I have always been a big fan of the word “furtive.” For one thing, it just sounds cool. For another, its definition is related to the idea of being secretive about doing something that, if caught, would carry with it potentially negative repercussions. In a lot of ways… This idea fairly well describes one of our species’ behavioral cornerstones; to treat rules as nothing more than obstacles for us to craft creative ways around them. But I digress.
As this essay goes to “print,” the world has, by and large, climbed out from under the rock of Covid-19 pandemonium at least enough to take a look around and assess the damage. Those of us sitting in the cheap seats of life will likely never know very much of the truth about its origins and at whose feet responsibility for it should lie, but much has been learned about who we are as people and how we treat ourselves and each other when the shit legitimately hits the species-ending fan. To be polite, we failed miserably.
Hindsight being 20/20, as they say, and being a card-carrying member of the “you can’t make a better future if you don’t look in the rearview at what you fucked up behind you” Club,” now seems like a pretty good time to put all of us in front of a mirror and take a good long hard look at what we did to ourselves and each other over the course of the last several years.
To be fair, far better reactions came from everyday people… Neighbors, friends, loved ones, and health and emergency service providers than did anything bad, but what the hell happened to the people in charge? Those of us who survived despite the devastation from the disease need to take a long, hard look at those people in the near future.
In the early days of the “Coronapocalypse,” we witnessed, in slow-motion, the trainwreck of human civilization. Panic buying instantaneously lost all control. We’ve gotten used to it, ahead of incoming natural disasters, over the years, but the hysteria caused by shelter-in-place orders and mandatory school and workplace shutdowns instilled such dramatic levels of fear in our society that the bloody lot of us collapsed into a steaming hot pile of social disorder and devolved into the chaotic mentality of every man, woman, and child for himself. I mean… What happened to the idea of buying bottled water, dry foodstuffs, and canned goods? You know what I mean? Doing things calmly and with measured self-restraint, typically associated with the presumption of a temporary loss of resources or supplies to hold us over until the crisis passed?
Am I the only one who got the memo about the Coronavirus being a highly contagious virus that primarily affects the lungs and comes with a seriously High fever? And that seniors and people with weight issues were the most vulnerable. Given the near extinction of toilet paper, you would think that everybody would be expecting severe dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting. I’ll never figure out how toilet paper shortages would inspire fistfights in Big Box store parking lots.
Don’t get me wrong… As a self-made Hermit, I wholeheartedly embraced this whole notion of social distancing and sheltering in place, two of the guiding principles of being faithful to the standards of the furtive Hermit lifestyle. Truth be told, I considered it the one silver lining around the coronavirus black cloud; I looked out my window… Under a house arrest imposed by my oldest daughter to keep me from getting dead… And what I saw was quiet roads and empty parks and barely a soul moving about. I thought it was a glorious sight to behold, and I remember thinking that the whole experience was like a gift from the Almighty Himself!
Now, in all fairness, change is not always pleasant or welcome in life, especially when it is forced upon us against our will. There can be no greater example of this than the tidal wave of change thrust upon the lives of literally every human being on the planet in response to Covid-19. And yet, even as it starts to sink in that 7 billion people were, in some way, affected by it, the even greater sadness would be for us to pass up the opportunity to learn from all of this and seize the moment to make some serious and fundamental changes to the way ours 7 billion strong community goes about conducting its human race business. And, if I got a vote, I would start with our children.
Though officially a sexagenarian now, I well-enough still remember my public school days(70’s -induced holes in my memory notwithstanding) to recall that my school day ran 6 hours. I remember that there were papers to fill out, homework to trudge through, annoying teachers and principals that always seemed to be pissed off and put out to even be there, and – best of all – cafeteria Lunch Ladies and friends and playgrounds and recess! And I remember, still, that I spent the rest of my School life wishing those first six years had lasted a whole lot longer because of how much the last six felt like torture and drudgery. And boredom.
In the wake of mandatory face masks, social distancing, and essentially shelter-in-place orders, along with the vast majority of school districts shutting down and sending kids home to continue their education online, for all intents and purposes, public education – as we have known it for generations- died a little during the pandemic. And I’m not so sure this is a bad thing.
As a grandparent (although my Grands call me “Boomer” when we are cutting up), I was called in to supervise my guys working through their assignments online with their teachers on the other end. I gave myself the title “Headmaster of the family Academy of remote higher learning” because it was my job to keep the kids honest about actually doing the work they were expected to do, and I think it sounded pretty cool… And made them roll their eyes every time I reminded them I was in charge. They could message each other, video chat where necessary, and ask questions throughout their “class” time. And, while nowhere near the same as my own school experience, this new way of doing things is far better and more efficient and, I’m guessing, a lot less stressful for the teachers. As well it clearly eliminates discipline issues and disruptive behavior issues across the board – I witnessed a number of occasions where teachers simply disconnected problem students from the conference call.
An interesting side note, through the lens of a “Boomer’s eye- reminding younger readers that we didn’t have cell phones and laptops when I was going through school- is how fascinated I was by ‘kids these days and the technology at their disposal. When I was a kid, we passed notes and almost always got caught, and if we ever copied anyone else’s work… Well, there was hell to pay. I was stunned to watch my guys, with their laptops open and their video cam running, still manage to play video games on their iPad while having group cell phone calls going on speaker with the active classroom session set to mute… Glancing at the laptop now and again in case the teacher called them out. It made my brain hurt while simultaneously making me laugh at the damage I could have done in school when I was a kid, were I, too, have had access to those sorts of distractions. It just goes to show you that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the creative ways eager young minds can break the rules without getting caught knows no bounds.
Interestingly enough, efficiency dramatically improved, resulting in a significant drop in the time needed to go through all the materials for the day’s work… Cutting it almost in half… School days took 3 to 4 hours rather than six and a half. And you know what else was better? We completely eradicated school shootings; Not one school shooting occurred once we took the teachers and the students out of the schools and put them in their jammies in the comfort of their own safe homes.
To be sure, there were holes created regarding physical activities and so-called electives such as band and chorus and music classes and extracurricular activities such as Sports, but there is no reason to believe that, with some more creativity and sheer willpower, these things couldn’t be addressed. Hell, who knows? Maybe we could resuscitate Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA, and YWCA or invent altogether new physical activity organizations to fill these gaps. I mean… Remember the good old days of recreation leagues throughout the community and all those parents getting more opportunities to participate in their children’s lives directly and in person?
History continues to teach us that sometimes when we least expect it and have no plans in place to adequately prepare for it, an epic crisis of enormous magnitude is just the sort of thing our species needs in order to discover and effect changes that ultimately make the world a better place.
As always, back to my original point about our capacity as a species to treat standards and norms as nothing more than “obstacles for us to craft creative ways around them”
There is an old quote out there that goes along the lines of suggesting that “where some see obstacles, others see opportunity,” and, in that vein, I’m going to seize this opportunity… to point out that, as human civilization ate itself alive one roll of toilet paper at a time.. for all the little nuggets of good things to come out in response to the pandemic, a terribly unfortunate side effect that came along with it was the theft and shameless usurpation of the standards and norms of the once -humble Hermit ways of life.
The Hermit life, at its core, is founded in the principal notion that being alone, living in solitude, and the peace and quiet that comes along with it, is a conscious choice. Although the reasons for stepping off the Merry-Go-Round shitshow of life are as varied as those of us choosing to live this way, it is nonetheless wholly by design and with willful intent that we do so. And you know you are doing it right when the “outside world” looks down their noses at you and considers you a societal pariah… As I like to say, sometimes the greatest things in life are the ones nobody else is doing.
As history instructs, with almost no exception, every attempt to improve on an original idea falls terribly and embarrassingly short of the mark. Personally, I believe the biggest reason for this can best be attributed to the notion that only the original inspiration is pure, and all re-inventions are simply self-righteous attempts to assert they can do it better. Once COVID-19 arrived and brought with it the non-Hermit world – under government orders to live more like Hermits, the movement was afoot, in droves, to attempt to reinvent the raw and pure beauty of everything it was supposed to mean to be a Hermit in the first place. Once that movement began to take shape, everything went completely to shit.
Literally, EVERYONE was instructed to socially distance themselves and be as self-sustaining as possible in order to survive the pandemic, the death of a furtive way of life became imminent, and the world began to collapse in on itself. And every bad reputation and negative stereotype we Hermits have worked so hard to encourage in the hearts and minds of non-Hermits quickly became hashtags, t-shirts, and tattoos… And pretty soon after that, after the amateurs got their hands on this lifestyle, they fucked it all up for the rest of us. I mean… Have you seen some of these silly YouTubes and Tik Toks… Proudly proclaiming to have invented some sort of new Chic fashion statement to report the number of consecutive days without showers and wearing the same unchanged underwear and dirty pajamas?
It’s a funny thing about stereotypes; for each one that hurts its target’s feelings, there is another that the target wears as a badge of honor. Having said that, I understand that this is not a universal Maxim, but it is, nonetheless, true more often than not. In the case of Hermits, such as we are, the only people that held us in high regard… before COVID-19, at least, were other Hermits. Admittedly, this is difficult to statistically prove because Hermits, by our very nature, don’t like people in general, but we are far more willing to interact – as long as it’s brief – with other Hermits long before we would want to have anything to do with the rest of the human race.
And, almost universally, those who hold Hermits in the greatest disdain are the ones least likely to survive 48 hours trying to live like one.
You know the type… the social butterfly and regular attraction at overcrowded bars and restaurants, always trying too hard to fit in and make friends. Those annoying people that are hell-bent on outdoing anyone and everyone in every aspect of your life. These people simply have to have the nicest house, the fanciest car, the latest fashion trend, and the fanciest gadgets, gizmos, and baubles that money can buy.
Yeah… These are the people that helped create Hermits in the first place. And, for this discussion, let’s call them the over-do-ers.
The over-do-ers are coming. They’re coming with their Hermit villages and their Air BNBs. They’re coming with their Hermit family campgrounds and their Hermit theme parks. They’re coming with their Hermit t-shirts, Hermit Subaru Outbacks, Hermit drive-thru Banks, bars, restaurants, and Hermit Birkenstocks. And they are coming with their 142 combination-flavor Hermit coffee brews, Hermit micro beers, and Hermit-scented body wash and air fresheners. And they’re coming with their Hermit Mountain Dog crossbreed.
And not too long after that, the last of the true Pioneer Hermits will be lost to the ash heap of rewritten history… Unless God truly loves us, they buy all THAT shit from China too. Just sayin’