La-di-da, la-la!

I read an argument today that I’ve heard so often over the past few months. It amounts to…

“Human beings are not meant to live like this.”

It’s about COVID-19, of course, and it’s only a persuasive argument because it appeals to our vanity. We’d like to think we’re all above the grubby business of this virus. We believe in noble things like “freedom” and can’t allow ourselves to be dragged down by a horrible infectious disease…

Well, la-di-da, to quote Annie Hall. La-di-da, la-la!

The faddish word is “exceptionalism”, meaning the delusion that some people suffer that makes them think they’re immune from the very things that strike other humans down. America has it in spades but so too does the UK. We had an Empire so it’s impossible that The British could ever be in thrall to some other world power. This is the thinking that assumes there’s some magic in Albion. Maybe it’s the way Hovis make their bread or Millwall makes its football hooligans.

I don’t, myself, like the word “exceptionalism” because it makes it sound too modern and transitory. It sounds like something we’ll outgrow. The term I prefer is “supernaturalism”. It’s the ancient notion that human beings are somehow spiritual creatures who are held down by our material form. It’s an utterly dumb delusion when you think about it for more than thirty seconds. It’s the kind of thinking that rightly belongs at the end of some Darwinian chain…

Some poor girl is born in some country where there’s poor sanitation, zero health care, and a theocratic government. She wakes at dawn, walks some awful distance to get fresh water, which she carries home to her family. She tries to help her parents, perhaps plagued by sickness, with very little hope of escape. Her opportunities in life are closed off to her because of her sex (or, if you will, gender) and life will be a long series of utterly awful setbacks until she dies at an early age, perhaps in childbirth because, of course, the abortion that would have saved her life was denied her because of God’s decree.

So, where the fuck do we make the point that human beings are not meant to live like this?

Humans are not “meant” to live any particular way. In fact, many don’t. Many die in the womb, others shortly after birth. Most of the world live very different kinds of lives, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes the conditions of our survival are easier than others. Indeed, throughout our history, “living” hasn’t been fun for the majority of our ancestors and survival wasn’t simply a matter of drinking your latte over the morning’s newspapers untroubled by masks and an invisible virus and the awful mess being done to the economy…

No, the point that should be made isn’t that we can’t possibly live like this. It’s that we can live like this. We are a species blessed with enough intelligence to solve problems that are before us and those problems we can’t immediately solve we navigate by using out wits (or in this case masks, social distancing, and, maybe, occasional lockdowns). Believing that this pandemic shouldn’t happen to us, that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to fear something that threatens us, or refusing to acknowledge the ugly reality of the world, is like throwing yourself into a religion. We might as well claim that gods or beauty will protect us, or that we’ll win through because we wear Union Jack underpants or a parent was once blessed by a gypsy.

To put it a different way: we weren’t meant to live like this or to live any other way. There is no meaning beyond our ability to adapt to circumstances and a universe that doesn’t give a fig if we adapt or not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Why Dunciad.com?

It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?

Really?

Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.