Stay Human

I find what Fabio Chiusi wrote about approaching this pandemic to be very helpful. The original is on Facebook in Italian. I’ve translated it below because it might be helpful to you, it’s good practice for me and because machine translation can miss nuance, but make no mistake any errors are my own.

Here are some rules to practice democratic hygiene that I am now applying that could be useful for you during this emergency.

Do not share articles that act as if they have a crystal ball that give predictions veiled in presumed scientific certainty that we do not have about the future of our social coexistence.

I see that even the MIT Technology Review rather consented to the publication of an article, which was shared widely, that presumes that “We’re not going back to normal,” notably ignoring many less dramatic scenarios that are otherwise plausible futures. For example, a vaccine is discovered that functions, a pharmaceutical is discovered that alleviates the worst symptoms reducing mortality drastically, and so on. One approach is to attempt to scare those who ignore the objective gravity of the situation (many, too many), another is to substitute oneself for the Oracle of Delphi. Humility, science, calm, per favore.

Don’t get drawn in by unnecessary controversies, save your energy.

Everything that we now know tells us that the pandemic will not magically disappear from one day to the next, unlike what the unconscionable Donald Trump declared just a few days ago. This means that one must take care of thier own health and that of others, this includes one’s own mental health. You can neither solve the world’s problems with a Twitter thread nor with a witty post on Facebook.

I, for example, have no intention to take part in the debate about tracking people using personal data in course given the way in which it is developing: it does not interest me to appear to be right at any cost: I am interested in understanding. And the social networks are, as always, both a savior (imagine the quarantine without it) and a damnation: these are not places to seriously discuss in detail fundamental public health choices, privacy and democracy.

Write an articulated post on a blog, share links from academic works, books and papers; bring something really useful to the debate. Assume this same type of behavior about who responds to you.

Leave the controversies for better times, when we’ll have the luxury of getting bored and not the task of doing everything possible and even the impossible to save human lives and the mental health of everyone. This avoidance is valid for me in this debate, but it may apply to many other debates that may be important to you and that you would dive into. First think about the issue. Consider carefully how to usefully contribute. My approach is to shut myself in my study, crazed and desperate (cit) and to re-emerge execlusively if and when I have something sensible to say. Otherwise, silence is the most useful contribution I can bring to the discussion.

This is valid in general, especially now that we are overloaded with information constantly, one less post is better than one more. Think about what is essential. It’s better to dedicate yourself to the people that are struggling, make an extra video call to someone who is alone or bored or sick. Work on something beautiful. Make something great that will remain regardless of what will happen. And if you have the fortune to be surrounded by affection by a companion, true friends, a family, an animal, understand how much that means, really.

Try to show more respect, more empathy for you neighbor.

Today more than ever the sayings that everyone is fighting there own battles and everyone is an island are true [1]. We are all struggling, everybody is under pressure, everyone on the verge of tears and despair. Do not surrender, instead let’s work together. Here or it all comes together, as human civilization as equals in the name of reason, science and culture or we will not come out of it anyways, pandemic or not.

And yes, be intolerant of those who try to hammer you with anti-scientific nonsense, with those who share conspiracies and racism, with those that cause you stress and unnecessary fatigue which today is unsustainable. Social Networks all have these great features like “ban” and “mute”. I am using these more than a little and it works to create clarity to bring order to my social graph. But do this also in your real life. It is not indispensable to stay friends with an imbecile.

I hope nobody sees arrogance or superiority in these words. I’ve tried only to be useful as I can, in the best way that I can.

Stay at home, if you can. And be safe.


[1] : The poem that Fabio references is actually the negation of this.