I always find the start of January a difficult time. The house seems dark and dull with the Christmas lights returned to the attic, the living room has an empty hole where the Christmas tree was, the tree itself lies forlornly out in the street awaiting the binmen. This year the bleak prospect of at best a lengthy lockdown (and at worst, who knows?) makes 2021 gape like an endless black hole, ready to swallow me up.
Presents are much more than just presents. Presents are our way of expressing our love for each other. You see this in the stories of people’s sorrow at being unable to give each other presents this year. Faced with the loss of jobs and homes, caused by the omnipresent threat of corona, you would think that Christmas presents would not even feature on the list of things to worry about. Yet they do, because of the emotional weight we give them.
We are now living in the 1.5m society. Or, depending on where you live, the 1m, 1m+, 1.4m, 1.8m or 2m society. In any case, ‘social distancing’ is de rigueur. The WHO now calls it ‘physical distancing’, as psychologists have warned that it is essential for our psychological wellbeing that we maintain our social relationships, even at a distance. Relationships can successfully bridge the miles, as I well know, coming from an international family. In that regard, we are lucky to live in an age in which we can make video calls around the world at the drop of a hat, compared to my father who had to ring the operator and then wait for an available slot in order to speak to his fiancée in Finland. Nevertheless, physical distancing inevitably takes its toll on our sense of connection.
In 2000, the artist Marco Evaristti exhibited an artwork consisting of live goldfish in blenders. Visitors were free to press the button to switch the blenders on, if they chose. Of course, the inevitable happened, and someone pressed the button, killing the fish. The museum director was convicted of animal cruelty, but his conviction was later overturned, as the fish had probably died almost instantly, and not suffered. Most likely, they lived quite happily in their blender up until that fatal moment, totally unaware of any danger. I used to be like those fish – that is, until corona turned up.
Previously, my experience of propaganda fell, broadly speaking, into two categories. There was ‘What the Other Side Does’: Russian military parades on the Red Square, Hitler Youth songs, exaggerated productivity claims in Maoist China, American campaign advertising. Utterly absurd and utterly chilling. Then there was ‘What We Did in the War’: ‘Dig for Victory’ posters, humorous films teaching people to behave, sentimental songs that exhorted them to hold on until better times. Also utterly absurd but somehow sweet and nostalgic, with ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ products even enjoying modern-day popularity. In either case, propaganda was something far removed from my daily life, either by distance or time. Not any more.
What do you do when you are a complete failure? Either you give up, or you have to change yourself completely. That was the frame of mind I was in when I started my first course of coaching, and giving up seemed by far the most realistic option. The coaching plan was for eight sessions, […]