One month ago things changed in just four days. Well, they change all the time, in steps so tiny and insignificant, that I normally do not notice. This time it was different.
It is Sunday. I arrive late. I have been here before. Hardly anyone is on the streets, at least no one who has a place of their own. On a wide square I wait for the tram. Around me wander the people who live in public places, people who normally disappear in the crowd, that now is missing. Now they are the majority: The homeless, the poor, the ones that don’t know where else to go … the ones that live on the street, for one reason or another. Every minute one of them approaches me and asks for money. Something is wrong and we can’t do anything about it. This is the advent of change, when we realize that a tsunami is roaring across the sea towards us.
I do what most people do. I go to work. I work in a small city, but live in a bigger one, close by, simply because life is more interesting there. So I commute. The platform is packed as always, but it is quieter than usual. The train is packed too. It is quiet too. You can hear a cough on the other end of the train … I travel second class and stand close to the glass barrier that separates it from the first. On the other side someone coughs heavily. Repeatedly. Normally people wouldn’t notice, wouldn’t care. Now they do. I can see it in their faces. I do too. Embrace for impact.
When I go to work most cafes are closed. In a few people drink their coffee like always. Police patrols are cruising the streets. When I come back everything is closed: Restaurants, cafes and most of the shops. My hotel is deserted; even the reception. A note is stuck to the door of my room. The city has closed the hotel, but I am allowed to stay one last night. Then I must leave. I am their last guest. Impact.
I leave for work very early. Very few people are on the train. No one coughs. At work I call my supervisor, tell him that I quit, organize a handover with two permanent employees, who are already working from home, one actually under quarantine, as she tells me. Then I begin an eight hour journey to the place, where I am right now. Wherever I go it feels like the place is closing right behind me. When I get off the last train I am the only passenger on the platform. One hour later, well after midnight, I arrive in a small remote place with lots of space and very few people. I take a deep breath and go for a walk. For the first time in four days I feel free.
Well … what actually is Freedom?
I guess there are more opinions about that than there are people on this planet. My very personal definition goes something like this: Freedom is the optimum of …
1. The Absence of Fear
2. The Absence of Restrictions
Freedom is a compromise between this two absences, because we can never have both of them, at least not all of us at the same time. One man’s freedom is another man’s fear. Think about guns for example. The best compromise we have found so far is based on one simple assumption:
„All men are created equal.“
And then there are the lions, tigers and bears. We tend to forget about them, because our civilization protects us from them. I think this is the most important reason why civilisation exists: To keep Nature away from us, because Nature is a very scary place. Not the one on TV, not the one in the magazines, not the one on the tours we book – the real one. I think we only have a very vague idea what nature is actually about, and I am quite sure it’s not about pandas or baby seals.
Civilization gives us the freedom to forget about nature, so we have time to play games. The Game of Fear for example, where some of us create fears and then invent restrictions to save us from them. When these restrictions have a hidden agenda, they can take us to very strange places.
But the lions, tigers and bears are still around, biding their time. And their time has come. They do not answer to human laws, but only to the laws of nature. They do not play games. They cannot be intimidated, arrested or lied to. They just do, what they do, relentlessly, without mercy, never tiring and they do not make compromises. Empires crumble in their wake and the proud are humbled to dust. Our world is shaking and a new one is rising.
Let’s make it a better one.
And this time, let’s better not forget about the lions, tigers and bears.