THE OLD SMITHY, STAFFORDSHIRE – “Something very important, and indeed society changing, may come out of the Ebola epidemic that will be a very good thing: NO SHAKING HANDS!”
– Donald Trump, 4 October 2014
He was ahead of his time.
Funny thing, shaking somebody’s hand these days. Feels illicit.
You stretch out your hand in greeting, the movement of your arm almost unconscious.
Your acquaintance automatically begins to reciprocate. Programmed by thousands of past interactions, their brain begins raising their forearm to the 90-degree angle just like the manual instructs.
And then they pause. A freshly installed application in their brain – coronavirus.exe – has told them to stop. An expression of uncertainty suddenly falls across their face. You can almost see an egg-timer cursor appear in their eyes as mental disk space is suddenly allocated to processing an unexpected task.
Should I be impolite and decline the offer, they think… Try offering a fist/elbow bump instead… Or just shake their hand, risk infection and appear to not care about “the rules” in front of anybody watching?
On cue, the newly installed program opens the “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.fud” subroutine. Hesitation increases on their face as they suddenly ask themselves if the handshake you are offering will lead to their untimely demise.
Could this be the handshake I live to regret, they wonder. Could this be what changes the direction of my life into a slight upward angle on those charts being endlessly printed in the news?
… Or worse, could an incensed member of the public notice me shaking hands, start filming me with their smartphone, and make a scene out of it in public?
Decades of behavioural programming to accept a handshake – the “old tech” – is pitted against the insurgent new software installed in March.
Some seize the hand proffered and shake it warmly. Some gingerly grasp it in resignation. And some decline. Vladimir Putin, the handshake power-player extraordinaire, must be having a field day amid the chaos.
Whatever you choose to do when somebody extends their hand in greeting, I don’t mind. I’m not telling you to head out there and gregariously shake everybody’s hand. While the chances of being killed by this particular Chinese export are very low for the average man, it should be taken seriously. For those who are afflicted by it, the consequences can be truly grave.
I met a reader for drinks not long ago at a pub in London, who was in town because his son required urgent and specific medical attention from a certain hospital nearby. His son was a healthy man, and would not have been classed as a vulnerable member of the population. But upon contracting the virus, it had awakened a dormant and very severe underlying condition with a ruinous impact on his life.
That father’s tale of how his son had been turned away from A&E numerous times as his condition worsened (being told to “get on with it”) and only being admitted after having a stroke was a harrowing one.
“People need to take this virus seriously” that reader said simply, ending an email detailing the awful affair before I met him. I agree with that. My agreement with what the government is doing is another matter.
I have never received so many emails in such a short space of time than when I asked you what you thought of the new lockdown restrictions yesterday (Witching hour – 24 September).
Thank you for all your responses. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them all, and shall share several of them with you next week. Sadly, I do not have anywhere near enough space to print even a fraction of them, but do know that if you have sent a response, that I have read it, and very much appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.
If you haven’t responded to our poll yet, please do so below once you’re finished with this email. Just click whichever answer you agree with:
Do you think the new lockdown measures (UK) are necessary?
It’s interesting – and to me, really quite sad – to see how the welcoming handshake has been subverted into a boundary, a line in the sand that some will no longer cross.
Coronavirus is a physical affliction. But coronavirus.exe – the fear of human contact – is a devious and disruptive mental one. It’s a virus that we all downloaded and installed our minds back in March, and for which nobody is developing a vaccine.
Wishing you a good weekend,
Editor, Capital & Conflict
Category: Market updates