This is a letter to my creativity coach Sara (new website!)
Before our call I always give her a headsup.
“If I speak in the tongues of men
And of angels
But have not love
I am only a resounding gong
Or a clanging cymbal”
Zbigniew Preisner: Song For The Unification Of Europe
I’ve had more confusingly conflicting emotions during the last four days of war in the Ukraine (we’re on day 5) than I had in two years of pandemic.
Conflicting because although war has come to the doorstep of Europe, where it has been since 2014 – a year The Netherlands will remember forever because passenger flight MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine by Russian separatists. To say we have skin in the game would be an understatement, although strangely enough no one has brought it up to illustrate how our fate has been tied to Ukraine – I feel a sense of relief that there is no more talk of Covid.
On Friday, almost all Covid restrictions, measures, and so on, were relieved, so that’s the official side of it. But since I had been bothered almost exclusively by the social dynamics they relied on, or caused, the social etiquette and the polarizing views, to which I myself was no stranger either; Because of that official endings didn’t mean a thing to me.
I could see them drag on their Covid wars on for another year or two, without any backup from official measures. So I wasn’t too excited by Friday’s ending of all the rules and regulations that had started my two years in social exclusion, pretty much.
And then the war started.
By Friday the whole country was so engulfed by fear of WWIII, no one barely even took notice the Covid regulations were lifted that day. It had become completely irrelevant, overnight.
The context of our first world problems had shifted so dramatically, I think the pandemic should be renamed to Snowflake Gate. All of it. Not just the effort we put in, to protect the vulnerable at any costs (where plenty of awful mistakes were made and unnecessary deaths and damages occurred, don’t get me wrong). In fact, the intention of protection, was the only honest part of the pandemic that was NOT Snowflake Gate.
And at which we failed spectacularly.
If policies for Covid had actually been aimed at protecting the vulnerable, Snowflake Gate would not have happened.
With Snowflake Gate I mean that we didn’t even have a conversation about what choices we would make, priorities, and our non-negotiables, when fighting the pandemic. Nothing.
The reason the ones against legislation were so keen on using the word freedom, was because we had not had a conversation with regard to how we would define freedom, or redefine it. And which parts we had to sacrifice for Covid.
All countries as far as I know, avoided the conversation as a whole, leaving the people bickering with each other like a dysfunctional family where the children always quarrel.
Yet the war ended that.
Overnight, we knew what freedom was.
Or most of us did.
The ones who were the most extreme in their ideas of Covid being this big conspiracy the elite profited from, are finding reasons why we should just basically sacrifice Ukraine because it’s none of our business.
But most of us have forgotten about our quarrels.
Covid stopped mattering overnight.
The social dynamic, that I myself had been Snowflaking about for two years, my passive aggressive opting out of wanting anything to do with society, was gone. Everything I had wished for, which was for the majority, the dominant emotion of the society I lived in to change – something which I had not held possible because it was so intangible – had come true.
Before the sun rose on that Friday, the date when the measures were lifted, there wasn’t a trace left of the whole pandemic crisis.
And we were plunged back in cold war times.
Yet still, undeniably, I felt the relief.
My chronic stress was gone.
That is what made it so confusing: I could feel the dire situation we were in now, and that the pandemic that we had all considered of great import for two years (either out of fear for the virus, suffering economic setback or falling back into a social phobia, like I had) had been Snowflaking first world problems compared to this one;
Yet as horrible as it was, and still is, I emotionally preferred this one.
So far, I have found myself being less intimidated by the threat of war, than the social micromanagement of wearing mouth masks that we all know don’t work; Of washing hands when we all know it’s an airborne virus; And of testing and isolating, when we also all know we’re ultimately all going to get Covid.
I found war in the Ukraine less confusing than that.
And there was something else.
Everybody stands with Ukraine, and the European Union has moved from being an economic treaty to being a political and even military one.
Europeans have united under one banner, something no one has been able to make happen, or make even the smallest headway – just remember the UK stepping out of the EU recently.
Now the following things are not fact checked, so there may be a few things still pending but the bigger line is:
Sweden has given up its neutrality, and has joined Ukraine and the EU in the conflict.
As has neutral-for-eons Switzerland, which is freezing Russia’s assets.
Germany has given up its pacifism, and is taking the lead supplying weapons.
For the first time in its history, Europe is living up to its name European UNION.
And in my opinion the absolute best aspect, and I think this is one I am allowed to feel good about and is less tainted than the relief about the Covid stress disappearing (at the expense of threat of war) is that the Russian people are not viewed as bad, or part of this.
There is no anomisity towards the people of Russia, and you can sense that in everything.
There seems to be a deeply rooted understanding, they are not our enemy, and I think that is because we all follow some social media account, for example on YouTube, that we have felt connected to over the past years.
The world has become global, if that even makes sense!
We feel connected to people around the world, and that makes the power of the people stronger, and it limits (I think) the power of undemocratic leaders. It puts a limit on the damage leaders can cause.
We all hope for a peaceful and diplomatic solution that will save Putin’s face, and hopefully empty out his bank account to pay for the damages to Ukraine as well as for a new Russia.
And I think the joined Europe, a real federation, will spread its wings now.
That it is as if we have been shaken awake, to protect what we love. And are finally one, not just in the Netherlands but within Europe.
The bickering has stopped.
I read the longest thread on Twitter, by @kamilkazani, about the war. And it ended brilliantly, on the importance of myth. That Venice had given in to Napoleon, which saved lives but the feeling of union, the feeling of the Venice republic, died.
But about the Ukraine he says:
“The very fact of resistance against so much superior enemy very much empowers the Ukrainian mythology. It’s enormous mythos building we are witnessing. “
“If you submitted without a fight, you saved lives. But you killed your mythos. You’ll be digested by the conqueror.
But if you lost after the brutal and bloody fight your mythos is alive. The memory of the last battle will live through the ages. It will shape the mythological space your descendants live in and they’ll attempt to restore independence at the first opportunity.”
Ukraine is not just fighting for its sovereignty, but it is building their story. Their identity.
And in its wake, there is a bigger story being built. The story of a unified Europe.
The mythological space our descendants will live in.
An unexamined life is not worth living
The full soundtrack of Trois Couleur Blue, with the Song For The Unification of Europe, at the bottom of this post.
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