Victoria Jelinek


Covid-19 7 April 2020

I think I could turn and live with animals, they’re so placid and self-contain’d,

I stand and look at them long and long,

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not like awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Walt Whitman

At this time (medical professionals goes without saying) it’s the low paid workers – street sweepers, refuse collectors, supermarket workers, delivery drivers, and farmers that are keeping the country going, not big businesses, over paid footballers, you tubers, etc.

I would love to believe people will change their perspective a little when this is over, but I doubt it. Given the conversations I have with adolescents I teach and know, and from what I see from those around me who have huge houses and fancy cars they work all of the time to pay for, I think most people still see “success” as material, and most adolescents want to be big corporate executives or celebrities of some sort (sports, you tubers, those new online “change makers” or “it” folks). With little effort to boot.

Such a shame. There is great integrity in those listed above, and those who can do a trade (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, hairdressers, teachers, artists, sowers, farmers). The world needs people who are educated, absolutely, but who are also modest. Kindness, usefulness, collectivism should be promoted by our societies, not individualism, competition, and avarice. My guess is that if these alternative ideas were promoted, you would find that the grave numbers of loneliness, depression, and suicide would be vastly reduced. Purposefulness and a sense of “other” are reasons to be and give one self confidence.

Bertrand Russell wrote in his book “The Conquest of Happiness,” that the most direct path to true contentment is altruism.

Individualism_VS_Collectivism-530x300

(image courtesy of The Borgen Project)


Covid-19 March 17, 2020

President Macron addresses the nation for the second time in a week

To my family,

TelecommuteWe allowed S to watch the address too. This virus is a huge thing…the first of its kind in a century (Spanish Flu 1918), and President Macron notes this (like the Humanities and Classics man he is).

It was a beautiful and sad speech. He candidly says that it is the beginning of the “onslaught” of this virus, that it will accelerate in the coming weeks and months, with a “second wave” that will effect younger people.

He calls on us to prepare for this. He calls for solidarity. He calls for “brotherhood” (the whole “liberté, egalite, fraternité” reference to the French Revolution that is noted on the side of every mayor’s office in every village and city throughout France)

He says that we must trust the experts who are guiding the decision for a lockdown – scientists and healthcare professionals who are on the front line of this crisis.

However, he notes, despite this context and the seriousness of the threat, the protocol to help first responders (healthcare professionals, police) by slowing down the spread of this disease enacted last Thursday, the public has not respected the guidelines. So, 100k army and extra police will be deployed across the country to enforce the ban on our movement as of tomorrow at midday. From then, we must have a written explanation downloaded from the government’s site (or handwritten for those without printers) explaining why we are out. We are only allowed to get food, medicine…to exercise, walk our dog, but not to meet with friends and extended family, “in the streets” or in our homes, or we will be fined 38e and “there will be repercussions.” I’m not clear what the repercussions would be. Perhaps it’s the 38e? (it was in French after all).

Borders across Europe/the Schengen Area have now collectively been closed to all foreign nationals for 30 days as of midday tomorrow also, with extension after that if needed. There seems to be some lenience with UK citizens, though I’m not sure exactly how this works given that they are now out of the EU, but it’s, perhaps, because it’s a recent ‘divorce’ that there is this allowance? I’m not clear on this to be honest…

President Macron referred to what French citizens must now face as “life in slow-motion,” but he called on us to spend this time “reading, reflecting on what is essential,” and said the nation would “prevail” in this “war.”

(I hope Netflix and our internet doesn’t somehow go down. That would TRULY leave me desperate).

There are many measures to help businesses and the economically vulnerable, and there is (subsidized by the government as usual) childcare for those who are first responders and necessary governmental workers.

He called for solidarity and courage.

He closed his address with the classical, “Vive la France. Vive la République.”

Which S kept saying afterwards to himself as he was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. After he went to bed, I heard him ask his father, who was was sitting with him, “Daddy, what will happen if you or mommy get the virus?” To which M said, “We’ll be fine honey…we’re strong.” He then asked why we have to stay indoors and not see friends if we’re not sick. To which M said, “To protect others, honey…to protect those that aren’t so strong…to make sure that we help the nurses and doctors who are dealing with this each day by not spreading the disease further…”  It was quiet after that. He was probably asleep after that long winded response (as you might be now with my long missive – I type quickly. Perhaps, M, you can use it for your morning ‘private time’ reading?).

Gods hope all of us we will be protected and fine. Particularly as we can’t get to one another easily if there is a personal crisis.

We have been and will continue to, respect the guidelines. But, I have been appalled by the numbers who have not (the weather has been extraordinary, but it’s rather surreal to see so many over the last three days not taking this seriously despite national directives). I’ve also been perplexed and hurt by friends who have castigated me for self isolating: “I wouldn’t have thought YOU would be like this!” and “It’s a bit mad, don’t you think, to just stay at home when the weather is so gorgeous?!” and, “Drop by for a coffee – don’t be like that.” And, “I feel as though you’re judging me for continuing to live my life!” And, “It’s hysterical behavior if you ask me.” And, “It’s no worse than a really bad flu for most of us, stop being such a worry wart,” sorts-of-things. (The fact that I am a worry wart isn’t the point).

I suppose crisis brings out a variety of responses in people. I, too, didn’t take it seriously till last Thursday and had been mystified, incredulous, and somewhat disdainful when a couple of my friends were ‘banging the drum’ that it was time to lockdown everywhere asap. Then it hit me. I read something the other day about coming to terms with this virus socially is akin to the six stages of grief, so, perhaps, we are at different stages in this, just like the outbreak is in different stages of development in different countries?

I know for us, like many, we are worried about the future for our son. As M once said, “Having a child is like having your heart outside your body.” I love that. It’s so true. And mine beats heavily now…

And, like many, we are worried about money. Unlike the huge amount of money that is being put out there in France to alleviate the stress on businesses (the French government is paying salaries for workers while businesses are closed, rents and mortgages for those that are “poor” are being paid by the government, taxis, hotels, childcare for first responders, subsidies to hospitals and army tents to be set up in the hardest hit areas in order to support hospitals, all courtesy of our government). We freelancers, however, receive little or nothing. And, we won’t receive regular assistance because we have a bunch of money in our bank account from the sale of our previous house that will be used to build our new house. But, it doesn’t look as though our new house will be built this summer because if things remain, the wood/build will not get here and the workers can’t build it/be on site, and then we’ll be stuck paying our exorbitant rent! But, we’ll see how this all goes.

Things are changing daily.

There are so many in worse positions of course. I was told by a friend who had lived in Nigeria for 15 years, that most people in Africa live with this type of fear and uncertainty all of the time. You ‘just’ learn to cope.

Though, thankfully, in France, our poorest are given help with food, housing, and health, so there are not these types of desperate situations for the most part. Isolation is an issue.

And, of course, we could be ill. The impotence and fear of S’s recent illness is still fresh in our minds (the 40+ fever for five days in which he couldn’t eat and it would not go down! I’m so glad I insisted his blood was tested or I’d have thought it was Covid-19!).

And President Macron suggests that instead of visiting our elderly family members and neighbors, we offer to support these people in our communities by offering to get groceries and do errands for them (he actually said this! Makes me chuckle how he considers everything), and, of course, we would have “justification” for doing this (but we must fill in the form for transit! Goodness knows the French LOVE their paperwork).

Trying, terrible times. My dear friend E (S’s “nou nou” from three months old to three-years-old) who is now a neighbour, and who is normally a stoic, humorous, Welsh woman who regularly chides me to “take off my ‘big girl’s blouse’ and just get on with things,” texted me after the televised address and said she was despondent, that “The future seems bleak.” Rather alarmed, but figuring immediately that it made sense that it’d take something of this magnitude to shake her up, I suggested she bundle up warmly – it gets cold at night here – come over in ten minutes and meets me on the back porch – that I’d make us both very large whisky sours (washing my hands first of course) and, adhering to the security restrictions, we’d sit outside in lawn chairs two meters apart and talk. It was poignant as we sat on our respective sides of the porch quietly talking. The sky was bright with stars. There was a rock slide on the mountain that was SO loud it sounded as though Thor was smashing rocks together. We heard the sound of an owl and foxes (perhaps the owl was caught by the fox?). J chased a big deer away (which I soundly – though softly – scolded her for).

Oh my. What a world we live in.

So, it seems we have no choice but to spend this time at home, “reading and reflecting on what is essential,” as le president advises.

Though tomorrow I start teaching online classes. I’m advised that it’s “very important” that we “model peace and serenity” for the students.

Sleep is best for that.

Bon courage a tout.

Please keep in touch virtually. How lucky we are to have email and cell phones! (They wouldn’t have had those things during the last pandemic!).

Keep safe. 

Love, Tori

Photo is courtesy of the link below (via friend) on Reddit and someone with the handle u/krinosh:



XXIII: Blue Dog Day

Depression is melancholy minus its charms – the animation, the fits. Susan Sontag

depression long roadMy mind has been playing tricks on me all day. I almost convinced myself that my bad liver was a result of my candy intake. Seriously. For a moment, it seemed real. So real, that it almost justified my drinking at 9am. The rest of the day, I’ve been thinking that I’ll try to make it through fifteen more years. That’s the goal. Ten to see my son off to university, then five more years to have fun, do what I want, potentially decimate my body. Then, like a cat when its ready to die, I’ll quietly go off somewhere by myself. These morbid thoughts give me comfort. I think, “I can make it through today…” Then, “I can make it through the next year…” Then, “I can make it for ten more…I think…” “That’s all, that’s all…” But that “all” is everything.

It’s horrible to feel this way. It’s heavy and dark and bitter and mean and uncomfortable. I want to escape me. Barring that, I want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head and just pass time. The day, the year, the ten years, the fifteen. However, there are always people around me. My husband would interrupt this. Not because he would be concerned, but because it would annoy him that I was in bed ‘lolling about’ while he was taking care of our child, our house, and ‘business.’ Then, of course, there’s my son. My precocious, sweet, talkative boy who hums and sings to himself as he skips up the stairs, heads out the door, or plays by himself. He zones in on me like I’m a beacon whenever he’s home and demands I engage with him. Not in a pushy, aggressive manner, but because he likes me and wants to show me things, talk to me about what he has seen or done, and to hear what I have to say about it. He’s still cuddly, even as I can see the man that he will become, and he’s way too big for me to lift up. I try to engage with him. To pay attention to what he’s saying. I try to put a smile on my face. I try to pretend not to be me for him.

It’s entirely for him that I’m not drinking and inhaling to my heart’s desire. Or staying in bed all day. Or running away to somewhere else more suited to my real self. Somewhere dirty, large, and anonymous. He’s the reason I stay. He’s the reason I try at all. He’s the reason I will make myself go to the grocery store to get food, even as I absolutely dread the inevitable prospect of running into someone I know. He’s also the reason that we have any semblance of a social life. As an only child, or a “unique” as the French say, he wants playmates. As a naturally curious and social boy, he wants company and activity around him. As he’s still very young, he can’t arrange them or go by himself, and his father is unconcerned with having a social life, happy, instead, to be a homebody. So, I must arrange ‘play dates’ and social plans. Then, I must stay for a “hello,” and a “how are you?” and sometimes a cup or glass of something to be friendly. However, I find these interactions very hard. I feel as though I am perpetually masquerading as a ‘normal’ person, and consequently, am such a fraud. I don’t know how to have small talk when I’m sober, and I know people don’t want me to launch into “serious” talk, which is a “downer.” Having to interact with adults and children alike is painful and anxiety provoking for me. And now there’s no reprieve from the stress of it all.

Moreover, ‘the slings and arrows’ of children and their parents’ politics are very hard for me to observe, digest, and remain calm about. ‘Cookie cutter’ type kids and their parents are popular. They’re confident about asserting themselves. The kids spot the ‘Achilles heel’ of any child and exploit it cruelly. The other kids gravitate to these types. Prompting me to wonder if there isn’t some truth to the idea that people, in general, do like dictators – someone to tell them what to do and how to be. Tennessee Williams notes in “Night of the Iguana” that humans are the only creatures that won’t do anything to get out of a trap, such as bite off a foot or an arm. The kids ‘fisty cuffs’ are generally all forgotten relatively quickly, but it’s terrible to watch when you consider that these human propensities begin early. Ugh, and the little clusters of cliques, with those who are the ‘henchmen’ to the popular kids often being the meanest. Girls seem to be the worst. Or the best, depending on how you look at it. I think of the film “Mean Girls” frequently. Even among the hierarchies of adults. I hate observing these dynamics. It ‘winds me up.’ It makes me feel like I’m in grade school or high school all over again. I hated those years. I felt like a captive.

I keep looking for justice and signs of human thoughtfulness: to notice the person who picks up after himself when leaving the cinema. Or notice the car that uses only one parking space. Or notice the person who lets someone in front of them in the line at the grocery ‘cause they only have three items and the other person a trolley full of goods. Or see ‘the chancer’ get fired summarily. But it’s so hard to do when I feel so fucking bad. And, it often makes things worse ‘cause I don’t see these things everyday and then I’m angry. Then, like the masochist I am, I sling abuse at myself for being “so negative.” I tell myself that it’s MY fault that I see the ‘bad’ things about people in the world! I’m sending out that ‘energy’ and it’s causing a reverb by bringing negativity to me!” “If I could only change my perspective then it would all be fine. All would be different.” “It’s how I see things that’s the problem.” “It’s me. I suck. I’m horrible, beastly, angry, critical, and judgmental.” “I should relax and not think “too” much.” Problem is, the only way I don’t think too much is to ingest a mind-altering substance. If I’m to make it another fifteen years, I can’t. It’s already ‘dicey’ that I’ll make it that far with what I’ve already done to myself.

And that’s when I want to spend my day in bed. It’s then that I see little point in venturing out into the world. It’s then that I return to the idea that I’ve had a good run and I’m eager to be done with it. I’m tired of watching imposters get ahead. I’m tired of bullies dominating society – both on a micro and macro level. Of mediocrity reigning. Of the rise of pride in ignorance and the consequent disdain of intellect. Of no one really giving a shit about anything. I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of me.



XVI: Villains & Monsters
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana
An article to me from an English friend with the simple:
I believe England is lost…
My response:
I’m sorry my dear. It’s sad and it’s terrible. And, it’s exactly what’s happening in USA with Trump & ilk. And, it’s what’s happening throughout Europe with these cynical, right-wing, would-be power players taking advantage of ignorant, angry, fearful populations to espouse nationalistic, anti-immigration, Euro skeptic rhetoric and falsehoods & whip them into a rabid frenzy.
I fear Europe is the next to fall, and then we are all lost. May the gods help our (collective) children, because it’s going to be very ‘dark’ (backward, violent, repressive) for a generation or two if everything the EU symbolizes (peace, collectivism, human rights, environmental and consumer protections, freedom of movement, etc.) is compromised in these upcoming elections…
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/13/nigel-farage-brexit-party-event-terrifying-glimpse-future
HITLER/JAEGER FILE


XII: Fighting Despair

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Martin Luther King

Birch treesEven as I write this I know that I must continue to maintain hope for the sake of my young son and all that I know is excellent, beautiful, and good in this world. Intellectually I know there is so much. But emotionally it’s getting harder to believe this. I increasingly feel more impotent, discouraged, and disdainful with humanity and its actions. Not just what I read in various news outlets, but what I observe around me every time I leave the house. My sense of humor is failing me. I’ve noticed in recent months that I don’t laugh my big, open-mouthed laugh any more. This is stupid, too, ‘cause losing one’s sense of humor only makes matters worse. I’m not sure how to maintain strength, hope, and humor when all of the things that give me hope and joy (tolerance, kindness, intelligence, collectivism, excellence and the magnificent natural world) seem to be diminishing. I write this today in the hope that it will serve as a catharsis. In the hope that I’m not alone in my thinking.

So, here is the litany of global events that have happened in the last two years that, in my opinion, reflect societal values and are consequently undermining my belief that this world is fundamentally a righteous place:

Syria, with the aid of Russia, prompts a mass migration of immigrants to the EU, which in turn emboldens racist, xenophobic, & nationalistic ideology throughout Europe, threatening the basis and formation of the European Union.

England & Wales, as a result of a misinformation campaign (Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Nigel Farage) withdraws from the European Union and takes Scotland and Ireland with it.

With the aid of the Electoral College, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and Russian interference, Donald Trump takes the USA White House.

Emmanuel Macron narrowly beats the right-wing Front National (since ‘rebranded’ and going stronger than ever in time for the European Elections in a couple of weeks, aided by the Yellow Vest movement).

Jair Bolsonaro is elected in Brazil and vows to ‘open up’ more of the Amazon to industrial interests.

A fascist right-wing party is elected to lead Italy. With Viktor Orban of Hungary, they call for leaders to be elected in the upcoming EU elections who will reduce immigration (wolf whistle for ideology that defies EU principles).

Germany has representatives in their parliament from the far right for the first time since the Third Reich.

Spain has representatives in their parliament from the far right for the first time since Franco.

Sweden narrowly maintains a Socialist government, as does the Netherlands, in relatively recent elections.

There are mass shootings in the USA almost weekly. There is encouragement to shoot immigrants by Trump. Immigrants looking for shelter stateside are separated from their families, caged, and “lost.” The meat and water that the populace eats and drinks are contaminated due to decreased FDA and EPA protections, as well as the loosening of controls on industrial practices. The American administration is attempting a coup in Venezuela, and alienating democratic countries that the USA has had global alliances with for a hundred years.

Public education around the world is under siege. Teachers work for noble reasons or they don’t know what else to do. Students and their parents increasingly value education as a means to get into a ‘good’ university in order to get a ‘good job,’ in order to earn a lot of money, rather than for learning in-and-of-itself. Arts and humanities are being cut throughout the world, even as they define civilizations.

The wealthy elude taxes that keep infrastructure present for everyone. Multi national corporations elude taxes. The poor resent taxes. Income inequality grows more disparate, and this in turn affects our collective gene pool (subsequent lifestyle habits, healthcare resources, educational opportunities, etc.).

And climate calamity is on the horizon.

What is the global response? It’s open season on wolves and bears – necessary creatures for healthy ecosystems. Trophy hunting laws and endangered animal protections are eased. The hyper rich want their wildlife pets to signify status. The Chinese still think rhino horns are medicinal. Poaching is rampant. Nature reserves are under attack. Japan has re-introduced commercial whaling. The Faroe Islands continue to have an annual ‘ceremonial’ whale slaughter. The Arctic melts but short-sighted people just want jobs on oilrigs and fishing tankers. Habitat destruction and deforestation are destroying animals and insects essential to life itself, as well as plants that make medicines that keep humans living longer than ever before.

Industrial and corporate interests dominate governments and cultures. Governments throughout the world continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industries, which in turn continue to spend millions of dollars each year to lobby against clean energy and to keep consumers addicted to their goods. Pollution is literally choking humanity, making our children sick, and killing our natural protections against this.

Today, despite the rest of Europe – France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands – fighting for 95% reduction of emissions by 2050, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Germany rejected the motion. Reducing pollution and promoting sustainability is not in the interests of the powers that control many countries and their societies. And without governmental laws to MAKE people change their habits, there will be no real change.

And it’s not histrionic to say that if this doesn’t change, it means that we humans will then die after much suffering. We will face water scarcity, food shortage, illness, and war over resources…droughts, storms, fires, earthquakes will render populations homeless…animals, insects, and natural landscapes will be eliminated. But the planet will live on. Yes, we humans will take many of the current animal and natural species with us to our extinction, but eventually there will be new ones, and new forests, and new life. But it won’t include our children or us. Certainly not our children’s children.

What do we do? We continue to consume more than we need and to waste too much. We continue to have a lot of children. To eat a lot of meat that requires a great deal of land to harvest (not to mention what happens to the poor animals). To order things online that are shipped across the world because they’re ‘cheaper’. To buy disposable clothes, toys, plastic, goods of all kinds because we simply want them, they’re cheap, we don’t care what’s happening to the earth or to others, and because the measure of ‘success’ is material. We continue to drive huge, petrol/diesel guzzling cars. And fast, despite signs asking us to slow down ’cause speed effects emissions. We fly more than ever before in human history ‘cause we can. Finally, led by anger and fear stoked in mainstream media, we vote with our manufactured feelings rather than our reason. We vote for our own individual interests. Or we don’t vote at all.

This diatribe has, indeed, worked as a catharsis.

Even as I withdraw more these days and my humor is limited, I know that hope is not lost. The fight is not foregone. Feelings have not completely overridden reason. There are righteous folks fighting for all of us every day. Yes, Putin and his ilk are ruthlessly greedy for domination. Political leaders and would-be political leaders will exploit the anger and ignorance of the masses to their own end, creating backwards, unproductive societies for a generation or two. Most people will avoid their taxes unless they’re punished. Humans won’t want to reduce their creature comforts or to look directly into the face of their destructive habits. And humans without material goods will continue to want them. I don’t have any real power to affect the world on a macro level (if only – boy would I be good at being Queen of the world! Obviously modest).

What I CAN do is to focus my energies personally and politically:

  • Personal life appreciated and a moderate lifestyle maintained – mostly ‘tick,’ though this can always be improved upon.
  • A rewarding profession that helps the world in some way – mostly ‘tick.’
  • Living according to my values – exalting beauty, excellence, intelligence; modeling curiosity, kindness, and tolerance; cherishing socialism, liberalism, and conservation – not quite a tick because I’ve been wallowing in anger and resentment towards humanity in general for awhile – but I am working on it.
  • Voting for candidates who I believe will address at least a portion of the aforementioned injustices – tick.
  • Supporting causes and action that will fight for conservation of the natural world (as well as humanity in general) – tick.

 

 



XI: A Moment of Silence…

Posted today on Twitter. I think it says it all…Brave American Children



X: Call Me Old Fashioned

An excerpt from a letter to a friend today:

Prawn & avocado cocktailThank you my dear. Always.

I remember a friend who is a public defender in my home state (another thankless, hard job) telling me that he felt that it often feels like you’re rolling a boulder up a hill over-and-over again in an effort to help humanity, or at least to stave off its inevitable decline. However, if you CAN roll the boulder up the hill, you have a moral obligation to do so.

Which reminds me, I watched Macron give a (long) speech in response to the Yellow Vest protests and at the conclusion of a two-month series of ‘national debates’ in which he had been traveling around France meeting people in small towns in order to hear their views and complaints. I felt like weeping: his grasp of the complicated conceptual elements that make societies function, to thrive, are astounding. And his knowledge of the tedious, practical details of governance are impressive (can you imagine Trump doing this?!). He had notes, but he would ‘go off’ on tangents, addressing each-and-every point (the growing sense that governments seem inaccessible to the general public, for example), and explaining WHY he would not fight for one thing or another (blank votes, for example). I felt like weeping because I thought that I’m so impressed and relieved that there ARE politicians out there like him that DO know something about governing (history, sociology, law, economics, geography, rhetoric, etc.), and are showing accountability by the mere fact that they’re acknowledging the grievances and worries of their citizens; that these leaders seem to be SO few-and-far between, making someone like Macron a surprise; but it should be the standard we hold ALL politicians to! And I also felt like weeping because I know that in general the French don’t like him (they think he’s arrogant and a friend of big money  because of his background) and will consequently vote him out in the next election…

I fear, too, for the upcoming European elections, where cynical far-right politicians are exploiting people’s ignorance, impotence and anger – in France, Hungary, Austria, and Italy, for example, where they are promoting anti-immigrant and euro skeptic views – and these political parties will likely gain power in the EU parliament.

Why can’t people learn from history? Or even the recent history of the USA and England and the deteriorating state they’re in culturally and practically?!

That said, Spain did NOT vote for the far-right party that was promoting guns in every household, thank goodness. Hope lives another day. (Even as the far-right party there now has access to parliamentary power – a terrifying global phenomena akin to global politics in the 1930’s).

Am going to watch some good TV programming now and pour myself a large glass of wine. Finished watching “Fleabag” season 2 last night – breathtakingly excellent!

And excellence, to me, in any realm, is like ‘god’ (for want of a better word) – a raison d’être.

Love to you, my excellent friend, v.