Discussion – Key Debates, Viewpoints & Interviews
Sociological Experiencing and Reflecting – Contemplative Diary
Krzysztof Konecki, University of Lodz, Poland
Before coming back to Poland. There is a panic about Coronavirus in the country. I'm afraid to go back; I'm scared of infection, I'm worried about panic and disorganisation. Everything works here. I don't know how it is there. There are no cases in Nepal. Diet (spicy food) and the resistance of Nepalese to the flu... I don't really believe it. No tests, they know very little about the Coronavirus in their own country.
More and more information from Poland about coronavirus. Panic, they won't let us in, quarantine?! Schools and colleges closed. Empty shelves in the shops. End of the world! “Polite” reports from friends over the Internet scare me.
And here calmness, yoga, and pranayama. A beautiful, vibrant and energetic city. I love it!
I am coming back to Poland by plane. The coronavirus is spreading. At the last moment, they close the borders. People around mainly in masks. We get on the plane, I sit next to a Nepalese woman, very calm, almost still throughout the journey to Doha. I hope she's alive.
I read a book by Upadhyay, "Arresting God in Kathmandu". The stories are outstanding. God was arrested in Kathmandu, no karma-flu there…
Transfer to Warsaw in Doha. On the plane the guy next to me came around spraying with disinfectant and wiping the seat, screen, handrails. He was without a mask. A big man, his elbow rubbed at me all the time. When I dropped the handkerchief giving it to the stewardess, he lifted it gently with the tips of his fingers and gave it to her, then disinfected his fingers. I opened my eyes wide and was incredulous! Finally, I could go back to reading Upadhyaya. This book seems to be more and more outstanding to me. I am almost suffocated in a mask. I don't take it off out of laziness. God arrested in the plane…
In Warsaw, control on the plane. Macierewicz's people (Territorial Defense Forces) come and check our temperature. Have us fill out the form with addresses and contacts. They will know where to look for us in the case of infection. Finally, the troops may feel needed.
And those who created them can boast that they anticipated problems, and the creation of these paramilitary troops was right. Once upon a time, a great Austrian also had troops that he used at some point of time...
I am going home with family. Mind and heart are still in the beautiful mountains in Nepal. I remember this country with love and admiration. Here is panic and anxiety.
15/03/2020, Łódź – start of quarantine
Coronavirus madness. You can go crazy from it. I have imposed on me a 14-day quarantine when I returned. I see how easy it is to manipulate the crowd when you have the means. The media is the first and social media second; the Internet reproduces some information and rumors and interpretations. Politicians gain. Few facts. Facts are unnecessary; they threaten information that must be spectacular. The number of deceased people is unknown; in relation to what is this number large or small? Countries ape each other mutually, stopping flights, closing borders. Russia boasts that it has fewer infections and illnesses as a result of prevention. Always leading, and it is the best in everything, but it seems to be perfect, mainly, in propaganda at home.
I stop reading messages. I'm going back to meditation and yoga.
The time of the plague gave me embodied knowledge of the ‘nature of co-existence’ and the interdependence of people, nature, and the inanimate world. The world turned out to be an embodied unity for me. I see and feel this unity. I feel the suffering of others and their actions. Also, the activities of viruses.
We depend on each other. From world history and linear time, what is happening is one short moment. Essential to the individual, not to the universe. It makes me peaceful…
The time of plague is the time of the experiment on a global scale. It is also an individual experiment. An opportunity for transformation. To open the heart to others. Others are me. If other people suffer, I also suffer. By loving others now, I develop pandemic love. So, is there a chance for the survival of civilisation? But can we cope with this challenge? Will the signs of solidarity survive? Were there examples in the past? The Spanish flu was also a pandemic, did it contribute to a better understanding of interdependence? Was it the leaven of transformation? Although there is a pandemic on a larger scale now, and with a higher degree of awareness of its extent and dangers, and what it brings for humanity.
Sixth day of quarantine. Appearance on television by Skype. I tackle the topic of social solidarity during the pandemic from the point of view of sociology. There is no survey yet on Coronavirus effects on society.
Poles can cooperate in a crisis. But I am not sure if declarations of cooperation and social solidarity are sometimes only declarations of values and not ‘realised values’. During the floods, ten years ago, surveys also stated that people ‘mutually helped each other’ (72%), ‘while the majority (83 %) was not personally involved in the rescue operations’.
Also, due to the Coronavirus and temporary social solidarity, the social divisions and tensions will not disappear, I think they will be even more strengthened when the real economic crisis comes. When our standard of living decreases, it will be a real test for our society.
Social solidarity is present in various ideologies and policies, and it may finally destroy neoliberal policy and ideology in practice. Additionally, totalitarian tendencies of the government are still increasing.
Practicing yoga makes me reflect. Understanding the body as a mechanism. Does it help during the plague? If I don't feel the virus inside me, I can recognise it by its symptoms. Mechanical recognition. Of course, it is important that I recognise it. But there is something else. There is something in the body that I do not recognise, whether it is in me or not... I do not know. But I am aware of this failure, the secret that lurks. This is an incredible feeling. This virus is almost mystical, I am afraid of him, it is like a God, I am afraid of him, it is like the mystery of death. He is God, he is everything. But at the same time, I don't know what it is and whether it already is with me. The body expects him and at the same time does not desire him. The body learns through deliberate failure. That is the amazing nature of the process. The mysticism of the body and existential feelings. Unutterable. Silence. God is arrested in the body…
I work at home online.
Social order is taken for granted, and it is given to us. During the Coronavirus crisis, we see that this is not the case; we understand that social order is constructed, that it needs to be repaired, maintained, smoothed, justified. When planes do not depart, when people are stopped and the health service is down. One has to act, coordinate, speak, justify, create a chance. The norm of order as normality is in the background, once considered obvious, or unnoticed, today it must be defended as a sacrum. Order is a value, although it has never been fully achieved, but its full violation happens only in times of crisis. It’s dreadful.
Traveling in space is evident. Daily activity outside the home is something normal. But in times of epidemics, we are closed. We are at one point in space. Separately. We sit at home and wait. All our attachment to movement in space, which was something obvious, is shaken. The order based on displacement in space is disturbed. Similarly, approaching others, strangers on the street, stations, buses. We don't want to approach so as not to get infected. We keep a distance different from that before the pandemic. 1.5 meters, 2 or 5 meters. The norms of spatial distance are changing. The order is disturbed, a new order is constructed, the social order of the pandemic world.
This also applies to time; time is measured by the time of work spent in organisations where we previously worked and stayed. Time at home is organised along the lines of these work schedules and is replicated, but not accurately. We have greater freedom to regulate it on the one hand, but on the other, we are forced to perform activities due to the work schedule and often being in online contact with clients. Disorders of two schedules, home and work, can occur every day and cause domestic conflicts or nervousness. The time order is violated; it must be built again and accepted in a new space that was once fully private. The spatial and time order is completely mixed and disturbed.
In addition, time is counted from one government regulation to the next. The new calendar, messy, difficult to predict.
28/03/2020, Łódź – last day of quarantine
Helplessness. Agency Loss. I can do nothing as an individual to repair the situation. Only being with others. Only together, but separately. Durkheim was right. I am an element of a wider community, just a small, tiny element. What remains is the adaptation. Where is the heroic act of courage mentioned by existentialists? What could I do not to duplicate others?
What remains is writing. I know what I think, I get to know myself. Who am I? Independence on paper.
Powerlessness towards State power. Authoritarianism is already in the full light of democracy, although a democracy of the night. The night hides evil and rudeness. They can be grown while others sleep. And tomorrow good people will accept in the daylight what the night has offered them. There is no escape from the night. The Coronavirus ally fell from the sky. The plane of evil arrived. And it will not fly away, return flights are suspended.
Coronavirus promotes authoritarianism. Small and immoral people take advantage of the situation with the consent of all ‘good people’ (Everett Hughes – ‘Good People and Dirty Work’). They gain more power, gain power forever, control bodies (movement, displacement, research, treatment) and minds (lying propaganda, statistics, corrupt media seizures, intimidation of the free media).
Warnings against fake news, which are themselves fake news, when spoken by notorious liars.
Directing attention to a problem outside of a particular person diverts attention from that person's problems.
The actions of politicians in the era of the coronavirus are supposedly aimed at helping of people. ‘Compassionate politics’ are shown to the public. A lot of promises of subsidies, help, relief, everyday propaganda, etc. Such directing of the attention of the people to the ‘compassion policy’, however, diverts attention from other policies that seek to take over power completely, such as changing the election regulations justified by an epidemic. The focus of citizens' attention on matters on which the government wants them to focus is becoming easier in the current psychological situation of fear for the future, and economical when the production and operation of services are stopped. Political changes aimed at consolidating power go down in the perceptions of people or are entirely ignored. Management of attention is in action.
New government regulation. A sense of closure. I can't leave the house even after quarantine. I feel like I'm in a spaceship that doesn't have a pilot, or I don't even know if the pilot is flying with me? No space to move, though immeasurable space around.
This abyss touches me more than ever before. Once observing the stars, like the Stoics, I gained distance to my place on Earth. Today, the distance is more difficult to achieve by looking at the stars. I need to look deeper but into myself. What will I meet there?
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