Are we listening?

A personal note.

DowntownLA

A sunny Saturday afternoon. A beautiful view of Downtown LA, looking South East towards USC. Shouting, screaming, breaking glass… I don’t think it was THAT bad. I HOPE it wasn’t that bad. But the breaking of glass and the screams were certainly loud enough to shake me.

I know it’s only anecdotal, but my heart truly goes out to so many women, locked down at home during covid19. There is no excuse for domestic violence. Time at home is not an excuse for it to increase. But reality doesn’t work that way.

Take away purpose and we lose meaning, become frustrated, angry and sometimes even violent. Socioeconomic interaction gives people purpose and we should not discount the externalities of overly regulating that interaction.

Humans are FRAGILE – you’ll know it if you take a moment to look inside. Similarly, society is more fragile than we think. Our complex interaction in large numbers makes for a seemingly robust system but take away the interaction and be cautious of the impact. One more reason why I’m sceptical of onerous centralised policymaking that has escalated during Covid19.

What does one do when hearing domestic violence? Should one intervene? You have no context, no appreciation of the circumstance and no idea how bad it is. Is it verbal, was there a push or were punches thrown? What is the point at which I should get involved? And what should I even do? What could I do? I guess I could physically restrain people, but then what? Sit strangers down for a chat? I don’t think so… Perhaps I could knock on the door a little later in the day and offer some fruit, just to let them know that I’m there, that society is still here, that we’re listening… Are we listening?


One thought on “Are we listening?

  1. As always, beautiful reflection. Thanks. I agree that over and above the humanity that we have as individuals, there is some level of humanity that we have as groups. It is true that we have identities as individuals and as groups. I think about myself and my behaviour in a big sporting event or music festival. I sometimes go delirious to the point where I feel that I am sharing my personality with those in attendance. We get so much from interacting with others: ideas, emotion, affirmation, laughter, conversation, cooperation and many other things. In fact, being in contact with the rest of society is in many ways what makes us human. We need it. We are social beings – consider the fact that being put in solitary confinement is considered a terrible punishment in many cultures.

    I also want to that affirm that the point that you make about not excusing domestic violence for being in lockdown is one that I take fully on board. Some people can take this the wrong way – especially in a world where the battle of ideas has lost a lot of its honesty. I don’t think you’d take such a callous position. I understand you to be picking up on an important nuance that speaks directly to our fragility as humans, which is that we are layered beings with many parts and it is easy for a malfunction in one area of our lives to get us to behave in very strange and sometimes unacceptable ways.

    However, I also think that each and every one of us need to think in worldly ways and to also believe that we can transcend our instincts no matter how challenged and under duress we are. I think that we need to accept that we are flawed and fragile but that in the end, we can rise above these shortcomings. And it is at times such as these where we need to meet and conquer these challenges. I know that this “advice” might seem rather galling for someone who lives in poverty with no obvious way out of it. I am heartbroken thinking about the plight of people living in poverty who over and above the ignominy and pain of poverty are now being told to stay at home and do nothing.

    But I do think that the human spirit is powerful and intrinsically resilient. This is why we have a philosophy as beautiful as stoicism. Times such as these challenge us to unearth our inner stoics. I believe we can do it. We can teach ourselves that we are certain to meet adversity that many forms including lockdown/coronavirus and we can overcome them. If we really, truly can’t do it, then it would give credence to one of Marx’s reflections on the theory of human nature (a theory against which I have always been in opposition) which is: “Historical outcomes are the result of material conditions of people rather than ideals”. I would be saddened to learn that this is true.

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