Is Acceptance Just A Good Spin On Giving In?
I had a row with my mum a few weeks ago. I shouldn't have but I was frustrated, like all of us, by masks and lockdowns and a lack of anything to look forward to. I was, and remain, angry that we are even in this position, that this was allowed to happen in the 21st century, that our governments and other public institutions were so ill-prepared for the, apparently, inevitable (as predicted by Bill Gates, amongst others, in 2015).
I hate that the pandemic is being exploited by the media for clicks, by big tech for profit and by governments for control. I hate being told to feel grateful that I am locked down in Singapore because, at the same time, I feel so deprived of friends, family and, let's face it, culture. Singapore is an incredible place to come and work but if that work cannot be punctuated by regular flights to somewhere more interesting then both work and life become a relentless chore. Possibly this is more than my mum had bargained for when she asked over FaceTime, "How's things?".
In my previous post I wrote about How I Banished Small Talk & Brought Big Conversations Back Into My Life. This is in part because I hate small talk; I can't pretend to be interested in what route you took to get here or how your extension is coming along when there is so much else to talk about so, when someone asks me, "How's things?", I actually tell them. However my mum, being my mum, wants to soothe me by providing a solution to my concerns and that solution is generally a variation on, "It is what it is, nothing you can do about it, best just to accept it." Okay...
Acceptance Is An Industry.
Within the cult of mindfulness, which I am not entirely opposed to, acceptance is touted as the silver bullet to all our mental health issues. Only by accepting things as they are, not as we wish them to be, can we find inner peace we are told - but where the fuck does that get you? What if Emmeline Pankhurst had simply accepted that women can't vote, or Rosa Parks had simply accepted that blacks had less right to a seat on the bus than whites? What kind of world would we be living in now? Almost all human progress is down to NOT accepting the status quo, but fighting against it for something better. Eternal lockdowns, curfews, family separations, media scare stories, tech profiteering and government surveillance are NOT acceptable and I refuse to give in to them.
Before I continue I should add that I am a fully vaccinated, mask-wearing, compliant cuck! I am not advocating for conspiracy theories or irresponsible behaviour. Nor am I trying to draw a line between myself and heroes like Ms. Pankhurst or Ms. Parks, but maintaining a healthy skepticism, questioning authority and engaging in debate with friends and family keeps a hum of disquiet bubbling away in the pot of public discourse. It prevents individuals, organisations and even governments from getting too comfortable or overstepping their mark for fear of losing respect/custom/support. For instance, I have a friend in Singapore who's job it is to sit in kopi shops and hawker centres and listen to the conversations going on around him. This may sound nefarious but his job, in part, is to listen out for the concerns of average Singaporeans and feed that information back to government to act upon. So often we complain that governments don't listen to us but if they want our votes they have to at least pay lip service to our concerns, ergo if we are vocally concerned about government overreach, that will eventually reach government and impact policy.
The "Before Times" & The "New Normal"
I do believe we are at a watershed moment in history that will have both good and bad outcomes. Medical technology has taken great leaps forward in the last two years but so has surveillance technology that allows employers to track staff in their homes and governments to track populations everywhere. Digital media has kept us informed of the pandemic globally but also provided an open platform for misinformation, which is currently hampering vaccine uptake. Digital connectivity has freed knowledge workers to work from anywhere, anytime but they are burning out from working everywhere, all the time. And, inevitably, the poorest in society continue to suffer as their jobs need to be done from somewhere at specific times but those place are still subject to restrictions.
The "new normal" that emerges from this pandemic will be a mix of all the outcomes above, but we can bias it towards the good by making our dissatisfaction with the bad known. We can question the use of surveillance technology at work, we can bemoan the lack of clarity around working hours for remote staff, we can tell our politicians how we feel about restrictions, we can pay to subscribe to reliable news (and unsubscribe from nutjobs), we can share that news with friends to open debate, we can choose not to engage in small talk and instead be brave enough to bring up topics more worthy of our attention. Even in lockdown we still have that choice.
Do Not Accept The Unacceptable
Ultimately, I am grateful to be locked down in Singapore with my work and my health, but I won't accept it because lockdowns along with mandatory mask-wearing, tracking, curfews and travel bans should NEVER be acceptable. If you think so too then make sure your compliance in the short term isn't construed as acceptance in the long term, otherwise this could easily become the "new normal".