2020: A Purple Passage in History

The first 7 percent of the new decade has made recent history seem like salad days for most of the globe. The coronavirus and George Floyd’s death have spurred massive calls for massive societal changes. But being angry will not register change. Only humility can bring change.

I have not experienced many decades in my life – only two thus far. The first contained my salad days (23), full of innocence, little league games, and video games; the second was a meat grinder of life lessons, triumphs, and failures – college, another college, life in England, Poland, and now Malta.

I anticipate for the third decade to be the catalyst (15) decade, one of building a career, a family; one where I need to exert two decades’ experience into all that I do. At age twenty-nine, I felt young, and the world was my oyster. A day later, when turning thirty, I am wondering where my oyster went.

The third decade of my life is my notional (16) catalyst decade. It appears that 2020 is a catalyst year, even only just a half-year, for the world. We can say for certain that 2020 is a purple passage (12) of recent history, one that may have as much global impact as 2001, post September 11.

For most of the first half of 2020 – this beautiful, symmetrically numbered decade – the coronavirus pandemic (8) panicked us. The only way to fight the novel virus was to go on complete lockdown. Close up shop, work from home, no visits to loved ones in hospitals, no gatherings, no sports and no social life were the antidote. Was it the right way to fight a mildly infectious but supremely deadly disease? I do not know. I was cynical of it all until I realised that this global disease could, and did, affect my immediate sphere of influence. The extent to which lockdowns and quarantines were effective is up to Doctors and Masters of Sciences to decide, and not Masters and Bachelors of Arts like myself.

The lockdowns did give us time to slow down and reflect on what is valuable in life. We do not need to be moving at breakneck speed with our jobs and life all the time; we can slow down. Many of us discovered new hobbies and passions. Working remotely is exploding, home gardening is sprouting, and appreciating our families and loved one (sorry, no hyperlink available for that anecdotal observation) have been positive aftereffects of the societal lockdowns used to combat the coronavirus. We may rethink how we travel, how we work, and how we play. These are just a few catalysts of change in our culture (25).

We had just a few happy (4) minutes in the interim between an ecdemic and the next fret. Before you could step outside and arrive to a shop, we found ourselves impugned (21) with chaos on the streets.

From the coronavirus to George Floyd we experiencd a diapason (18) of social changes – changes in the home and changes in society complement each other in a sharp octave.

The first half of 2020 created chaos off the streets; the second half of this first tenth of the new decade kicked off with chaos on the streets.

On May 25, a police officer in Minnesota carelessly killed George Floyd. George Floyd’s name is another metonymy (14) for the Black Lives Matter movement. Floyd, Ahmaud Abery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, and several others are namesakes for the plea of the black community for just treatment; Colin Kaepernick’s name is a metonymy for the movement, too; proper nouns (5) forever linked to this social movement.

A movement that started on a knee was reignited by another knee. Now, protests (22) run through the world and its partakers demand for everyone to listen and educate themselves on the racism (2) that the black community faces every day.

For three months, we were kept off the streets because of a virus. The streets are now full of riots (13) and melees (17); peaceful protests are overshadowed by thuggish (11) behaviour. Protests, the peaceful kind, wholesome and good, to be useful agents of change in our society. However, the plea to end “racism” and “fascism” (1) rings hollow when these terms have been ambiguously (19) used for many years now. Real white supremacists (10) are able to fly under the radar when we start to say that being “not racist” is complicity in racism; in other words, a “not racist” is a homonym (24) for racist. If we start conflating folks like Drew Brees, one who donates $5 million of his own money to help all feed people in need, as partially racist (assuming I understand the not-racist/complicity argument) because he has not done enough to fight racists, then we are dealing with swathes of racist and the real racists and white supremacists can operate under cover.

As long as we live in a broken, sinful world, there will always be racism. You and I may not be racists, but we are guilty of hate, mockery, scorn, derision, and selfishness – ingredients that stand as their own sins. Racism is a cocktail of all these sinful ingredients.

However, Floyd’s death exemplifies (6) a different problem I see in my homeland: the needed institution of our police force is militarized as they need to combat a militarized population. A dormant threat on the street requires an active presence of brute force.

On end of the spectrum you have America, where the population is either armed and responsible, armed and dangerous, or armed and stupid. On the other end, you have countries like England, where officers are not armed and the population cannot protect themselves from rampant knife-wielding maniacs. In the middle of this spectrum are countries such as Poland and Malta, and I can only speak for these two because I have lived there for an extended amount of time.

In Poland, the Polish police do carry guns, and guns are hard to come by as an individual. My wife and I felt completely safe in Poland.  We now live in Malta, the 18th most armed country in the world, and the Maltese police force are armed. Again, we feel supremely safe in this tiny country (fireworks pose more of a threat than firearms here). We have observed a sensible balance of an armed protective force and an armed population.

Defunding the American police force is asinine as long as the Second Amendment is around. That is no sarcasm (3) – there is a call for defunding the police is America. Abolishing the right for citizens to obtain legal weapons for self-defence is not the solution, either, given what can be observed in England. I do not know the actual rigours or requirements it takes to become a police officer, but I would venture to assume that raising the bar for entry as a police officer should be done in order to keep the “bad apples” out of the forces. Likewise, I am under the belief that acquiring a gun should be a sensibly strenuous process of training, certification, and stringent background checks. We should make our officers truly earn their position; we should make our citizens truly earn their guns.  An environment where citizens can live, act, and defend themselves autonomously (7) must be couched between a respectable and responsible police force.

However, this proposed catalyst for change in how we conduct ourselves as a society that I hope the events of post-George Floyd will inspire is only a small part of the whole equation. Finding the way forward  comes in a less bombastic way.

The solution to decreasing violence, decreasing “police brutality”, decreasing hate, and, really, just decreasing general misery altogether comes through an under-utilized, underdone verb (20): humble. We think of being humble more as an adjective (9) to describe someone who has a low opinion of one’s own importance, or is modest and meek. In order to obtain the adjective of humble to your name, though, you must perform to the verb-form of humble.

Being humble makes our stumbles less drastic and overt. The officer responsible for Floyd’s death may not have been a racist, but he certainly was acting haughty and proud in his position of power. His lack of humility as a civil servant put America into another civil rights tumble.

There is no humility in acting violently, either as an abusive police officer or as an indignant protestor. Acting violently exhibits supreme pride and arrogance; “Your existence is beneath me, so I must destroy thee.”

Why should we humble ourselves? Because it is the only way to learn. When you know you know nothing, learning comes easily and fruitfully.

God promises to show us the way if we walk with meekness, with humbleness.

Psalm 25:7-9

Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.

The meek (the humble) will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.

King James Version

Words of the Week for June 2-9, 2020: some highlights

I wanted to try something new with this blog series via the above prattling. This week’s rankings of the most popular words of the week according to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Online Dictionary does not contain all words in a sequential breakdown. Instead, I went for a full thematic approach. I composed an essay-of-sorts that contained all twenty-five words. It was a jostle of the brain and a good way to verbalize myself thoughts and opinions on the recent happenings in the world.

However, I did not want to leave you without some insights and tidbits on select words from this week. I would be ashamed if I did not tell you the surprising source of origin of the word “thug”:

11. Thug

A group of professional robbers or murderers in India characteristically strangling their victims.

These are not the kind of thugs with whom the nation of America, currently dis-united, is dealing. However, the word “thug” does originate from Hindi and Sanskrit. In Hindi it is thag, a thief; in Sanskrit it is sthaga, rogue.

A thug is a person inclined or hired to treat another roughly, brutally, or murderously.  

12. Purple passage

Something stark; a passage that stands out in a rather dull prose.

14. Metonymy

A figure of speech that consists in using the name of one thing for that of something else with which it is associated.  

15. Catalyst

An agent that provokes or precipitates catalysis.

18. Diapason

A part in music sounding at the octave; a tuning fork.

21. Impugn

A verb meaning “to assail physically; oppose, resist.”

Its origins lie with Middle English, impugnen; from the Middle French impugner; from the Latin impugnare.

Pugnare means “to fight”. It is where we get the word “pugnacious.”

23. Salad days

A plural noun meaning “days of youthful inexperience or indiscretion.” It was first known to be used in 1606.  

Leave a Reply