The last couple of months have been really tough and I know that I am not alone in that. We have all had to live under the stress of an unknown and invisible enemy that no one knew exactly what would do or what the consequences of everything was.

So we quarantined ourselves, locked ourselves away in hope of staving of this pandemic. It is by no means over and as I sit here in Southern Norway, it has once again reared its ugly head, and I am worried. Not just about the disease, but also about all the people that will be once again locked away for Gods only know how long.

There seems to be a thought from the world governments, and I don’t disagree, that we need to be provided for during this crisis. Granted political game playing has left a lot of that help locked in limbo, so that makes people suffer even more.

I have myself left the lack of clients to write for and considering I have a very fluctuating income, the government, in the guise of our social security system, has basically made it impossible for me to get any support. Now that being said, I don’t suffer as much as many other across the world and I don’t like dragging myself into this, but it is a way of me relating to those who have a problem with meeting their daily needs, or the basics of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. Not knowing if you can make your credit card bills is not a nice feeling, or knowing if you can put food on the table.

But there is something else that is driving the clear anger and hostility towards each other these days, and it has become even clearer over this crisis. A few months ago I started to open up about struggling with depression, or an existential angst. The other day it got triggered again because I was struggling with seeing how I can make ends meet, so I am not denying that the needs also played into it. But after a while of wallowing in self-pity, I also started to feel an intense feeling of guilt.

How could I a Norwegian white male approaching 40 years old, not be able to get all of my needs met? And how am I not supplying an entire family with their needs? The old thought patterns of my days in post-modernism and inter-sectionalism started to creep back in. This is stuff that my inner editor, the devil on my shoulder, loves. He thrives off of it.

“Yeah, Jan Helge, how dare you be a disappointment to the world? No wonder she fucking left you.”

You get the picture.

I have long been concerned about the path we set young men on and it feels like this kind of thing has been going on since I was a kid. When I was a child, I was a sponge, kind of still am, to knowledge. Any knowledge, any idea would fascinate me, but I would quickly get distracted with the next one. This would annoy my teachers to no end. Some of them even told me that if I didn’t focus, I would not end up doing anything great. Sometimes those teachers are proven right in my head.

I wouldn’t call myself a school loser, or “skoletaper” as us Norwegians call it, but there was definitely a sense that most of my teachers did not like me. I never got a feeling of belonging at school. I’d get lost when I came home in stories of Norse, Greek and Celtic gods. They always had a purpose and they never wavered.

A psychologist I follow on Twitter said it best the other day. “Men without mission are men without hope.” It is basically a paraphrasing of the quote from Nietzsche “Give a man a why and he will bear any how.” I may be butchering that quote, but as I am writing this I am quite tired and cannot be bothered finding the exact quote.

The point is still the same. Having your basic needs met is all well and good, and we should do our utmost that everyone is covered in this crisis. But there needs to be something more. I belong to and have friends in the Norwegian cultural scene. It is basically dead right now. No one can stage plays, arrange a concert, etc. The worst part isn’t necessarily the money as a lot of people are covered. We have even discussed having a sort of UBI like structure to the people working in culture during these times.

But I see another huge issue rearing its head. People are losing their purpose for not having the ability to work. There is no reason to hang on when things get tough. I may be projecting, but I have felt like this crisis has uncovered the faulty idea that all you need is filling your material needs.

A friend of mine represented this belief perfectly as well when he told me that he had no sympathy for some rich asshole who was driving recklessly under the influence. He should not have any problems and he can just cry into his pile of money. If you think that all men, or people in general, need are piles of money, then you forget all the things in life that really give you meaning. We need to realize that as well as material needs, we also have spiritual, or psychological if you want, needs.

Guidance, culture and the ghosts of our ancestors are broadcast through the stories and rites that we now have dismissed.

I apologize if this blog post is a bit messy, but I was simply writing down some thoughts I had on the matter.

Please feel free to yell at me in the comments or on Twitter.

JH Lillevik is a writer of sci-fi and fantasy. He writes screenplays, novels and short stories. He also works as a writing consultant for upcoming writers. His specialty is mythology, world building and psychology.

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