By Staff Writer: Harvey Fewings.
The Rider on the Pale Horse is leaving us; he is returning to his dark place where he shall patiently wait for another opportunity to gallop among us.
The matter is not entirely over, and he may yet turn upon us; predictions are dangerous in these troubled times.
Mutations occur – virus are immensely adaptable pathogens; they are capable of dynamic leaps across living biological systems, so fast and so destructive that only epidemiologists can have nightmares about them – because most of us cannot imagine the destructive potential. So we can't write them off.
What about us?
If you live in urban Australia, your life is pretty much outside of your control; even though you may not think so!
Your life is a timetable of demands and schedules.
Children to school, payment of bills, perform at work, either working from home or in a small business. Seek some time for yourself and your partner, or try to find a partner in it all. You are involved with doctors, hairdressers, gyms, school sports, children's activities – like ballet, piano playing or singing in the choir.
It is a mad crazy schedule until one day, the five-clawed dragon appears in front of your face, and you stare into the merciless, cold eyes of infinity.
Infinity can appear in the unexpected medical event of a diagnosis of a dread disease.
Or a sudden, tearing burden on your chest signifying a cardiac event.
Or the loss of control of your vehicle on a free way and the inevitable ending of you and your vehicle wiped out by an errant road train or a car full of drunk, drugged-out young humans, who don't know who they are or why they are…
Or you wake up one day, and, Channel 7 News breathlessly announces the arrival of a pandemic – with the underlying trickling banner reminding us that pandemic news is brought to us by the Acme, Skin, Body, Hair and Brain Lotion…
And. The rhythms of our life change – permanently!
All of the rushing about from place to place is suddenly stopped by a medically induced lockdown. Whether you like it or not – you have to stay at home – in your home. There are explicit restrictions about where you can go and what you can do.
For many of us, it is a time of reflection, of contemplation about priorities and maybe a re-adjustment of our relationships with family and friends. For those of us with a healthy grip on reality we also conclude that matters we take for granted – such as the daily supply of food and comestibles which we purchase at the local supermarket- are not as guaranteed as we thought they were. We suffer a shattering glimpse of the obvious; our daily food supplies depend on trucks being able to continue the "JIT "[ just in time delivery system ] that ensures we have fresh meat, milk, bread and vegetables every day.
How many of us can grow our own fresh vegetables, produce milk from cows or almonds or soybeans or whatever current 'woke 'milk you must have?
How many of us can strip a carcass to produce edible protein? How many of us can do that?
Not many, I shall warrant.
So, when the trucks stop due to pandemics and border closures or whatever other factor effects free movement, we become very, very vulnerable.
The absolute fragility of our urban life is ruthlessly exposed by the insanity of toilet paper hoarding.
How do you explain hoarding of toilet paper? I grew up in the bush – lavatories were basic structures, barely comfortable, often home to spiders, snakes and, in one case a mob of bats!! Toilet paper did not always arrive in neat soft rolls; newspapers always had a secondary role. I accept that we now have a much more sophisticated system of toilets and sewerage in suburbia; but does that mean that our life unravels if there is no supply of toilet paper?
It seems that many of us feel that way!
The random selection of fate applies to us all; Royalty, Presidents, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, Sisters: none of us have a free pass from infinity.
It takes the Rider of the Pale Horse to remind us of that.
If you live in rural Australia, or in the isolated regions of the Outback, the merciless cold eyes of infinity stare at you more often in the form of king brown snake in your 'ringers' laundry, a dingo looking at you from a red sandhill or the slow, crushing grip of a prolonged drought.
Because of the isolation pandemics are not really the same threat. Provision of basic food continues as usual. Daily routines are not disrupted, school of the air continues, water pumps still produce water, routine maintenance tasks carry on as normal, and the flow of visitors to remote regions slows down or stops.
Make no mistake, however, if a virus, such as COVID-19 arrives in remote areas, its effects upon locals are dramatic, sudden and deadly. Because you cannot hide from it, you can't isolate from it, and specialised medical assistance is simply not available.
In remote regions of Australia you must live with the viral threat, hope that it does not visit you and just get on with life.
These thoughts are not an expressed criticism of either rural life or urban life or a comparison of the two – very few of us have much choice about where we live anyway.
What we have here is a catastrophic event which arrived unheralded, uninvited and very much unwelcome.
It threatened the cohesion of our comfortable lives. Exposed us to vulnerabilities we all thought we gone from our lives and reminded us all of how much we rely upon matters we cannot control, like 'just in time 'food logistics.
Perhaps, and I think this has happened, this external threat to our lives has sparked a sense of local community awareness, reminding us that we do need neighbours and friends to make it all work.
And that may not be a bad thing at all…
So. Yes, our comfortable lives have been threatened, but we have dealt with that threat in a practical manner. I do not think that we have had it easy for too long. Australians have worked hard and diligently to produce a lifestyle which is the envy of many nations, no one gave it to us, not long ago, indeed, in my lifetime, dark forces tried to take it from us.
It is true that zones of comfort tend to dull the senses and a sharp shock, such as COVID-19, serves to remind us exactly what we have and how easily it can be taken from us.
Maybe, next time the Rider of the Pale Horse comes amongst us, and that shall happen; perhaps the saddlebags will have an infinite supply of toilet paper!