Day 28: Nobody Knows

 21/04/2020

Day 28: Nobody knows

How good are we in handling uncertainty? Quite poor as it looks. How well do we take to long days at home living with our own families for all the hours of a day? The stretchmarks on our conscience from this lockdown will stay for long. Most friends I know have begun speaking about the stress that is cloaking them in these days away from work, outdoor spaces and especially with job and income uncertainties that are soon to hit all of us. The lockdown now seems to be a stress test of our abilities to cope with drastically altered social conditions. We are made to confront our griefs that could earlier be drowned by work, travel and similar activities outside our homes. There is nothing much that can draw us out from our domestic miseries. 

Not knowing where the situation and its consequences will take us is aggravating the feeling. Charlie Munger was asked by a WSJ interviewer if another Great Depression is possible?

Munger is sure this is a depression already and added, “The only question is how big it’s going to be and how long it’s going to last. I think we do know that this will pass. But how much damage, and how much recession, and how long it will last, nobody knows.” In India we don’t have investors with such expansive exposure and depth to major firms of the economy as Berkshire. There are homegrown multinationals, but they would prefer not to add their voice about the future. It would have made sense if they knew one way or the other. With the national governments appearing in full control, surely all of us will be finding our financial and social fates tied to whatever measures the governments take. It must be an interesting moment for the corporations which thought that they could find their own way through this. 

The sentiment across most sectors is pretty much ‘nobody knows’. This is the planet’s latest status message. The virus was chapter one. In the  book on our civilizational precariousness the next chapters are being written. Separate chapters on countries may not be required in this book. For, the actions and resulting consequences in most of them have been the same- deaths, distress, meanness, kindness, altruism, several instances of service above the self, confusion and insecurity. The range of human emotions remain the same. The degree differs. We are confronted with the same old forces that burnt cities down during the world wars – nationalism, racial inequality and toxic leaderships. We are being hit again by the same forces. In this limited context the great wars and this pandemic are the same. Divisiveness comes easier than unity, within nations and among nations. 

In thes daily entries, I have struggled with a sense of purpose over and above the simple satisfaction of ‘writing it out’. If there is a frequent allusion to the crisis ‘we’ are facing and ‘our’ collective future, then do these words themselves be scrutinized for their current, perhaps ‘covid-adjusted’ meanings? I find myself reaching out to Upendra Baxi to re-read –

When ‘we’ think that ‘our’ struggle to transform the world into a better place than it is now, it remains clearly important to make the best possible non-hegemonic sense of the words ‘our’ (fabricating the infinite variety of more or less enduring forms of ‘we-ness’), ‘struggle’ (forging alliances for the uncommon ways of attainment of social improvement or common good), and the ‘world’ that we aspire thus to render ‘better’ (the ‘world’ now increasingly conceived in terms of planetary loyalty as for example in the variegated discourse concerning global warming and preservation of biodiversity). 

Baxi’s call for a non-hegemonic sense of the words like our, we and the world, might be helped to some measure in a post-covid world when nations begin to take stock of the suffering and losses from these days of death and lockdowns.

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