My feet dangled off the back of the trailer, and I swung them just like I used to do as a child. My friend George had called me moments before and surprised me as he was working just around the corner. We hadn’t seen each other for over a year. Of course, we had spoken on the phone and even face-timed when we were inclined. But being in the same place at the same time was so much different. We had forgotten how wonderful it felt.
It was a rare coincidence that his work had given him a job this side of town, and we had met in the open bush across the road from my home. All to be in keeping with the various restrictions. And outside for the usual reasons. We were lucky it was a sunny spring day, and it was a joy to sit in the sun and chat for the half an hour he had spare.
It reminded me of those days I would spend with my neighbour’s kids, sitting on the side of the road after riding our bikes or billy carts up and down the path, before we would be called in for dinner. When the things we were concerned about were spelling tests and clean shoes for school. Or perhaps I had driven my peddle car too close to the neighbours back fence, and the trapped dog would aggressively attack the fence, and my fear was he would one day break it down. So I sat in the gutter close to home if an emergency dash for safety was on the cards.
George and I spoke about our experiences of lockdowns and the issues with vaccines and the various mandates, etc., which start conversations these days for most people. But it quickly developed into talking about how we lived and spent our time each day, how the Lockdown and the travel restrictions had forced us to live differently. Even sitting outside my home in the sun was something that we would not have been thought of under normal circumstances. We would have been inside my home sitting, having coffee or the like but missing the joy of being outside. The fascinating thing is that we would never have thought to do it – unless circumstances had made it so.
Over the last couple of years, it has been easy for us to focus on all the things we cannot do or are unable, yet we have all lived each of those days, and what we have done with them can still bring us joy. They can remind us of what is essential to living a good life.
I had a similar experience only several days before. An old friend of mine who now lives in Asia has been somewhat trapped here for several months negotiating the ever-changing vaccine mandates of Australia and his place of residence. However, we have been able to catch up more frequently than we have been able to do for years. For example, on Saturday, we went for a walk in the mountains behind my home because exercise and outdoor activities being the only ones permitted. Mountain walking is certainly something we would not normally do. Typically, it is eating in some café somewhere as they try to cram in as much as possible into their short holiday, battling jetlag and family commitments.
This time it is spring, sunny, and we’re doing a nine-kilometre walk in the mountains. We concluded with food and coffee standing in the sun at a local bakery. Both discovering areas near our homes that we would have never ventured into in the decades I have lived nearby.
Because my friend and his wife stayed longer than planned, they have got used to living here, and restrictions have localised their experience. They got to know local people and business owners in
previously unknown ways. Given that they are thinking of moving back to Australia, it has given them insights into where and how they may want to live in the years to come. Something completely impossible if life had continued as it always had.
A similar experience happened with my brother, who early in the pandemic overstayed a three-week holiday by six months – he couldn’t get back to the UK. He had a new baby daughter, and as a result, the family spent more time together than we had done in the previous 15 years— a fortuitous serendipity.
One of my close business friends is a successful property developer and investor. For years I have been getting in his ear about passive income and how important it is. He is younger than me and, for the most part, has only seen good times. His adult and work-life have seen the good times that Australia has experienced over the last twenty years. With the pandemic, he had seen how quickly life and circumstances can change and how valuable passive income is when you are placed in a situation where work is prohibited or stopped. Passive income opportunities always colour his mantra when we speak. But, of course, he is not the only one who has gained life insights from days in Lockdown.
Many of us have had to observe where we spend our incomes, and it is easy to see that we don’t always invest it in areas that bring the most value to life. However, we have learned to prioritise our incomes. Moreover, since the situation has been prolonged, we have turned some of those changes into strong positive habits.
A significant number have become active participants in how our countries are run. We may not like the government’s actions, so we are starting lobby groups and becoming far more aware of rights and privacy and what our various nations constitution does or does not allow. This is regardless of what opinion we have on the situation. We find out what we truly believe. This knowledge and awareness can only be a good thing in the future. I discovered personally that Australia, unlike our nearest neighbour New Zealand and many western countries, does not have a bill of rights. And this may be something to include when our constitution finally is changed for the Australian Republic.
This greater awareness has led to many alternative media outlets establishing themselves and offering other viewpoints to mainstream media. We may not agree with some of them, but it has become clear that the mainstream media cannot depend on for complete truth and openness. And it certainly only puts forward one viewpoint and has led to a coalition of strange bedfellows competing with their narratives. So it certainly is a time of significant change in this arena. Some will survive, and others will rise and fall quickly.
We have been secretly concerned about the impact of Big Tech on the above areas. The current situation certainly has highlighted it, and without we may not have taken action to limit their power. Instead, we have seen the growth in other platforms and media where citizens can voice alternate opinions who have felt the full weight and censorship of the Big Tech platforms values. This change can again be only a good thing.
But, of course, there are crazies out there – tell me when that hasn’t been the case.
During this time, I have taken the opportunity to again re-read Robert Cialdini’s new edition of his Book Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion. I have been fascinated to watch it play out on a large scale—the impact of mass psychology, groupthink and social engineering. In addition, I have often reflected on how difficult governments have made it for themselves, whereas some simple principles may have changed the outcome. I have seen many governments back themselves into corners, lock themselves into one course of action, and not allowed for an ever-changing environment. Historians and future planners will gain a significant advantage from studying this behaviour.
There has been plenty to upset and distress us over the last two years. I know plenty have suffered significant losses and will have to start again. Some of the repercussions will last a lifetime for some. However, we get to choose how those repercussions will play out. We are not the first peoples to experience tragic events; we can determine how we see them and how they affect the meaning of our lives. If we can become more robust, as a result, the next event that comes along, we will have greater skills to adapt and take advantage of whatever inherent opportunity may lie within.
Societies and individuals very rarely develop when times are good. We all too often get “drunk” with success and fail to see that this, like all of life, is temporary. Generally, in times of great stress, we are forced to reevelaute ourselves, and what is essential, then we put the energy into creating structures and values that serve us well over the long term.
But unless we seek to capitalise on the good things that happened, we fail to take advantage of what any crisis can give us. So it pairs us down to the essential things of life it is wise to remember them when the good times return.
Till Next Time – And remember to share this with someone you love.
Resources & Further Reading
Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini