Opinion |

Gaining Insight Through COVID: Time to Change the Rules of the Human Game

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
A man skipping rope while waiting for a COVID test at a Jerusalem testing center
A man skipping rope while waiting for a COVID test at a Jerusalem testing centerCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

The most significant thing in the omicron outbreak is that it constitutes another stage in the critical insight – though one that is still disturbingly denied – that what has been is not necessarily what will be. That is, the desire for some magic solution that will take us back in time – a desire is of course much greater than the coronavirus effect – is a dangerous illusion.

The coronavirus itself is not really the big story taking place in the world right now. To a large extent it’s only a trigger, a catalyst, to the revolutionary in-depth processes we are undergoing irrespective of COVID. Only those who understand the context around the coronavirus, only those who dare to look directly at the context in which omicron is flooding the sphere, the way in which few individuals, societies and states are responding to it – only they will be able to deal with this plague and even grow from it.

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Without understanding how cracked, not to say broken, the old bottles are – the New Testament’s parable about old wine skins as a symbol of the old order – it will not be possible to stem the expanding leak in the new wine.

The struggle is over this insight, over the awareness that to deal with the coronavirus, and with other big challenges, firstly the climate crisis – as has been written here again and again – we must recognize that we, the citizens, the people comprising the societies they live in, must take responsibility not only for the game but for recreating the rules of the game, for the new bottles, in which we can store the wine that is our lives. These times, as tragic and threatening as they are, are also a rare opportunity to take part in shaping and drafting the new rules of the human game.

As abstract as this may sound – certainly in view of a concrete virus – it’s the most practical thing that can be said now. Only out of this understanding can extra-state solidarity networks grow, as they should have long ago, acting in the knowledge that the responsibility is now theirs. Only from this insight can conversation and thought spheres grow, and later action as well, to ascertain how out of the existing, broken order we can build the new, relevant order, stemming from the public’s existence and not clinging, out of “new fascism,” to frameworks shaped 150 years ago.

This is certainly not easy. “Self cannibalism,” the ability to cut yourself off from what you were, from the framework through which you saw reality, is one of the hardest human challenges. And yet, it’s the only way to grow. Throughout history – from the Israelites in the desert, who missed Egypt, although they were slaves in it, through the Renaissance people in the 19th century, to us (a very partial list). What is taking place now, more than anything else, is a disintegration. And that’s the nature of disintegration: Throughout the process it is slow, misleading and deniable. In the end the collapse always comes.

The omicron’s outbreak, the state hysteria, after time and again we’d celebrated the “return to routine,” after praising ourselves and the vaccinations, after endless interested “people of the past” sold us the notion that now everything “will return,” after central banks did everything to shut their eyes and flooded the markets with cheap money to deal, as it were, with the COVID crisis, while hollowly promising that it will not have a price – after all that, the outbreak of the omicron variant is another piece of concrete falling from above. Another promise crashing to the ground of reality. If it didn’t crush you, you can still suppress it and move on. Or you can stop for a moment, look, and ask yourselves, where is this building going, and where are you going with it.

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