The other morning for some peculiar reason I turned on the computer and contrary to my normal practice of looking to see if I had any emails of value (i.e., some that I might scan or even read before consigning them to the trash) I logged on to the BBC website. I’m not quite sure exactly why I did this but the first thing to hit the screen when I did was this: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52407177?ocid=wsnews.chat-apps.in-app-msg.whatsapp.trial.link1_.auin
I watched it through to the end but couldn’t quite comprehend what my eyes and ears were relaying to my brain—so I watched it through for a second time. Here was the President of the United States “suggesting”, only “suggesting”, mind you, that injecting or ingesting disinfectants or somehow blasting people with ultra-violet light, preferably after some machine for doing so first be inserted into their innards before the blasting begins, might cure some people of Covid-19. Not enough that more than 50,000 have already died from the disease in the United States, here is man apparently suggesting—just suggesting—a “cure” that would be worse than the disease itself, a “cure” guaranteed to ensure death and a very painful one at that.
One of the reporters at the briefing had the temerity to suggest that people tune into the President’s daily Covid-19 briefing to get information and guidance rather than hear rumours, a remark that was met with, how best to put it, an angry outburst from Mr. Trump, in which the reporter was accused of being a proliferator of “fake news” and that what had we had just heard (from Trump himself) ” was just a “suggestion” from “a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant man”. As nobody else had been mentioned in Trump’s immodest little diatribe, one can only assume that this was a reference to himself, especially has he has informed the world on more than one occasion of his brilliance and genius. The following day, Mr Trump’s spokesperson explained that his comments during the coronavirus task force briefing had been made “sarcastically”.
Although the situation is really too serious to laugh at, if you can’t laugh at stupidity, what’s the point of being stupid, stupid?
The scariest thing about all this is that according to a poll published last week by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago that “just” 23% of Americans consider Trump a trustworthy source of information on the virus—that’s 75 million Americans. That’s a statistic I would like to think is untrue but which, unfortunately for America, not to mention the rest of the world, is. It’s doubly scary because I am doubtful that the majority of diehard Trump supporters who must make up the vast bulk of these 75,000,000 are sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate such “sarcasm”.
The other news of the week — almost forgotten for a while — concerns the agreement signed by Messrs. Netanyahu and Gantz to coalesce — or at least to get together and form a coalition government. For me and undoubtedly for many hundreds of thousands of other voters who actually believed Mr. Gantz over the past year and a half when he repeatedly promised never to sit in a government led by a man indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, his defection rightward is little more than a misappropriation of the votes cast for him last month. The ostensible reason for this about turn is that the country needs a unity government to fight the Coronavirus, which is patently blather and rings almost as true as Trump’s exhortation to “drink a pinta bleach a day”.
Not only have I given up believing what politicians tell me, I am also prepared not to believe a lot of what’s written in newspapers. Long ago, I learned that if correspondents are supposed to write 800 or 1,200 or 2,000 words of copy every other day, once a week or once a fortnight and that’s what they get paid for, then they will write that number of words even if there’s nothing to write; the same applies to the nightly hour-long newscasts. So consider the notifications below, from two English-language dailies, which arrived within four hours of one another. The first came from The Jerusalem Post and informed me at 3.22 p.m. that there was no agreement and that Gantz, in his [temporary] role as Speaker would “allow the advancement of anti-Netanyahu bills in the Knesset”. Four hours later, HaAretz announced that the deal had been done and dusted.
One could, I suppose, describe the Israeli electoral environment as fluid. This time, the flow moved both leftwards (a little) and rightwards. What is more significant is that much of that flow anyway can be described as the movement of political sewage, and sewage tends to carry a stench. Centre parties in Israel have traditionally come and gone after about three election cycles before their voters disperse leftward and rightward. What makes things different this time is that the three elections fell within the space of 11 months and there’s no Left left.
E N O U G H !!!
Yesterday, the six-minute morning news bulletin contained a positive piece of news that I had been awaiting for some time. Hairdressers and beauty parlours have been permitted to reopen, although I have no particular interest in the latter. Consequently, I changed direction when I entered the park and went to investigate whether or not my barber was open for business. And lo and behold, he was and I was #2 in the line (waiting was outside). On being admitted, I think I am beginning to learn that when this plague has finished its journey, the new normal will differ in several ways to the normal normal.
The first thing that happened was that Yair, the hairdresser who has been looking after my mane for the past dozen years or so, pointed something that looked like a gun at my forehead and read my temperature. Only then could I enter and be seated.
Contrary to what had been pre-Corona practice, Yair was wearing a mask, a visor and rubber gloves all of which he said interfered with his artistry. Not only that but instead of being covered by a cloth apron to catch the locks shorn from my pate, I was provided with a large sheet of plastic, which, he assured me was not the piece that had been worn by the previous client. Fifteen minutes later and 80 shekels lighter, I was on my way home.
We’ve had visits from Shuli and Gali and from Tami and Lily (separately) over the past week. These meetings with grandchildren and their parents took place, as seems to be the style these days in the neighbourhood, beside the cars in the small car park under the flat, where we were seated (more or less), masked (more or less), and 2 metres apart (more or less).
Brief and weird as these meetings were, we all agreed that half an hour beside the cars — without a hug except for a “virtual hug”—was far, far better than any amount of time talking via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and all the rest.
This interesting webinar/talk by Dr. Brendan Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin (worth spending an hour with) answered my questions about missing a hug thus: … “I know that the questioner … undoubtedly their logical brain understands what they’re describing … but our emotional brain is lagging way behind our logical brain and that’s simply how it is.” Yep, that’s it in a nutshell.
Although the Ministry of Health has issued a directive about wearing masks when outside, when I’m in the park in the mornings, I would estimate that the walkers/cyclists/joggers, etc. divide approximately 20-60-20. In other words, approximately 20% are wearing a mask in the correct way, about 20% are without a mask at all and the remainder have a mask at the ready. One day last week, I witnessed (and participated) in an exercise of synchronized masking-up when a police car (below) drove slowly through the park and those with masks at the ready donned them simultaneously as if choreographed to do so.
(BTW, “mask” in Hebrew is “masekhah” and I’ve decided that anything to do with donning and undonning masks is a form of “masekhism”.
Some people are at ease with the situation such as the young woman above whom I photographed in the park this morning. She personifies relaxation in the time of Corona. Here, her smartphone and fag are both in use; the headphones are on for effective self-isolation; her mask is at the ready just in case it needs to be used should some officious official, like the one below, demand so.
Meanwhile, spring is happening notwithstanding, even as we listen to news about Coronavirus. Springtime is pretty even though it won’t last long …
… and people, like these roses, are beginning to feel the effects of more than a month of lockdown.
Nevertheless, there are some signs of normalcy reappearing and these rowers at the Tel Aviv Rowing Club have been out and about over the past week.
So let’s end on a musical note (or two). Shuli has been keeping herself busy over the past couple of weeks preparing illustrations for next year’s programme of the Israel Chamber Orchestra’s children’s concerts.
And the Carmel Quartet, with Tami as cellist, kindly put up part of a concert from last year, which we particularly enjoyed.