16 April 2020

The good things that come from bad situations plus the other 3 topics

- The good things that come from bad situations (Laura)

- Are we objects or subjects (Mariona)

- Patience (Carmen)

- Is this an era of changes or a change of an era? (Felipe)

At face value these four topics do not seem to belong together. I will, therefore, try to show how they do link together. Of course, there is no special order how these topics should be discussed because it is a matter of the perspective and relativity of the topics.

- The good things that come from bad situations
I would say that “The good things that come from bad situations” is directly linked with “patience”. But first, by definition good things can possibly emerge from bad situations only if the bad situation has not completely destroyed people and material. If we take a war or conflict no good can happen to the people that were killed by the war. Refugees from conflict might survive the war but as we know only few people will recover from their refugee status: consider the present conflict in Syria and many other African countries.

It is also not a necessary condition that good things must come from bad situations. For example, it took some years for Germany and most other European countries to recover from the Second World War. It wasn’t until the Marshall Plan in 1948 that change for the better was initiated.  But it is also the case that many countries in the East of Europe, including parts of Germany, were occupied by the Soviet Union.

- Patience
I don’t think that there is anything causal that good things result from a bad situation, but we can safely argue that changes do bring new opportunities. In the context of a bad situation patience is relative to how much we are affected by the bad situation and how much resources we have at our disposal to survive the period until our waiting pays off.

A refugee would probably have few resources to sit out the (bad) situation comfortably. When people don’t have food or security patience is not something they have aplenty. By definition patience is a trade off between “some sort of comfort” now for a better situation sometime in the future. Being patient implies foregoing something now in the hope that a situation in the future would be much better (Economics/Psychology: Delayed gratification). The drawback of patience is that we don’t know how the future will turnout.

- Are we objects or subjects
How patient we can be and how good can result from a bad situation depends very much on whether we are subjects or objects. I have already argued that patience is a function of the resources we have to wait for a better future and the material limits of our situation.

As subjects we think of ourselves as human beings with a degree of freedom and ability to choose. And we think of things we are obliged to do as duties. As objects we are more likely to fit a definition of slavery or forced existence by a higher power without any personal control. A good example would be North Koreans who are objects manipulated by an elite class of oppressors. South Korea is without any hesitation a society of subjects. This does not mean that everyone is equally wealthy, nor with equal access to opportunities but it does mean that choice features heavily on the responsibility of individuals: even taking into account that an Asian country like South Korea people are still deeply conformists to culture and social protocol.

- Is this an era of changes or a change of an era?
The “this” in “Is this an era of changes or a change of an era?” refers to the present and the post pandemic world. By definition an era of changes implies that certain aspects of the old system/society (pre pandemic) will change to meet certain conditions which did not exist in the past. For people in western countries it would be a massive change if we have to wear a face mask in public. However, people in the Far East countries have been wear such masks for decades.

A change of an era would require a change of society and our place in society. If we assume that a change of an era is for the better we still have to be patient because such transitions do not happen overnight. At least in our context this new era is not a product of warfare but rolling biological events. And even more importantly many people will have to change their status by virtue that we expect priorities and practices to also change. For example, we’ll have to reconsider wealth distribution and mind set, for example healthcare is not a matter of sick individuals but the collective well being.

The key issue for us is whether the good that we expect to experience after a bad situation or a change of an era is whether we become more subjects and less objects. But we always have the eternal question: why should those with a real advantage over most of the population give up their status to improve the condition of others?

Best Lawrence

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