Singapore has moved into “code orange” level in what is called the DORSCON / Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (yes, Singaporeans do love their acronyms, I’m still trying to figure it all out).
The knee-jerk response to this? Toilet paper. Singaporeans have cleared the supermarket shelves of toilet paper. Yup.
There is no easy answer to this terrifying conundrum created by humans. I’m not even going into the disgusting eating habits of the Chinese in Mainland China. The argument will keep rolling, compounding and exploding over and over again, until summer arrives in the Middle Kingdom and the viciousness of the virus simmers down and goes into hiding (for awhile, before the next mutation breaks out).
Here’s an interview with Professor Paul Tambyah, an expert on infectious disease.
I am no specialist on the matter from the lofty viewpoint of medicine (hey, I cannot know EVERYTHING, can I?), but what the prof and I both agree on is that humans really need to practice much better hygiene on a daily basis and avoid crowds (or better yet, don’t create crowds in the first place).
The (very sound) advice to avoid crowds, wash hands frequently, wear a surgical mask if you’re unwell (so as not to spread your bodily fluids all over the place) etc shouldn’t apply only to times like these, when the outbreak has created chaos almost all over the world. I consider this basic decency, to be honest. However, the majority of people in the normative realm have no idea what I’ve been ranting about since I was a wee lass in bloomers. (If you do not know what bloomers are, go check it out in the dictionary, please.)
Lately, I’ve been musing over this rather sombre human circus, while following the news closely in Singapore as well as overseas.
Perhaps, the normative population may learn something from the Autistic paradigm?
Autistics mostly avoid crowds, unless we are deliberately or unintentionally ‘masking’ (pretending to be like neuronormatives, most prevalent during massive displays of “inspirational” sentiments in the form of large, loud and sensorially assaultive gatherings for the purpose of “disability awareness”).
Many of us are averse to human touch (especially from strangers or people we do not know intimately); and we suffer sensory overload from stimuli the normative view as ‘normal’ or innocuous (most normative folks do not even notice the horrible cacophony they create).
Noisy chatter, smelly bodies reeking either of cheap perfume or urine (yes, urine!!!) or perspiration, human bodies in varying states of rancidity exchanging secretions casually via handshaking or social hugging, overly bright and piercing indoor lights that trigger migraine, horrible music blasting away in malls… etc.
And the normative label us “socially impaired”???? There is something seriously wrong with this construction of ‘normality’, and it’s times like these that the anomalies show up most glaringly.
I’m so exhausted from ‘masking’ (very different from physically donning a surgical mask), that thing that autistic people are forced to do by neuronormative social circumstances, suppressing our natural autistic traits in order to appear non-autistic and be more ‘acceptable’ to non-autistics. As I age, I become increasingly tired of pandering to normative dictates, especially when they are illogical, absurd and even harmful to my wellbeing. Too much time and energy is spent on this depleting and meaningless activity.
What may the neuronormative learn from us Autistics that could be immensely beneficial to everyone, all of human society, not just during pandemics but in everyday life? Many things, but here are only four.
Quietude. Why must there be so much noise? Even if you do not notice the ill effects, too much noise is harmful to the body, do you people even know the science behind this?
Avoid crowds. Don’t add your body into the sizzling cocktail of putrefaction out there.
Stop exchanging or spreading your bodily fluids as a casual social practice. Handshaking, social hugging among strangers etc – are these really necessary to your survival? What’s wrong with a nod or smile from a healthy distance?
Respect the sacredness of the corporeal Self when in the midst of Others.
Learn to enjoy your own company. Solitude does not necessarily mean being lonely. (I am never lonely or bored. I have myriad things to do that I wish I could plunge into – intensely and passionately – undisturbed by the demands of human social interactivity. But ok, this bit is just me, I am not speaking for all Autistics in this fourth point.)
Just four simple things (all of which are extensions of one basic principle) could help tremendously in managing desperate situations like this current one. Also, not particularly Autistic, but more like stern advice from this middle-aged, grumpy Autistic Bunny: see a doctor and self-quarantine when you feel the slightest bit unwell. Wear a mask if you need to venture outside. It’s not 100% effective but it does help somewhat to prevent the spread of germs. And stop saying ridiculous things to people who do not want to partake of the droplets you are spewing into the air.
A few days ago, the Singapore government announced the distribution of free surgical masks at Community Centres, each family unit is entitled to four. Yes, four. Well, Singaporean’s from ALL walks of life, and I mean from the HDB Aunties and Uncles to those living in huge bungalows tucked well inside prime land and driving BMWs and Mercedes, converged upon the various collections centres for the freebies. Sigh… Singaporeans!
And now… as a response to the DARSCON ‘code orange’, people are rushing in droves (thus creating even more alarming possibilities for spreading unwanted bodily fluids) to supermarkets to stock up, in case they … erm… run out of toilet paper? … are quarantined? … what???? Am I missing out on something gravely important here?
The above photographs are screenshots from this morning’s Straits Times article: “Coronavirus: Politicians, supermarkets urge calm amid panic-buying of groceries”.
Dear Singaporeans: You really and truly don’t need to hoard toilet paper, rice, instant noodles etc. if you’d only just practice these simple fundamentals. As I mentioned in my previous rant, viruses will be viruses, they behave as they are, this is what they do as a matter of fact. We humans need to thus make adjustments to our behaviours and habits, since we are unable to reason with viruses, right? Duh. Any disease or infection will be much easier to contain, it doesn’t need to be something dramatic and vicious as a coronavirus outbreak. Besides, your common cold or cough could actually kill someone who has weakened immunity – do you know that?
The above advice is given free, without charge.
This is not social impairment.
This is sensible and respectful practice.
Maybe some neuronormative folk might need 40 hours a week of intensive behaviour therapy to learn good hygiene habits and respectful, healthy social interaction? Send me an email, I can help, but be warned, I do charge for that.
Remember, only an Expert can deal with the problem!
C’est la vie!