The pundits

Suddenly everyone has become an immunologist and a confinement pundit.

It is easy to tell the genuine immunologist from the quack, but it’s not so easy to recognise a true confinement pundit.

Who are these?

Surely it can’t be those who tell us to fight the disruption to our normal routines by engineering new routines. To fight cabin fever by turning the temperature down and turning to other NSAIDs.

If it’s not these ones, now legion, then who are the pukka confinement masters?

If you’re as unsatisfied as I am in finding an answer to this, then you may want to check my list below, in which I’ve rounded up a band of reluctant masters, the small time crooks of our malaise:

  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: if nothing else works to convince you things can always get a lot worse, then the Gulag Archipelago will make any confinement feel like a suspended Garden of Eden. It is also unlikely the lockdown will last long enough to let you exhaust the Gulag‘s 1,400 pages. If you still find yourself bored, remember Solzhenitsyn’s words: “And the only solution to this would be that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but… in the development of the soul. ” It’s not what the confinement does to you, but what you do with the confinement.
  • Sophocles must hold the title for the first to have revealed that we all carry the infection before any epidemic is allowed to spread. His Oedipus Rex asks us to look at ourselves in the mirror before finding others to blame. Thankfully, this planetary quarantine is giving us plenty of time to tarry in front of that mirror.
  • Albert Camus: he’s already a friendly face in many lists such as this one. Only that his Plague is anything but friendly. Chances are each one of us is already starring in his novel, either as the act-now-ask-questions-later Dr Rieux, the impatient Rambert, the disillusioned Tarrou or the exploitative Cottard.
  • Michel Foucault: his instruction is simple, albeit unarticulated. After centuries of governments forcing their citizens into all sorts of confinement, what’s another few months? Today’s house arrest may be different from his main thesis in Discipline and Punish, but it may be argued that we are being punished for the world we’ve been complicit in building up.

I will undoubtedly be taxed for taking such a dim view of our common internment. Then I take the Aristophanes card out of my sleeve, where I’d kept hidden all along, reminding you what the Greek comedian had counselled everyone should do during the Plague of Athens – and then I go quietly to bed. If you haven’t read his Lysistrata, then you’ll be shocked or relieved to know that one of the advised relief measures was, well, masturbation.

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