How quickly we forget

I am on the board of an association, and they just held their biggest event of the year. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this summer conference.

But maybe that is a good thing. Already in the evening after the three days, it became clear: there were a few infections with Covid. Of course, we cannot yet say how many there are quite yet.

Covid? I remember that there was something.

The current situation makes me wonder, but also reminds me again how little multitasking we are capable of.

We wished the pandemic away, and when war broke out in Ukraine, we had something new that needed our full attention. Forgotten was the disease, and yet when it keeps popping up on the sidelines – a summer wave, new variants, warnings from our big neighbor’s cautious health minister – we react … not.

I’ve been privileged to attend a few events lately, whether it was a concert, my son’s birthday, or a party for 200 volunteers and paid staff at a church.

Nowhere was Corona an issue.

Forgetting is a wonderful quality, a privilege for us humans. Forgetting is possible only because we can consciously remember things in the first place.

Forgetting creates space for new things but also helps us to heal after negative experiences.

Forgetting is a double-edged sword. It can help us deal with change, or it can block change. The same is true, of course, for remembering.

When Corona came, I was very hopeful, not forgetting, of course, the suffering that came with the disease. But I saw the possibilities that were there.

Unfortunately, we humans generally only change when we are forced to. The conditions were–and are–good.

We have a culture war in the USA and England, which is slowly spreading to Europe and which makes communication impossible for whole sections of the population. Like the story of the Tower of Babel, they no longer speak a common language, aided by–and this is almost ironic–the most modern means of communication ever available to mankind.

We have a pandemic. It reminds me of the Reformation, which was accompanied by a plague.

And the parallel continues as war followed the Reformation as well.

In addition, we have climate change, another problem that we have almost forgotten about. The war even forces us to do what we want to avoid: to pollute the atmosphere even more.

Also around the Reformation, there was already a climate phenomenon: the Little Ice Age.

The parallelism is amazing. Also to the time around the two world wars, with the Spanish flu and the beginning of a new world view.

The Reformation is at the beginning of modernity, and the world wars are at the beginning of postmodernity. What happens now?

There are still many such constellations that have not led to a rethinking of parts of society. Will we manage to take another step this time, or will we stand still because we forget and want to go back to the old normal? Or are we even falling behind because we can no longer communicate with each other?

Our current behavior rather points towards regression. We unpack our warrior thinking, be it in the struggle between world views, or the Ukraine war.

We negate the pandemic and climate change and wish for nothing more than to simply live our lives, and that all dissenters would finally understand that our way of thinking will bring the solution.

Traditional evangelicals trust that Jesus will return and bring the solution and hope that as many as possible will still accept their faith. Other traditional people just think that certain moral behaviors would solve all problems.

Modern people rely on technology: electric vehicles, a multi-planetary society, and extraction of CO2 from the air. If only everyone else didn’t stand in the way of progress.

And the postmoderns see the solution in new forms of society and living with less until realpolitik demands otherwise.

This can be seen in small things: people want to meet again, and that’s why they forget the simplest rules of the pandemic: handshakes and hugs are back, the mask is gone, and the distance is no longer observed. Forgotten and actively repressed.

And this is reflected on a large scale: in order not to have to do without, gasoline is subsidized, and coal-fired power plants are ramped up. Minimum distances for wind turbines are written into the law.

If war, pandemics, culture wars, and climate change are not enough to make us rethink, what is?