Of cats, compassion, and a failed state

We established that pictures of cats draw a lot of likes on social media. Want to know what else does? New profile pictures. It’s quite predictable.

So this morning I went and changed the frame of my profile photo on Facebook. It says that instead of “social distancing”, go for physical distancing but social solidarity. I got this frame from an acquaintance in my professional community. Received a higher than average number of likes, predictably.

Then there was this opinion piece in the New York Times, suggesting that, in the wake of the pandemic, compassion in general can get thrown out the window, and in the end, we may not like the people we become.

If I looked around with that kind of eyes, I could see a rampant decline in compassion. Drivers ceasing to stop at crossings, people cutting in line in the supermarket, mistaking the safety distance for something else. But where this is particularly bad is at the government level. To be fair—you might actually live in a country where this is not the case. Count your blessings if you do.

My country’s government* used the crisis to grab hold of absolute power, installing a rule by decree for an unlimited time, taking away money from local communities and companies (with empty promises for future help), forcing sick people out of hospital beds (instead of creating new ones), redirecting crisis funds to entertainment sports, and at the same time, failing at transparent communication and failing to provide for protective gear or job safety for those who need it most. One of the “crisis” measures was a prohibition of changing your gender in civil records**, erasing trans people from the society.*** Of course, this is my interpretation of the events, surprisingly the government sees it differently. That last piece won’t change my mind, though.

I guess this is what you would call a failed state. In my books, the first and foremost interest of a state—a government—would be the life and safety of their citizens. We clearly do not see that here. Instead, we get more corruption and more identity politics. I get it that some people find even the thought of changing one’s birth gender repulsive—but what right does this give you to judge or prosecute those people? That is especially true to a government: it has absolutely no business judging or forcing the identity of its citizens.

I was too angry to write a post yesterday. I usually find it good advice to shut my mouth when I’m angry, and sometimes I even manage to.

But then… I had some sleep last night, and this morning I also had a conversation with my business partners that made me use the other eyes. When I use these other eyes, I no longer accept to just suffer whatever others, including my government do. I could call these the “empowerment eyes”, that allow me to believe that I can make a dent in how the world and the powers that be behave.

So, I can act, and I will act. I also won’t make any predictions. I believe that predictions are at least somewhat self-fulfilling—for example, if I believe that people and our economies are resilient enough, I can also act as if this were true, and not sack my employees because I panic. (Provided, of course, that I am privileged enough to have a company that has employees and is not forced to let them go.) I can also go an extra mile and support those who lost their jobs and livelihood, if I have the slightest means to do that. I guess this is what my new profile picture frame means. I just hope I will live up to that.

* Hungary
** This news item was available in Hungarian only at the time of writing
*** This paragraph can get me in prison if someone decides it’s “true information presented in a way as obstructs pandemic crisis management”, yes, that’s a criminal offense now over here

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