Grit in the Time of Corona.

Our leaders on the left and the right are useless. I don’t think it’s worth contesting or pondering. Just look at any of them: Johnson or Corbyn, Trump or Bolsanaro or, well, just recite the list. They are so fucking useless you realise that it can’t be them who is responsible for this mess. None of them seem capable, as my grandma was fond of saying, of organising a piss-up in a brewery. So, who can we blame? (And we do so like to blame, let’s be honest)

Well, it occurred to me that there is something to be learned from the term helicopter parenting, which, according to our trusty Wikipedia is:

a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems

So, is it possible that this domestic blight of coddling-to-the-point-of-endangerment is actually one we face at a national level?

It strikes me that the flaw lies with us. We have been seeking out “helicopter governing”; settling for people who will tell us an emotional story to placate our fears rather than let us face realty or facts. A problem, dear reader, which ultimately traces back to our leader’s constituents and voters. Which is to say; you and me. Wikipedia goes on to say that,

The rise of helicopter parenting coincided with two social shifts. The first was the comparatively booming economy of the 1990s, with low unemployment and higher disposable income. The second was the public perception of increased child endangerment, a perception which free-range parenting advocate Lenore Skenazy described as “rooted in paranoia”.[10]

You see, for many decades the vast majority of modern civilisation has been living in a relative time of plenty (if you doubt this please consult the statistics or have a read of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now). We just don’t get eaten by wildlife or drop dead from diphtheria as much as we used to. And yes, there is still vast room for improvement for billions of people, but just an eye-blink ago life was, as Hobbes coined, “nasty, brutish and short”.

So, it’s no wonder that we have sought to cocoon ourselves in comfort. Who wouldn’t? Why not?

Well, the problem is that when cushioned from the hard stuff, how do we develop the grit to succeed (as outlined by Angela Duckworth’s great research), or escape from Haidt’s view of The Coddling of the American Mind ? How do we achieve what Nicholas Taleb termed “anti-fragility” in which he outlines that:

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors, page 17

Have we become snowflakes?

Snowflake: a very sensitive person. Someone who is easily hurt or offended by the statements or actions of others.

No. And how do I know this? Because we are so unbelievably adaptable to both comfort and crisis.

Life in the time of Corona

Aren’t you simply amazed that in a matter of days cultural norms can be forever upended? I don’t just mean waving goodbye to handshakes. This morning I settled into my new gym, the staircase in our deserted building, and then sat down to day #7 of digital interactions with my colleagues, my friends and my family. Food shortages and death rates are a daily part of my news cycle. I am not panicked. Nor am I immune to fear. But the wonder is – we are tougher than we would have ourselves believe.

Our politicians skirt around death and bad statistics. And I don’t blame them, they have been responding to our very deep need to have someone make the boogieman go away. That doesn’t mean we need to drown in the negative media hype either. My view is that it’s not how we perceive the situation (which will change as everyday progresses), but how we perceive ourselves in this situation. We are capable of adapting.

It’s a wonder to watch it happen in real time. See yourself through that lens and be amazed. You got this.

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