From Silence, Wisdom, Part 1: The Denial Stage

I will not go on about what kind of “difficult time this is” or “unprecedented events.” Both statements are marginally untrue anyway. Still, for the sake of posterity, I will mention that we’ve been under a shelter-in-place order since March 13, 2020 – which also happened to be a Friday, and a full moon – and the governor of Texas is trying to “open the economy back up” despite sharply rising cases of COVID-19.

That is purely for context. Kali teaches us that there is no restoration or health without death and destruction, and sometimes it’s the fire of disease instead of a conflagration of corporate or governmental structure. (Sometimes it’s both, historically speaking.) Our best conversations come from observing and considering the reactions of ourselves and others, even while we try to figure out what we want the next phase of our society to look like.

(Once I finished getting all my thoughts down, it got really long, so I’m breaking this into several individual posts.)

Denial ain’t a river in Egypt

The weirdest thing that’s emerged here recently is that there is a massive protest movement against the quarantine and shelter-in-place orders and even wearing masks in public. There are waves of people claiming that the government made the virus (US or Chinese, take your pick), or that it’s not a real thing at all.

All the actual physical evidence in the world does not sway this group of people. I said in an offhand comment in a thread examining this, “Denial is the first stage of grief.”

Holy shit, what if that’s it?!

What if all of these people are making up stories and fighting changes in their lives because they’re grieving the loss of what they thought was stable? Or maybe it’s a sense of security or normalcy they fear they’re losing. Regardless, “hurt people hurt people,” and if you realize subconsciously or otherwise that what made your life function is, in reality, the source of not only your pain but also of other people’s… that’s a pretty massive paradigm shift to attempt without a clutch.

Denial is the first stage of grief. Denial is pretending that your most beloved artists and singers and friends are dying because of conspiracies and not from a pathogen that science has been telling us was merely a matter of time. Denial sounds like clinging to routine and habit by getting your nails filled or getting a hair cut or having a sit-down dinner in a restaurant despite the very people whom you demand serve you are the highest likely pathogen vectors. Denial may definitely be banning your waitstaff from wearing masks because you don’t want to change the “feel and style of your diners’ restaurant experience.”

This starts to make sense because the common next phase of grief is anger, like when a bunch of armed men stage a protest in a state congress building, demanding that the economies reopen. Anger is clear when people lash out and throw a fit and post abusive rhetoric because they can’t graduate from high school with all the pomp and circumstance they came to expect. Anger is lashing out in spite at those who ask you to respect their anti-pathogen boundaries – wear a mask or stay six feet away – and deliberately potentially exposing them to the pathogen they’re trying to avoid.

Then comes sadness, then bargaining, and if we’re really lucky, acceptance.

Here’s the bad news.

Not everyone makes it all the way through the grieving cycle. There are people who have lived in the mausoleums of their losses for years and years, never coming to terms with their pain, only living in a shadow of themselves for fear of losing touch with what they lost. They are dangerous people, self-destructive and mindless of the damage they visit on everyone around them. They are so engrossed in their pain and fear that they cannot relate to or tolerate anything or anyone who might shine a light on their loss and threaten the “bliss” of denial.

I don’t know if there’s any way to help these people. I don’t know if there’s any way around it. I do believe, though, that they cannot be allowed to be the designers of the post-plague world. While this insight may grant us some compassion towards them, we cannot permit their fear to override our love.

I’ve been wondering if this pandemic is the beginning of a “server patch for the Humanity build.” It’s shining a harsh light on so many parts of the society that we’ve built and showing some horrifically ugly things. I mean, not that we didn’t know that already, but now the system is crumbling so obviously and quickly that only the most staunchly deliberately obtuse could miss it.

If we’re lucky (from a social/evolutionary perspective), the people who are determined to live in that state of denial will be the ones to contract the illness and, in all likelihood, either die or be permanently debilitated by it. After all, many of the selfish personality types tend to destroy their own health to the development of diabetes and heart problems, which are two of the main flags for vulnerability after “age” and “preexisting immunity issues.” Those who refuse to acknowledge the virus are welcoming it into their lives, their bodies, and their futures. As vicious as it sounds, it’s not our job to save them from that.

What to do, what to do…

The fight, then, becomes preventing them from dragging down everyone around them in their blindness. Remember, the protesters aren’t demanding that they themselves go back to work, they want the hair salons and nail salons and restaurants where they’re served to reopen. Their delusion (a common state in that first Denial stage) is to their entitlement and their world view, and the strange tragedy is that the dominant narrative from the alleged leadership of the US fuels this entitlement.

I have wondered occasionally if the current administration is secretly yet deliberately playing the villain role as though their true purpose was actually to destroy the nation and as many of the citizens as they can. From undermining climate and environmental safeguards to dismantling the entire structure of the social safety nets to actively endangering larger and larger portions of the population, one cannot help but wonder that their motivations can’t possibly be benevolent, even for themselves

In the next several posts, I’ll be outlining the ways I can see the love-tribe community getting through this process. (I don’t want to call it a “disaster,” and I don’t to be vague and say a “change.” Both words are both inadequate and inconclusive.) It does mean that we ourselves must grieve the loss of our old world. Yes, we are filled with rage and fire against the injustice and imbalance that plagues us (pun fully intended), but we will still grieve a little when that world is gone. Yes, we may have a greater sense of camaraderie and connection and meaning, but we probably won’t be able to order out Chinese take-out at 3 in the morning – not like we used to.

Let me know what you think, eh?

normfac Written by:

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