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Pishers, Michael Rosen, viral illness and the Passover story (timely I know, as it is Easter soon)

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I was listening to Michael Rosen’s ‘So They Call You Pisher!’ yesterday.

He reached the point in his memoir, 1962, when recalls the Cuban Missile Crisis. I didn’t live through that period, being born a decade later, although I am sure the feeling at the time was a combination of fear/panic/dread mixed with inevitability/helplessness (with perhaps some preparedness – there must have been some panic buying).

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We all know the narrative.

It came to a head; both sides, the USA and USSR reached a public and private agreement and life continued.

The last scare I lived through was quite recently – Brexit; there was word that we would run-out of insulin for diabetics, that the M18 would become a carpark and the cost of food and drink would sky-rocket.

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Remember Yellowhammer?

I believed all this, and I guess a little like the Cuban Crisis, I panicked and felt a little helpless, although I did walk through London on the 19th of October in protest and do my best to rally Labour support at the election.

Before that, there have been various virus scares – Sars, Mers, Bird Flu, Swine Flu and Ebola (I think Mers was to do with camels and Ebola monkeys.) (Funny how we so often hold animals responsible for these things.)

We have a fear of global warming, of cancer, heart disease and stroke, the worry about the sustainability of the NHS, cyber-terrorism, hackers attacking your email or bank account, Russia, Iran and so on.

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The central theme here is of course our media and their ability to tap into that part of our brains so closely associated with the essence of my blog; the fear-centre. The amygdala. The almond core that inhibits or facilitates creative solutions to life’s challenges – turn it on, stimulate and we resort to survival instincts, thinking of ourselves and no one else; we buys all the face masks, steal hand-gel, stock-pile salt or petrol or switch to Duck-Duck-Go. Whatever the narrative suggests or dictates we do, we follow.

Any why is this?

Well, talking with my family when I had the distinct need to panic buy and hoard face-masks and rubber gloves the other day, (I didn’t); not only is this deeply rooted in the brains of every one of us, it is (at least I believe) amplified in some groups.

I can talk about being Jewish, as I have a special insight;

Who are the Jews?

Well, they are people, a mixed bunch of individuals as similar or different as anyone else; racist biases don’t really work.

Yet, when you look at the history of the Jewish People (not at the Simon Schama level of detail, more broad-brush strokes), you see there has been persecution going-on for a long time.

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Essentially, Jewish people would find a home – Russia, England, Spain, Iran, get on with life like everyone else, the local population would get fed-up over something, blame the Jews and then you have Pogroms, Inquisitions or Clifford’s Tower.

Who died?

Well, again, it was a mixture of people, young and old, good and bad. Yet, what might have tipped the balance, and here, I am combining neuroanatomy with biblical studies, so it could get ropey, is the people with an anxious predisposition, or perhaps the proactive ones or likely the proactive, anxious individuals (an invidious combination) would be seen the signs, and run-off; this is the great population shifts of Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe to America and the UK or the dispersal of the Spanish Jews or, in very olden times, the daubing blood on the door-post and running off to Sinai as with Moses and pursuant Pharaoh. (Those who had a long-lie and enjoyed fully leavened bread didn’t likely get the chance to enter the Promised Land) (or spend 40 years wandering).

Now, what brings all of this together?

Is it surprising that yesterday (7/3/2020) Israel banned all flights from the UK? Was this not merely a country being proactive and a little anxious? And, what do we know about anxiety? Well, most of what we worry about doesn’t happen. The things that get you, those trials and tribulations tend to be the ones where you are worrying about the summer holidays, you cough blood and discover it is lung cancer, that kind of thing. All best described in the song/poem ‘Wear Sunscreen’

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Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday

Wear Sunscreen, Baz Lurhmann

To bring this all together, I suppose my message is to chill, although not be too worried if you can’t chill. Some of us just have it inside of us to think the worst. I taught my brother a new word yesterday – Anankastic, this is an extended version of OCD.

You can worry that you have left the car unlocked or you can go and check. And you can double and triple check.

Will you or I die from Coronavirus?

What has history taught us?

Probably to not worry too much.

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