A Sense of Perspective
It feels difficult at the moment to strike the right balance between a mature, sensible approach and the need to highlight the absurd in what is going on. The spread of coronavirus and its obvious arrival on our doorstep are clearly issues that require focus and due gravitas. The children are inevitably asking about it, though mostly I think because they like the idea of the school being closed.
Staff and parents are understandably concerned, and I am sure we are all thinking of our loved ones with varying degrees of anxiety about what might happen. Having successfully celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday last weekend, I sincerely hope that she will stay fit and well in the coming weeks and months. As I said last week, my daughter is 450 miles away at university, for the first time not under our roof and therefore perceived to be more vulnerable, though there is no logic for drawing such a conclusion.
A serious mindset is therefore important, which can easily spill over into worry. I normally go to sleep almost immediately each night and usually get about six hours, which for many years has been enough for me to function during the day. This week, sleep has taken a little longer to come and I have been waking an hour earlier than usual. On the plus side, it means I probably won’t have to spend the whole weekend marking A Level mock exam papers, because you can get a lot done in the early hours before turning on the emails, but on balance I would have preferred to have stayed asleep.
However, there is a large part of me that wants to scream from the rafters that this is all unnecessary, that we have been whipped into a frenzy of doom and gloom by the media and we have consequently lost our sense of perspective. It is dreadful that people are dying from this virus, and it is inevitable that more will do so, almost certainly closer to home; but people die from respiratory diseases all the time, all over the world, and no one usually bats an eyelid.
Last month, on one of the worst days for the virus so far, over a hundred people died in China. On the same day across the world, it is estimated that over 26,000 people died of cancer, more than 24,000 from heart disease and approximately 4,300 from the consequences of diabetes. Over 3,000 people took their own lives. A similar number died from infections caused by mosquitoes, the deadliest creatures on our planet, responsible for more deaths in human history than anything else.
Over a thousand people die every day at the hands of other people, and snakes caused more deaths that day than the virus, though horses and cows are responsible for more deaths each year in most countries than snakes, sharks and spiders – and you are much more likely to die by falling down the stairs than from any sort of terrorist attack. It’s all about perspective, by which I mean hard facts, based on numbers, rather than jumping to conclusions based on fear and the irrationality of panic-buying toilet paper.
And amid all the gloom, there are some very funny gems doing the rounds on the internet, with my favourite so far as follows:
Neil Diamond (international rock legend): “Hands…”
Matt Hancock (nervous and unconvincing minister who wishes he wasn’t the Health Secretary just at the moment): “We recommend you wash them for at least twenty seconds, either singing Happy Birthday twice or the National Anthem, if you are Jacob Rees-Mogg.”
Neil: “Touching hands…”
Matt: “The government has not yet decided whether this is dangerous or not, though the queen was wearing gloves yesterday.”
Neil: “Reaching out…”
Matt: “Best to avoid that too.”
Neil: “Touching me…”
Matt: “Please don’t.”
Neil: “Touching you…”
All together now…Sweet Caroline…