Kaupo Meiel: A perfect day for panicfish

Kaupo Meiel.
Kaupo Meiel. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Basically, there is always panic about something, whether justified or not. We can talk about the new coronavirus in a calm fashion and publish sensible and reassuring articles about how to recognize the virus or avoid it, but panic will persist, Kaupo Meiel finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

Back when I was still a schoolboy, a frightful tale was doing the rounds where I lived, which I will now try to retell in a slightly more modern form.

A man arrives home after a day's work. He steps into the room and a voice says out of nowhere, "the novel coronavirus has reached your country." Sounds scary. After a short break, the voice says, "the novel coronavirus is in your county." The man starts to shake a little. After another pause, the next message, "novel coronavirus in your city." By this point, the man starts losing his cool.

The message comes again: "The novel coronavirus has reached your street." "All is lost," the man thinks, now in a state of panic. "The novel coronavirus is in your bedroom."

Fear and panic overwhelm the poor man, his heart cannot take it and he collapses on the kitchen floor. A few seconds later, the strange voice: "You heard this month's radio drama episode. Thank you for listening!"

This properly terrifying and tutorial story was about the coming of the "black hand" back in my childhood, while not just every era, but every week or even day has its own "black hand." A minor panic was even caused by snow that came down in the middle of winter this week, while it is nothing compared to the panic fueled by news of the spread of the coronavirus.

Lithuania even declared a national emergency, meaning that standing between Estonia and normal life going out the window was, as usual, naught but Latvia and it was possible to say, "coronavirus approaching!" Once it turned out a patient suspected of having the virus had been quarantined at the Pärnu Hospital, laconic cries of horror could already be heard.

While suspicions proved groundless in the case of the Pärnu patient, another seed of panic had been planted. And when the first case of the disease was confirmed in Estonia on Thursday, the earlier panic drive was even vindicated.

As usual, institutions and organizations are trying to calm the population and say that there is no cause for panic. As they should. While these organizations will never say with an equal measure of clarity that now is the time for panic: "Get started, withdraw your pension savings and stock cans and dry goods!"

And so suspicions will linger that perhaps they're hiding something again, perhaps it is worse than it looks. To retain a measure of self-control, a glass of sugar water is needed. Luckily, every sensible household has stockpiles of sugar after the sugar panic of 2011.

Basically, there is always panic, whether justified or not. We can talk about the new coronavirus in a calm fashion and publish sensible and reassuring articles about how to recognize the virus or avoid it, but panic will persist.

Panic is neither bad nor good by nature. It is an unavoidable natural phenomenon, like snow or storm winds. Panic has the power to unite people. Liberals and conservatives are reaching out to each other in friendship… hopefully both have washed and disinfected their hands.

When I started thinking about where in Estonian cultural heritage is the nature of panic described best, I found it to be the movie "Noor pensionär." After the wedding chariot accident, Laine, played by Leida Rammo, cries: "We won't have time to get the Russian salad now!" While Ervin Abel's Pukspuu tries to calm her by claiming to have connections in the culinary world, no one listens to him anymore.

The heart wants what the heart wants. We'll have ourselves a panic if that is what it takes, to ward off boredom if nothing else. The virus will not care and will spread whether we panic or not, while panicking makes life more interesting. Be safe, and we can pick up this conversation should we meet in the quarantine ward.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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