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Corona Diaries: how does this help us move forward?

June 6, 2020

I’ve started to adopt a standard response to end conversations on some matters related to the pandemic that I’m beginning to find rather tedious.

For example, there’s a time and a place to discuss theories about the origin of the virus, and as far as I’m concerned it’s not now. The former head of Britain’s intelligence service, MI6, thinks that it might have been artificially created and accidentally released. The current head of the security service, MI5, thinks it wasn’t. It’s of natural origin, he suggests. There are thousands of idle minds that have lined up behind the artificial origin theory. My response is simple:

How does this help us move forward?

If we thought that nuking China to punish them for their misdeeds would magically stop the virus, I would understand. Or if we thought that the Chinese had a secret formula for turning it off, I would also understand.

But unless someone can convince me otherwise, no useful purpose is served by idle speculation on a matter that might never be settled beyond reasonable doubt. Unless, of course, the virus has provided a convenient club with which to beat China, which still doesn’t help us move forward. Unless of course we want to beat ourselves as well, which is one of the main reasons why the idea that a country might develop something that might wipe them out as easily as it might destroy its enemies is somewhat implausible.

A desire to disengage also came to me yesterday while I was playing golf. When I made a snarky remark about my eyesight being as defective as that of Dominic Cummings, my opponent launched into a passionate defence of Cummings, citing the Durham police assertion that he “might” have broken the law as proof that he had not broken the law. I was so pissed off at the prospect of having to go into all the “eyesight test with wife and child on trip to Barnard Castle” stuff, that I refrained from further discussion, especially as I stuffed my next shot into the long grass, and continued to do so on a regular basis until the end of the round. And yes, it was my bloody fault for mentioning Cummings in the first place. Lesson learned.

I’m happy to debate anything with anyone, within reason. Generally, I don’t get cross with someone who holds an opposite view to mine. But there comes a point at which there’s no point. And that’s usually when a subject is chewed into an unrecognisable grey bolus that bears little resemblance to the original ingredients. Or when the people debating hold views so entrenched that even Socrates would have a problem exposing the contradictions. And I’m no Socrates.

This is why, in more “polite” times, sex, politics and religion were subject to an unspoken embargo. If after a couple of bottles of wine George got fruity, or launched into one of his political hobby horses, he would get a sharp kick under the table from his long-suffering wife.

These day we can’t have dinner parties. For risqué conversation we have to rely on Zoom, or Twitter bombast in front of a potentially unlimited audience.

But right now, there’s risqué, and there’s plain boring. And when we start getting together with our friends in restaurants and at dinner parties, perhaps we should change the terms of the embargo. Take sex off the list, because that’s a subject of universal interest, and add conspiracy theories. Because they’re boring.

As far as I’m concerned, if that’s what turns us on, we can talk about lizards, 9/11, Kennedy and the evil deeds of George Soros and the CIA until the cows come home. After all, we’re consenting adults.

But when we’re discussing the current situation, which is so painful for some and worrying for many, perhaps we should keep returning to the question that separates idle speculation from conversation that actually has a constructive purpose:

How does this help us move forward?

From → Social, UK, USA

  1. deborah a moggio permalink

    “…a subject is chewed into an unrecognisable grey bolus that bears little resemblance to the original ingredients. ”
    I have a word for you. On another site, this was the word of the day. The discussion included speculation on the reason “baloney” means what it does.
    I suggested said
    “I always thought it was the way baloney looked/is made.
    A hodgepodge of ingredients blended to the point of unrecognizability.”
    The word under discussion was

    Useful, perhaps?

  2. I’d like to suggest a word as well, courtesy of a typo in a comment from an online Scrabble opponent (since Scrabble began to monopolise my spare time in lockdown over the Eid holidays).

    HEDITATION – to pause and reflect prior to making a poor decision

    • Very good. I’ll use that too. But I hope you weren’t using a spell checker to challenge them. Or is it built in?

  3. deborah a moggio permalink


  4. Andrew Robinson permalink

    It works in French.. I will use it: “Il faut héditer avant de dire n’importe quoi!”. Thanks Doug.

  5. Doug permalink

    The error was a typo in a side comment on a game, acknowledged with embarrassment by my opponent. I’ve had my doubts about a couple of players, but shelved them when I saw that they had played 23,000 and 40,000 games respectively.

    • Hah. That’s almost on a par with Trump’s 150 tweets as day. Professionals!

  6. deborah a moggio permalink

    thanks for the giggle!
    Had a bad couple of days. Needed that.

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