The following article appeared in the July 2020 edition of Roqueta, Menorca’s English language magazine.
“Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!” said Mr Micawber in David Copperfield. The character, something of a reflection of Charles Dickens’ own father, was rather a wastrel, although he became an instrument of redemption in good time.
Procrastination. I’m procrastinating.
I’m supposed to be writing the Roqueta article for July, but I’m listening to John Lennon singing ‘Imagine’ and looking at pictures of a peaceful anti-racism demonstration from Scotland on the Twitter account of a young woman who is the CEO of a Scottish Youth Charity. Her comments seem measured, not extremist, and certainly opposed to violence. I am thinking, “There is some hope in the younger generation,” and wondering about a question lurking in my mind: what did we do wrong? And I wonder whether I am a member of a generation that has procrastinated for too long in seeking to fulfil the ideals of youth.
Depressing thoughts run through my mind and make me irritable. Democracies have become less democratic. Millions of people around the world do not have healthcare. The ecosystem has been degraded rather than improved. Poverty has increased. Deadly weapons in the wrong hands have become more lethal – and more available to those wrong hands.
I remember a satirical sketch that I saw recently in which a professor led a discussion with a group of young students who were dealing with their sensitivities. The current vogue term is “woke,” to describe alertness to injustice, especially racism. It has been parodied as a sort of “holier-than-thou” attitude towards expressions and terms that might cause offence. Towards the end of this sketch, the professor said something to the effect of, “I don’t know why I’m bothering. You’ll all end up as right wingers in your thirties. Have you started to think that perhaps poor people don’t deserve benefits? That’s where it starts.” I try to remind myself that this is satire, that I don’t need to join the increasing mass of people who seem to have lost their sense of irony. Then I remember that satire has a grain of truth in what it parodies.
I start to think about the people I know who are much less reserved than they once were about questioning the merits of offering poor people assistance. Fortunately, the church seems to be willing to offer food and other necessities to those who are in need. But I have noticed that there is much more sniping at people receiving benefits than there once was. Of course, the tabloid newspapers don’t help. Pouncing upon any example of abuse of the system might make good headlines, but it misrepresents the many people who can benefit from assistance.
In my state of procrastination, I remember presiding over an interment of ashes last year – for a British man who had spent many years on holiday in Menorca and had befriended a lot of local people. Afterwards, a local man came up to me and told me quietly that he had received food assistance from the church at a time when he really needed it, and how much it had been appreciated. Things had improved for him, but he remembered the help with gratitude. He was not a scrounger. It occurs to me that the Daily Mail would not be interested in him. But he represents the vast majority of people who need assistance either from public agencies or non-profit organisations, including churches. They are people with real needs, who are often embarrassed to ask for help. But they don’t make scandalous newspaper headlines.
I feel a certain degree of sadness that we seem to be becoming a less caring, less sensitive society, as we make fun of the “woke” nature of young people who care. Once upon a time, many of us cared, too. Some of us still do.
Perhaps these are the musings of a mind distracted and diverted by the disruption of the pandemic. I suppose that I ought to write something spiritually uplifting, and talk about God and Jesus and hope. Perhaps I ought to talk about why the church remains closed to public worship, continuing to rely upon online worship.
I wonder whether I ought to be writing about the “new normal” period that we are entering in Spain following the prolonged Estado de Alarma. Well, it is new, but it is not normal. I wonder how to deal with the many people who are jumpy and anxious.
I procrastinate further by reading the Diario account of the couple who returned from Bolivia to Menorca and found that they had contracted coronavirus. I saw people vilifying them in social media, along with the authorities who permitted them to enter Spain and come to Menorca. I recall that I read melodramatic statements such as, “I feel betrayed,” on Facebook, and I think that really was over the top.
Of course, a calmer assessment revealed that the couple had openly disclosed their point of origin, and consulted with immigration and health authorities along the way – but were asymptomatic. They did what they were supposed to do, but it’s not as exciting as getting all worked up and angry. But then I also know that underlying the melodramatic comments are real, valid feelings of anxiety and concern. So they shouldn’t be discounted.
I wonder how to deal with the reality that the virus is capable of leaving carriers without symptoms, and the finite probability that people will come to Menorca who are carriers. It occurs to me that whether we consider coronavirus, or other aspects of life, there is almost no way to manage life’s risks to zero. It also occurs to me that how we have behaved during the extended quarantine period, and how we behave during the “new normal” are manifestations of broader aspects of our personalities, our characters and our behaviour patterns.
We have been fairly calm – many of us – for three months or more, and as a couple of people have said to me, we are not quite ready to let go of the calmer parts of the quarantine period – it has been quite refreshing. Then I wonder whether there are parts of the world that can’t tolerate being calm for too long. Maybe that’s why there are riots, triggered by one incident in one city thousands of miles from where most of the protests have taken place. That doesn’t mean that the protests are not justified, and they have produced results. They remind me of my mother, exasperated, exclaiming, “Why won’t you listen to me until I shout at you?!”
So as the deadline approaches, and I have to confront the “thief of time,” I stop and wonder: what should I write? Do the Roqueta readers need a surly outpouring of angst from the vicar? Is there a need for self-examination about our tendency to be judgemental and self-righteous? Maybe. It’s a cliche, but it’s true, that the role of the priest is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable!
I’ve been working on this for a week, now, and I’m still procrastinating. I really don’t like writing a load of negative stuff. So I decide to procrastinate some more. I go for a walk.
It’s possible to make a loop from Cala Macarella to Cala Turqueta, going one way via a little path along the cliff top and returning via the Camí de Cavalls. The air is clear, the sea is blue to turquoise, the pines and olive trees along the way are bright green against a clear blue sky. The astounding beauty of this island, coast and inland, and its tranquility, is more than sufficient to soothe a troubled mind. Perhaps the world needs the spirit of Menorca, or something like it, to calm down – and to help it to appreciate the calmness.
I honestly don’t know what to write. I think that I’ll just send pictures from the vicar’s sermons in various parts of Menorca instead.