- Mookie Tenenbaum’s disillusionism can help people prepare for a world ruled by COVID-19.
- “Humans aren’t robots. You can’t tell people to stay six feet apart forever”, he says.
- “Now, everything is a possible source of suffering, everything is a problem, and you can’t fall into the comfort of a routine”.
- “We used to know where our son would be 13 years in the future, now we don’t; and that is very interesting. We don’t know where we will be a month from now. That’s good. Now we have to think and be very awake”.
Throughout history, science has changed life for the better and worse. At the moment, the world is focused on the development of a vaccine to do away with COVID-19 but science has faced off before against intractable diseases and come up short more than once.
“We have to accept that not developing a vaccine is a possibility, and we should make preparations for the assumption that there won’t be one,” says Mookie Tenembaum.
Tenembaum, a philosopher and artist, says there are multiple examples of diseases that eluded vaccination for decades. One example is dengue. Another is malaria, hepatitis C and HIV-AIDS. Science eventually finds a way but eventually may not be good enough to deal with COVID-19.
Tenembaum is the creator of disillusionism, which he defines as a new philosophical approach to reality. He questions much of the current thinking related to the coronavirus pandemic, and almost everything else.
In his work, Tenembaum qualifies most human behaviors as sleepwalking, with people following patterns that leave little room for critical thinking. Disillusionism suggests people create states, institutions and religions as a form of immortality that helps them escape an unavoidable succession of suffering. The coronavirus pandemic has upended many of these ‘sleepwalking’ routines, forcing people to become constantly self-aware and think through all routines. Life as everybody knows it is changing.
“The metaphor of a spaceship is suitable: we left a planet and we’re travelling in space to another world, where everything we knew from the planet we left is now useless,”Tenembaum told Anticentric.
“Humans aren’t robots. You can’t tell people to stay six feet apart forever. Think of the case where a grandfather wants to hug a grandchild and, at 75 years of age, it may very well mean that the hug or even leaving home could be impossible for the rest of that person’s life,” he said.
And this is just one of the many questions that remain unanswered.
“How long can the people who have no partners live without sex? During the initial outbreak of HIV-AIDS there were condoms, and their use actually could prevent contagion. There is no such thing now,” he said.
“But humans are very adaptable and resilient, so something will change,”Tenembaum added. “I believe we will operate with bubbles, where we can guarantee safety and health and, a key to this will be a renewed interest in cars and motorbikes.”
The pandemic has led to many changes, some forward looking and others a hail to times gone by. Drive-in cinemas are back in business and high-end restaurants have drive-throughs, all part of this new world driven by social distancing.
“Now, everything is a possible source of suffering, everything is a problem, and you can’t fall into the comfort of a routine.”
The first challenge for many people wanting to re-enter their routines is completing the activity at the center of all scheduling: work.
“The economy is going to be so awful that, for some time, people will be more concerned with how to get a job, before anything else,” says Tenembaum.
The International Monetary Fund expects a global economic contraction of at least 3 percent this year.
“The priorities that we came from, like global warming, inequality and political correctness, which were the concerns we had when we lived in that other planet, will now face a much poorer world and massive fall in living standards. Those in the middle class will join the poor,” Tenembaum predicted.
The consequences of falling livelihoods will change political moods, there will be anger, and whoever is able to channel that anger will seize power.
Another concern is inter-generational conflict. The narrative behind massive lockdowns and the consequent economic collapse means that everyone stays home to take special care of those most at peril by COVID-19. Those above 60 years of age may be held responsible for the deprivation of younger people.
“There has never been intergenerational anger. It is the first time we’ll see this situation. Young people used to die massively at war. Now, old people lose their lives and they are the same age as current politicians,” he said.
This would further compound political discontent, bringing an age of greater uncertainty at national and international levels.
“We used to know where our son would be 13 years in the future, now we don’t; and that is very interesting. We don’t know where we will be a month from now. That’s good. Now we have to think and be very awake.”