Friday, March 27, 2020

Narcissism on a global scale, could COVID19 be revealing it?

What do so many countries of the world have in common right now?
Wait for that, I’ll get to it.  First, I want to ask you a question.  Three months ago, when we were all getting ready to see the New Year in, could any of you conceive in your wildest imagination that medical and health care workers would soon not have basic illness-saving, death-preventing protective equipment to do their job?  No, I wouldn’t have either.
In my former career, part of my job was to educate employers and employees about their occupational safety and health responsibilities under law. Did you know it is a principle of law that an employer provides personal protective equipment (PPE) and training in how to wear it?
Get the gravity of the situation.
Globally, right now, there are tens of thousands of employers who cannot — who knowingly won’t — keep their workers safe.  Globally, these employers are breaking the law on the largest scale.
We in the western world at least see that as a right, and it is a human right to be protected and kept safe in our work.
If we consider that we’re in a world war against Coronavirus, this national, international and global law-breaking is equivalent in status to war crime on a mass scale when you have health care workers and doctors contracting COVID19 and in some cases dying.
What are politicians doing about this?  When hospitals and other care facilities run out of these vital supplies, who is there to bail society out?  It’s the government.  It’s the government’s role to govern society — to keep it from anarchy.
Genuine question here: do any of you know of any community, state, federal or international leaders bearing responsibility for this horrendous situation — the lack of PPE?
Workers are put at risk and the only reason nobody’s prosecuted is, what do you do, prosecute just about every employer, state, government and leader in the world?
These health care and medical professionals have trained to work safely and now they cannot.  And as they’re presented before the risk to be exposed, and then they get exposed, they expose others who may not as yet have contracted the virus.  And think about the mental and emotional toll of caring individuals possibly infecting others.  There is one example of a nurse taking her own life because of this.  Think of the risks caring people will be willing to take in providing care to others — now, without vital protective equipment.
Yet the world watches on and we’re ambivalent toward it.  If we’re not directly impacted, we shrug our shoulders.  Why?
Then there’s all the rest of the world’s workers who cannot escape close contact with those who could be infected.  School teachers for instance.  But the list is endless.  Are any other occupations provided with the vital PPE of a mask when they must deal with these obvious risks of close human contact?  It would be unheard of in many professions to wear masks and other PPE.
Swinging the focus to the leaders who allowed this to happen.  All modern governments are blessed, as law makers, with the best academics in every field.  All governments have access to the best information, including public health and other sciences, the universities.  Almost in unison, the best public health minds are flabbergasted and exasperated by the sheer lack of planning, preparedness, and response.  The experts are consulted but not listened to.  They are modern day prophets, and you know how prophets are treated.  What more warning do world governments need to trigger serious efforts of preparedness?  SARS outbreak?  Ebola?  H1N1 influenza?  We’ve had all those.  But, if they haven’t come near, “that won’t happen to us.”
Governments across the globe — with few exceptions — have failed us in the attempt to control the COVID19 outbreak.  Some governments have listened to their health and medical experts and they are leading their countries toward control.  How many countries, however, are betraying the world in letting this virus consume their societies?  All because, “it’ll only kill 1 percent of people.”  (It’s actually between 2-4 percent.)  How dare any of us minimise the lives of people; potentially tens of millions of which will be thrown to their deaths.
What about our planet’s leaders?  How many of them are actively continuing to think only of their own interests?  This is a time for leadership.
Let’s imagine a leader, who, when probed — notice this — is never wrong.  He’s always doing a fabulous job.  And anyone who criticises him or his administration is being nasty or mean.  He gaslights them in broad daylight.  And gets away with it.  Every.  Single.  Time.  And the world watches on in incredulity.  I know me saying this will offend some of you, but these are his observable behaviours.  There’s no disputing it.
Then there are leaders who insist they’ve got things under control when they haven’t.  They’re more interested in spinning their narrative than in doing their job.
It’s like this story from England’s NHS.  Here are some quotes“It’s terrifying for staff at the moment. Still no access to personal protective equipment [PPE] or testing.” “Rigid command structures make decision making impossible.” “There’s been no guidelines, it’s chaos.” “I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel protected.” “We are literally making it up as we go along.” “It feels as if we are actively harming patients.” “We need protection and prevention.” “Total carnage.” “NHS Trusts continue to fail miserably.” “Humanitarian crisis.” “Forget lockdown — we are going into meltdown.” “When I was country director in many conflict zones, we had better preparedness.” “The hospitals in London are overwhelmed.” “The public and media are not aware that today we no longer live in a city with a properly functioning western health-care system.” “How will we protect our patients and staff… I am speechless. It is utterly unconscionable. How can we do this? It is criminal… NHS England was not prepared…We feel completely helpless.”
Let’s take a look at some of the common behaviours in leaders and governments — or organisations for that matter — who fail the empathy test, feel entitled to do as they please, and who exploit vast numbers of people at will, as if the populace are pawns.
They don’t apologise, they are never apparently wrong, and also have the track record of never being wrong.  How can we trust them?  When they continue to exploit their vast populations by letting them go to work completely exposed to infection.  How would we sleep at night if that were us?
Governments caused the crisis through the mismanagement of it in its earliest stages.
When will governments begin to take their corporate responsibility for this, confess their negligence, and repent before their people?  Remember all I’m focusing on here is the fact that millions of workers across the globe are owed their protective equipment when they’re exposed to a pathogen.
Narcissism at its zenith is set on its own path and on its own terms.  It never takes responsibility and is never wrong.  It feels it has a right to treat people abysmally.  And it absolutely has no empathy.
Quotations within are taken from The LancetPublished: March 28, 2020 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30727-3


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Staying safe and getting through the lonely stressful chaos of lockdown

My parents always said that there were two sources of conflict in marriage: children and money, and not necessarily in that order.
It might be a little more complex than that these days, but it does help to illustrate a more general point. Living is hard, whether we’re married, single or otherwise, because we all experience conflict — within ourselves and interpersonally.
Let’s face it, marriage is hard enough when life is normal; it’s going to be an incredible challenge to make it work, particularly when there are difficult family dynamics, work to juggle, children with special needs, etc.
The coming period of time (assuming you’re not already in lockdown) will not only hold challenges.  It presents opportunities.  If those in the home look upon conflict as an opportunity.
Mental health maintenance is a key.  Not just is staying mentally afloat of the utmost importance, it is literally a key that unlocks the many doors that will need to be opened in negotiating this period of time.  We’re already dealing with more anxiety, and depressed thoughts for many will be experienced, which heralds the existence of a grief that we’re feeling for what feels like impending disaster.
Looking after ourselves and our family members will be absolutely fundamental.
Serving will get us all the way through.  There’s one way we can all get through these times.  That’s through serving one another, because lockdown will be no holiday.  If we choose to serve one another in the home, if we give up insisting on our own way, we stand a better chance of not simply surviving this time but thriving through it.
Sharing the tasks around the home and working as a team will be necessary.
Gratitude will be crucial.  Making an agreement with ourselves to return, again and again, to humility of gratitude will be vital.  Why?  Because we’ll slip out of that groove more times than we’ll be able to count.
But being able to still ourselves on the wonder of the smallest blessings will be pivotal.  We will need to grit our teeth at times and simply breathe as we remind ourselves to look for the shiny side in the dull.  There is always a shiny side in the dull!
Safety will be paramount.  Lockdown ought to be no time to feel shackled to the home, especially if there’s violence, even if it were to mean leaving requires a period in self-isolation.  Of course, the presence of children amps up the complexity one-hundred-fold.  There will be many families for whom getting through this will be a miracle.  We need to keep them in our prayers and be ready to safely assist if we can.
Keeping short account will assist conflict responses.  It will be essential to keep short account with each other about the grievances that emerge.  This means trusting each other with the truth, communicating it fairly and respectfully.  It also means being aware of the difference between reasonable wishes and demands, and to know when demands become unproductive.  It’s not inappropriate to demand our safety, but it would be inappropriate to demand others bend to our every whim.
Creativity will be necessary.  I can well imagine just how many creative ideas and trends will emerge from this time, and these trends and ideas will serve us into the future.  Now is the time to explore the new, and to innovate where we dare to think outside the square.  
Particularly with children and isolation-schooling them, we will need to think laterally, especially when our patience is tested.
Trust is the imperative of us all.  As we bear these uncertain times, it’s not unusual for our minds to wander into dangerous thought patterns.  Conspiracy theories, whilst we’re tempted to wonder if they’re true, won’t serve us.  They will only inspire cynicism and fear.  Trust is a great aid to maintaining good mental health, and it focuses us on where we put our trust.
NOTE: I’m taking a little break now to embed routines within my own family.
Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A prayer in a day of anticipatory grief

God of all of us,
We cry out to you in this time of global grief, admitting to you that the COVID-19 crisis has got all of our attention.  We worry about our contracting the virus, for our financial and social survival, and for the lives of our loved ones.  And yes, Lord, many who are vulnerable are fearful of losing their own lives, and loved ones bear that burden too.
You know and you understand this, our anxiety.  You are more than well aware.
We herald you as Sovereign, our God.  We know that you alone are in control over all creation, over all of life, but that also means we may be confused as to why this is happening.  Please quell our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and help us resolve to be hopeful each time we descend into despair.
We ask that you guide our governments to make sensible decisions that will seem drastic now to some.  We sincerely hope they exercise wisdom and due diligence.  We pray they govern for the longer term and resist the temptation to make policy and decisions for the shorter term.
Help us as we anticipate a tsunami of loss, even as we begin to taste the reality of horrible situations occurring.  Even as shock and numbing silence fills our minds, give us peace that accepts this is beyond our understanding.
Help us be there for each other and help us draw near to the support you provide as we need it.  Make this time a time when we found out more about how you have created us for community.  Open the door to more creative expressions of doing community in these trying days.
Help us when we’re sad, when we’re depressed, when we’re anxious, when we’re overwhelmed, when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Clear a path for us back to you.  Make that a path that ensures we gain something from the losses we’re experiencing.
Help us most of all when we feel isolated, when we miss going out, and help us to abide by the law.  Indwell us with a hope that we can sit this out.  Give us the capacity to know that we can do this!
Help governments control borders and police to protect the streets.  We pray for the maintenance of peace and harmony as best as that can be achieved.
Help us again and again, each and every day, when we’re at the lowest ebb, as we see what seems to be a tidal wave approaching, to not be fearful, and to know we’re safe and isolated in our own homes.
Give us vigour for today and a vibrant hope for tomorrow, even as we stay steadfastly focused on the present hour.
In the comforting name of Jesus, we pray,
Amen.

A scenario of community spread

Yesterday in our normally sleepy city (as compared with larger cities) it was revealed that a bus driver who had interacted with several hundred people in the days preceding his positive test had contracted COVID-19.
Let’s look at a possible scenario of community spread from this one individual in an attempt to grasp how spread works.
This driver took over 100 cash fares during this time — possibly 10 whole days.  Let’s imagine ten percent of these people carried the virus from him on the cash they took as change.  Let’s also imagine the persons interacting with the driver all unknowingly interact with others as per normal.  Certainly, a passing thought, “I could be infected,” but this is easily blown off, right?  I know myself, it’s a normal human psychology to think this won’t happen to me!  And think that the earliest interactions occurred at a time when we’re only mildly concerned about this coronavirus thing!  (Yes, 16 days ago!)
Say those ten who are already carrying COVID-19 around with them are also interacting closely with 50-100 people over their next 5-10 days until they begin to show signs of having contracted it.
The nature of what we’re dealing with is a ‘too late’ scenario.  The only way we have the chance of cutting it off is to take drastic measures 2-4 WEEKS before it’s arrived.  It’s too late now.  It’s here.
Those people who get it from the bus driver who also give it to some of their family, co-workers and passers-by will all unsuspectingly give it to another ten people each to carry for up to a week before they show symptoms.
So, we’re now in a situation where four, five, six degrees of separation have already occurred.  In a city of 2 million everyone must assume they have the virus.
The thing with the spread of this is we will always be coming from behind.  The precautions we’re taking now are those we should have been taking weeks ago, but of course we didn’t because we thought differently back then.
How quickly has our perception been shaped by what is happening around us!
The saddest part of this is many younger people — anyone younger than those in the danger zone — will think “this won’t get me, I’ll get it, but it won’t end me,” without realistically thinking of their neighbour who is 60, 70, 80, or has compromised health.  We only sit up at attention if it’s our mother or father or grandparent who stands to die.  Then there are some ambivalent older people who also don’t care.
The widest gap in society right now is the “you aren’t my neighbour” gap, when everyone truly is.  Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  This is the single biggest issue now.
Then there’s the thought of a lonely funeral.  Imagine as a family having to decide who gets to go to the funeral?  Imagine the grief of an already grieving family who cannot attend the funeral due to social distancing measures.
It’s not my intention to panic anyone, but we must realise that what hadn’t even entered our mentality four weeks ago is now here.  Don’t dare to imagine what this is like four weeks — or four months from now.
The only chance we have is if we start acting now!  This is like the climate change debate, but while we have people saying that’s a furphy, we will have ambivalence and all of society will suffer.
There will still be people doing what they damn well feel like and flouting the rules.  We should not be surprised, for it has always happened, it’s just a whole lot more noticeable now.
NOTE: whilst I’m a counsellor, pastor and chaplain nowadays, my first degree was from the School of Public Health at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia.


Photo by Mélissa Jeanty on Unsplash

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

11 opportunities to make life better in these crazy days

Despite the anxiety, and notwithstanding the last-minute planning, opportunities do present themselves within the present day.
Here are just eleven:
1.                 To sing or play or communicate or laugh with a neighbour, from the end of each other’s driveways, or from window to window.  We’ve seen what the inventive Italians have done, and I’ve heard a street will dance together.  Time to be creative.  Opportunities to talk with people we ordinarily wouldn’t.
2.                 Families will spend more time together, and whilst the opportunity for conflict and dissension is ever present, so are opportunities to work through relationship challenges.  Hopefully we can’t give up on each other as much as we could otherwise.  (Though prayers remain for those who find themselves in unsafe homes!)
3.                 Families may get sick of eating in front of the TV and move back to the dining room table.  They might get their board games and card games out of the cupboard.  When the internet is down, family members will be encouraged to chat and play with one another.
4.                 This unprecedented time will force us all to slow down and to take stock and to consider the truly important things in life.  We may have been resisting this for years.  But now’s the time.
5.                 We will learn to live without sports and live entertainment.  We will have the opportunity to cast our minds back and to reflect on things we used to enjoy.  We may begin to think more deeply about life.
6.                 For a lot of people, a forced sabbatical has come.  There are those who did not know how they would get through 2020.  Those who struggle just to keep up every year.  For a silent majority of people, the uncertainty is mixed with hope for change, and possibly true rest.
7.                 For those for whom lock downs present a massive challenge to energy and logistics, there is the opportunity of difficult choices to be made.  It’s an opportunity, because the decision will have to be made.
8.                 Take the day, the week, the month, the year as a reset.  Who would have thought that everyone gets the same opportunity at the same time?  Now that the future is so uncertain, we can opt to live for this day and this day alone.  No more getting ahead of ourselves.
9.                 We may finally be able to break some of those toxic patterns of materialism and consumerism — of reliance on things that overall are not good for us.  Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.
10.              To think of those less fortunate than ourselves — and vast is the number of them.  The medically compromised, the homeless, the destitute, those with special needs, those with mental health concerns, and those who could burn out under all this pressure.  Our opportunity is to pray and to give practical support where we can.
11.              Now is the time for kindness and to outdo people with our kindnesses.  People are actually thinking more about doing acts of random kindness than ever before.
Can you think of any to contribute?
Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Monday, March 23, 2020

Enduring the stormy seas of a common grief

At a nonchalant time when we weren’t in a pandemic, I had a common morning experience of grief.  Not a depression.  A grief.  I would arrive at work — a port authority — and closet myself in my site office and get through emails before meeting a crowd of 12-20 burly tradesmen to give them a safety and health induction to the port.  I did this three mornings a week, from 0700hrs, eventually arriving at my office at the main part of the port at about 0930hrs.  I did a couple of hundred of these induction sessions.  And almost every time I had the same sinking feeling as I gazed out the lonely large window over the often dark and gloomy Indian Ocean view.
It was always the same solemn sense of cosmic aloneness, but with it a semblance of reluctant faith.  I hated feeling that way, but I felt it so many times I learned to tolerate it.
“When hope is deferred the heart grows sick,” it says in Proverbs 13:12A.  That’s what I had.
But not just that; I had some assurance that eventually fortune would turn.  Part B of this proverb is, “... but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
I cannot tell you how much fear coursed through me in those fleeting private moments when I was leading a room full of compliant men through their training.  None of them knew.  It would be little things like their birthdates and other details on their identification that would trigger reminiscences of a life that I’d lost.
So many moments exactly the same in the dimensions of grief, and yet within each one the tiny echo of the Spirit of God, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for a the right time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
I was in that place for the better part of 18-24 months.  It never left me completely.  It was always there lurking.  And yet I had no way of giving up.  My only chance was faith.
What we’re all facing right now is a blend of anxiety and ambiguous grief.
The fact that we’re all at war with a common yet invisible nemesis is something we cannot escape from.  We wake to the same nightmare each morning, and yet like the shifting sands under a house above the tsunami, we have no steady base; what seems bad enough already is bound to get worse.  We know this, but somehow it seems unbelievable.
Even though we’re grieving, it’s abysmally disconcerting, because the full force of it hasn’t hit yet.  It doesn’t seem real.  Yet, that’s what grief is like, and we’re all experiencing it on a common scale.
As we endure these days together, we will doubt that we’ll get through them, or maybe we know we’ll get through them.  We can endure this grief if we know we’ll get through.  We can get through if we know we’ll endure.  So, endure.
We will get through this storm.  But it won’t be without unparalleled loss, and these times will have the effect that they will change us.  We can choose to resent what changed us or be thankful we survived.
We do not endure significant grief without being significantly changed.  The key task of grief is to learn to accept what we cannot change.


Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Ways online church attendance can be used to spiritually abuse

A vast majority of churches won’t engage in spiritual abuse, but there are always those who do.  Now that we’re moving into a new day, and that this season of online church is here to stay for at least the short term, we need to tune into the changing landscape of spiritual abuses that will occur.
Those who do this in a day of church closures for the coronavirus may engage in some of the following:
·               checking in on you to determine whether you actually watched the live stream (they have no right to do this)
·               asking you questions to verify whether in fact you did watch — indicating a lack of trust in your word
·               checking in to see if you would electronically tithe, if you would normally put money in the bag or on the plate — especially if they put it into the guise of “it’s easier now than ever to do!”
·               checking who was watching in with you as a means of charting the ‘attendance’ numbers
·               asking whether you watched the whole thing or not, particularly if there are multiple questions about multiple parts of the service
·               using key statements or specific humour to build on after the live stream with which to distance those who didn’t get to watch — in other words, it penalises those who didn’t get to see it (because they were perhaps working or otherwise busy) and it manipulates them into ensuring they do ‘catch up’ — add to this activities during the week that require watching the live stream
·               using live streaming as a way of saying “We’re all over this, and we were planning it anyway,” which can be a cover for, “We’re pretty scared right now of losing numbers, (err revenue).”  If this is the case, it’s a manipulation
·               telling you to share the link on your social media pages — or manipulating you to do it so as to inflate social media traction making it seem especially popular
·               paradoxically, making it hard for certain people to access — a way to exclude people or a group
·               using the new platform, technology or process for church to manipulate you — presumably to force your inclusion or threaten your exclusion
·               Getting you to show them your cache
·               Anything else that I haven’t included?
·               As this is new, I’m hoping there are more examples I can put here
A church that will spiritually abuse congregants won’t stop just because there’s a virus around and there’s no more face-to-face meetings for a while.
Those who do spiritual abuse do so because it’s a heart condition they have.
The heart condition that abuses is a heart set on control.  Any church that controls people is a cult.
Your church may still check in on you genuinely without a spirit of control.  There is a big difference between good and effective pastoral care, which is about your support, and spiritual abuse, which is about them and their control.