Since my last post a lot in the world has changed.
We’ve left Estonia and returned to Brisbane to be with family, to pursue professional work, financial interests and just generally enjoy the Australian lifestyle for a moment. This was always the post Sabbatical plan and we’ll remain here until we return to Estonia in August.
But it’s not what we thought it was going to be.
The COVID-19 (or rather people’s reaction to the pandemic) has impacted our lives somewhat in Australia. That whole ‘back to reality’ adjustment experience we were so anticipating after leaving Estonia is missing. Can you relate? Life in general has been interrupted by the COVID-19 hysteria and I’m living now in a sort of half-baked version of Australia. Still, a lot better than some other countries by a long shot…
I was anticipating a degree of ‘reverse culture-shock’. I’ve been away before… I was getting worked up about the usual Australian quirks, like – using a power bill as a form of “ID” to deal with archaic bureaucracy (thanks Boomers for voting against the Australia Card). I was just starting to moan about Australia’s never ending ‘life admin’ (compared to Estonia’s eEverything), the hefty prices of food as well as the intense heat – just like I’ve always done. We were enjoying things too, like Australia’s constant sunshine, friendly people and the Australian accent.
But then COVID-19. We didn’t see that coming.
En route to Australia via Thailand there were plenty of health warnings. My wife and baby mostly stayed in our Hotel except for 2 short walks for food. I mean, big city pollution alone is a deterrent enough especially with a newborn. We were very careful at Bangkok Airport to distance ourselves from other travellers. We left as quickly as possible. But we’d have done that anyway… Having just lived a year in Estonia without a TV we were not yet re-conditioned to mass media sensationalism nor exhibiting traits of hysteria. We were and remain, “alert but not alarmed“.
Our family and closest friends in Australia welcomed us home on Australia Day. We ventured out for coffee. We talked, laughed, shared stories. We were so happy to be together. It was a wonderful experience presenting our new baby boy for the first time (in Australia).
No intense health warnings really. No crowds of face masks. No body temperature screens like in Bangkok Airport. Australia felt safe, like it had always been. Australia was for a moment exactly how it had always been.
As the COVID-19 cases gradually increased along with the mass media’s coverage, people began to behave in very odd ways. In a land of TV sensationalists, the conditioned masses do what they have always done to feel safe. They go shopping. They consume. They obey.
The first hysteria came in an unexpected way. The consumers began to hoard daily ordinary consumables like toilet paper, baby wipes and hand sanitizer. Stock flew off the shelves and normal people like us frankly got the sh#ts with the hoarding (and had nothing to use for said sh#ts). After work we’d find ourselves cruising around to different Coles and Woolworths stores to find a darn bog roll. Something we’d just taken for granted in times of normality was now a commodity to seek out and in some cases, fight over… “No milk today”.
Although some scenes were reminiscent of the Soviet era, this shortage was caused by hysteria not an economic catastrophe. Not because of any actual supply-line shortage, nor war. This was not the USSR nor Syria. This was literally the full force of the underestimated power of stupid people in large groups.
I did what I could to “survive”. I bought a single bog roll… Made from 100% recyclable paper. Could have sanded a deck with the stuff. At times it was funny, other times – very annoying.
Thinking back about it now, about these people, about the stupidity an image comes to mind. The all consuming hoarder. Mindlessly sobbing into a Quilton 20 pack, clutching at it like it was (had since become) some rare commodity. Probably drives a blue Ford laser too…
This whole thing began in China, fitting then we end with this common quote:
“In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters,
one representing danger and the other, opportunity.” – Kennedy.
Kennedy’s quote is so very fitting for 2 important reasons. It coveys an optimistic perspective that times of crisis do in fact present opportunities. We all need to focus on ways to leverage the challenges to our economy and way of life. So many things, I hope will come out of this for the better, in the end (more about that another night)… But fitting also because, as is the case for hysteria – people easily believe what they’re told to believe. Kennedy’s quote, though real and commonly used in motivational sensationalism – is incorrect.