There’s an almost certainly untrue story about the peasant woman who was so intent on milking her cow, she didn’t realise that WW1 was being fought above and all around her. But while the facts of the story are almost certainly day-dreamt, the story carries a truth: people are capable often focus on the most minor matters, while hugely major matters rage all around.
Take the US. It’s in the grip of a terrible plague that is killing tens of thousands of people – over the quarter million mark right now. And what is the nation’s attention focused on? Soon-to-be-gone President Trump waving at the Proud Boys and other sad people, who are convinced that any fact they don’t like must be a lie.
Or take the UK. It’s in the grip of the same plague and is doing dreadfully badly at controlling it. Even as a vaccine appears on the distant horizon, the British people are watching their government bumbling around and urging people to, er, take care, wash your hands, um, we’ll probably have Christmas shopping and God bless all here. Meanwhile the media are inflating and examining the fact that Dominic Cummings has been dumped! Let’s probe the why and wherefores of that interesting story, take our minds off the fact that people are dying, businesses folding and the unemployment queues thickening and deepening at warp speed.
Not to be out-done, the Irish government is caught up in the case of Justice Seamus Woulfe. You remember – of Golfgate fame. His colleagues, including the Chief Justice, have said they couldn’t work with him. But Justice Woulfe says that would be unfair, he made a mistake and apologised, nothing to see here, this judge is for Supreme Court hire. And with the news headlines focused on that, the Covid virus shows the uselessness of borders by raging throughout the north and across into Donegal; and companies are tanking and workers are at home wondering when if ever they’ll be able to work again.
Shakespeare used in his tragedies a device known as comic relief, where there’d be a bit of knock-down verbal interplay, even as the tragedy wound up a notch in the background. Maybe life is imitating art. Maybe we’re wondering about Woulfe, and Cummings, and Trump’s latest lie, while the corpses are piling up by the thousands.