put towards the deterrence of a nuclear attack, but yet little was being done about the probability of a major attack by viruses in the near future.

Now, my concerns are around how we are going to live our lives when the period of quarantine is behind us and we find ourselves having to adapt to very different circumstances.    Those who are resilient and who welcome change will cope much better with the psychological and economic challenges of the immediate future.   We need to be prepared to have our value system challenged.  It will be a decade in which a major adaption of both life style and attitude will be demanded.

We will all Need to Change our Life Style and Values

I believe that the largest adjustments will need to be undertaken by those who are financially stable at this moment in time.   For some years I have been suggesting to my family and social circle that I believe that a key disconnect in our world is the acceleration of the size of the Gini Index.   That is the statistical measure of the distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor.    The larger the index, the greater the inequality.   I believe it is a crime that the 10 richest people in the world own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population.

I predict that the role of the professionals who deal with mental health problems will be very much in demand.   It is one thing to survive the present ordeal physically intact, but another to cope with the stresses of the situation and emerge without the effects of this traumatic experience embedded in our psyche.

Role of the Internet going Forward

There is no doubt that the role of the internet will be crucial in terms of future health and future business.   Being a boomer, and having learned the internet in my late 50’s, I am pleased that I did not grow up in an era that the internet formed a major part of my entertainment.

I have been using my computer for at least 6 hours a day for the past couple of weeks since I have not been allowed to leave my home except to shop, or to visit the doctor.   During that time I have not played one video game, nor have I visited my Facebook Website.   But I have discovered two outlets for my curiosity and my edification.    Chris Anderson or TED has been interviewing thought leaders on how best to navigate the present challenges of the lockdown.   And Elders for Climate Action have been running some beautiful seminars to help people to adapt to a life style which is more sustainable.

Yes, we are all going to need to adjust to a very new world.   We need to work on our resilience.   Maintain our physical health despite the confinement.   Ensure that our entertainment is directed toward finding healthy outlets rather than mindless pursuits.

Let us Hope a New and Better Era Emerges

We will come out of this with a greater understanding of the human condition.   Mankind has survived many challenges of the past.   After World War 2, new international organisations like the World Health Organisation were formed.   So, despite the hardship and the loss of life, let us be optimistic that mankind will find more sustainable ways to co-operate with each other and the planet on which we depend.