When I look around I’m at a bit of a loss with what is happening in the world. While it is apparently a sign of intelligence to be able to hold two opposing ideas in your mind, I just can’t process the polarities I see around me. Republican vs. Democrat, Brexiteer vs. Remainer, and whatever you call the vocally different views on the coronavirus management. It seems humanity is being driven to increasingly polarised positions that make it hard to remember we’re all just people trying to live the happiest lives we can, loving our friends and families, making homes and generally doing our best with what we’re faced with.
Tonight it came to me what may be driving some of this for people because I was finally pushed there myself, to a place where I was ready to make a radical stand, and I realised that we all need a space of possibilities to make our choices and shape our lives within. There are always constraints (laws, physics, weather…) but people need to feel they have choice, and have their ability to make those choices recognised. If too much choice is taken away – the “box” gets to small – then people will push back. What did it for me was fishing. And, no, I don’t fish, but my partner does… His favourite way to unwind after work is to walk down to the little river in the village and catch a few fish (for those of you not in the UK, we catch and release here, so it’s not a nightly fish fry – sometimes he doesn’t catch a thing!). But today it was announced that during the most recent lockdown, our permitted outside exercise can not include fishing.
Wait, we can’t stand alone on a river bank and flick a line into water and risk contact with an insufficiently wily fish? I know we need to stop the transmission of the virus. I know we need to avoid contact with other people. I can absolutely see why we’d need to stop fishing tournaments, and why friends can’t meet for a fish (or anything else…) but this blanket ban on what is in many instances a solitary (and well-being enhancing) activity offends my reason. The government have removed any space for judgement, for choice, for nuance. They are treating us as if we are incapable to making a sensible, responsible decision. And maybe some people struggle with that, but most don’t! So I’m angry. Deeply, grindingly angry and it’s pushing me to a more polar view than I would ever take by nature because this denial of my rationality has pushed me too far.
So maybe that’s where the polarity comes from, people feeling pushed too far. People feeling their humanity, their dignity, their rights, their views, whatever, have not been recognised and the box is too small. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just me getting angry. (I do apologise for the rant, especially if you were reading for something about nature, or cats – normal service will resume, I’m sure…)
What hurts almost as much as the anger, though, is that I don’t feel I can have this conversation with most of the people I know. They might agree, they might not, and if they don’t it might damage treasured friendships. The problem is that the virus response has also been made binary – if you’re not 100% behind the measures it can potentially break friendships as much as Trump-Biden is tearing apart America. So, while I think (hope) most people would agree that governments generally have done their best with their measures – and sometimes got it right and sometimes wrong – it doesn’t feel safe to have that conversation. Another small box…
I wish I had a magic key that would gift people with open-minded humility, with the ability to see the nuance and the sense that very often exists even in the views opposed to their own. We need to be coming together in a world that for some reason seems bent on pushing us apart. We need to appreciate nuance and individual circumstances. And we need to give people a bit of space to make their choices and live their lives – far better informed choices, I’d say, if we could get people connecting again instead of being driven into boxes that are just too small to fit.
I walk my best path
And offer you a wide space
Hoping paths mingle.