A dip into the doldrums, followed by hysterical laughing, like a hyena, with friends on a Party App — or with the kids. So it goes, or swings, in the time of coronavirus. When not meeting the social media “invasion of imbeciles”, to use Umberto Eco’s memorable phrase, I’m watching too much television news.
Fancy the clunk-headedness of protesting the Angela Merkel Lockdown Light that’s enabled Germany to avoid the worst of the coronavirus pandemic so far. Unlike, in say, Paris or London, Munich’s major parks have never closed. Consider that Saturday protests in Stuttgart, Munich and other German cities, are against a Lockdown — as it’s lifting — that made the demos possible in the first place.
Anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and rabble-rousers of both the far right and left, are railing against restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, as they’re assembling to freely express.
But Germany’s protests pale alongside the moral carnage we’ve seen in the US. At least Trump popping pills against medical advice — his mind on the Javel under the sink? — has made clear, if further clarity were needed, that electing him to the White House was a mightily chancy undertaking.
The pandemic has reminded us that governing is a deeply serious business, and reaffirming Trump cum November, looks more than ever like the Great Non-Solution, except for those of us still angry when better-educated, smarter, harder working and more adaptable people than us, get higher grades and better jobs, even when of the wrong sex and colour.
Observers who initially credited the US President with one or two good ideas, if not his own, must now surely be seeing those selfsame ideas as the occasional eruption of a kind of wildcat mental grasping, blissfully free of strategy or follow-up. Shock tactics, whatever the dangers, at least prevent one from talking inaudibly. And while injecting bleach was not actually Trump’s idea, he quickly became its tacit advocate once the glorious thought of it lodged like a sand worm in his ear.
Strangely re-humanising as Lockdown comes to an end, is the return to more prosaic, daily concerns — like hair-cuts for the kids. My 13 year-old’s adolescent attitude means she’s refusing to get hers lopped, though long like Rapunzel’s. Resisting my offer of a ‘bowl haircut’ — cutting around a rimmed dish normally reserved for scrambling eggs — my 11 year-old, unknowingly impersonating Johnny Ramone, accepted that his mother cut his free-form with the kitchen scissors. But the result is much the same. He now looks like a small Friar Tuck.
These days my German is good enough to venture out to a hair salon or barber. I know in advance I’ll choose the barber, at €11.50, and not the upmarket hairdresser just downstairs. Like any good liberal, I seek to integrate: in Germany, I won’t spend the money I’ve got; in France for many years, I’d readily spend the money I didn’t have — a kind of metaphor for the way government and administration work in both countries.
Well, if one is thickening at the gills, hair getting long and carpet-like in a stretch at the back, one can look in profile like the top of a ham, thigh with a face on it, or hyena. Initially I was oblivious, because a second mirror is needed to see oneself from the side and my son, when still a Ramone, shattered it performing shrilly in the back bathroom. In fact, he loves opera, sings with the kids’ choir of the subsidised Volksoper here. Would never have heard of the Ramones — though, as if by coincidence, is quasi-obsessed with hyenas.
The obsession began with the marauding spotted furry ones in the cartoon version of The Lion King. But his sympathy for cretinous characters, coercive politicians notwithstanding, started with the expectorating Gaston, his feet up on the table in Beauty and the Beast; then haggard Cruella in 101 Dalmations, and Cinderella’s ugly sisters (who else knows their names in three languages?) — who by the way, like hyenas, are an intensely matriarchal society.
Anyway, the hyena interest has broadened. Friends who visit can be asked to watch hyena documentaries on You Tube (decline, and he goes into a silent funk). Or perhaps now to join a planned first post-Lockdown trip an hour’s drive from here to Augsburg, where he has discovered (oh no!), that the zoo has hyenas.
If I don’t get my hair cut before then, they may greet me as a shoulderless one of their own.