Quarantine Diaries – Day 11
March 25th, 2020
It’s becoming harder and harder to follow this quarantine. What else did you expect? My brother and I were already stopped once for walking at night—at 11:30 pm, no less. Even the darkness, for God’s sake, no longer offers any refuge. What law are you breaking if there’s no one outside anyways?
I guess it all comes down to that age old philosophy first postulated in the Pliocene by Immanuel Kant—whose extraordinarily incomprehensible masterpiece, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, ushered in a new age of OG philosophy. This portrait was painted just after he was told that the quarantine would last another month.
Although Kant wasn’t happy about the news, he still knew that OGs don’t trip; they spit sick philosophy in the face of adversity, so he did exactly that: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” This categorical imperative has since taken the world by storm to such an extent that it’s been translated into just one language—that of parenting: “If everyone threw trash on the ground, what would the world look like?” Amazing, isn’t it?
This philosophical structure is capable of adopting many diverse forms of argument, such as: “If everyone went walking at night during a quarantine, what would a quarantine look like?”
Yes, many moments of childhood just flashed in front of my eyes. Although neither my father nor my mother had ever read Kant, I distinctively remember being scolded for throwing rubbish on the ground—on the grounds of Kant’s categorical imperative which my parents, as I’ve already stated, had, and probably to this day have never heard of—“If everyone were to do what you did, what would happen?” For God’s sake, God help me. Many philosophers no one’s ever read or even heard of have challenged Kant; however, that’s exactly the problem: I’ve never read them and I’ve never heard of them either.
If I was Mr. Woland, I could have breakfast with Mr. Kant and show him the seventh proof about why quarantines are bullshit, but I can neither be Mr. Woland and nor do I want to be him.
Let’s move on to something new that we’ve already discussed. Ah, yes, it doesn’t really make much sense—why are the police punishing people for walking in the dead of night when no one’s out? The answer, of course, has to do with Kant. There’s no one outside because everyone who’s staying at home is assuming that no one’s going out, but if they see two people breaking the law, of course they’ll say: “What would an Italian quarantine look like if everyone took midnight walks?” For the last time (not), to hell with it all.
I’ve only read the title of Michael Robin’s article “The Fallacy of ‘What Would Happen if Everybody Did That?’” but what I did manage to read impressed me very much.
I’ve also read the entire title of Elijah Millgram’s less convincing article, “Does the Categorical Imperative Give Rise to a Contradiction in the Will?” After reading the whole title very closely, I must say that Millgram’s argument is true. Kant’s categorical imperative is bullshit because it gives rise to a contradiction in the will.
There’s a quarantine and even though I myself know what it would look if everyone went outside at 12 am, I still can’t bring myself to stay inside because I’m a forsaken human being and I need movement. I’m not a 95 year old philosopher who’s still fully perceptive and still fully immobile.
To hell with Kant and my parents’ understanding of Kant. Unlike me, who has read at least the entire titles of the articles he’s quoting, my parents haven’t even read the good philosopher’s name.
No, I’m going outside because I’ve done my research. “If everyone went outside—” yeah, well, no one is outside except us, so what the hell does it matter? If the US passport ends up not working magic (which it won’t), I’ll just pull out more official documentation: “I, the undersigned Immanuel Kant, hereby declare that my distant cousin David can’t stay home. With this philosophical degree and also decree, I grant him full mobility, along with total immunity from any charges he may encounter hereafter.” If this doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will.
From the strictest philosophical perspective, the walk my brother and I took occured today—we left the house on March 25th, 2020 at 12:01 am to make the experience of breaking quarantine laws eligible for this diary entry; in the colloquial sense, however, we went out last night. Take it any way you want, dear reader; you can either have the complex, challenging, and philosophical way or choose the normal path. I’ll give you some time … not too long, though.
Ah, I knew you would make the right decision. It’s always nice to know that people care about unnecessarily complicated things. Anyways, since I have your attention again, let’s move on.
We left the house, I admit, a little bit afraid that we would be fined; as the walk commenced, however, the fear didn’t go away but the possibility of being penalized began to matter less and less until the fear itself eventually wore off as well.
By the end we were so confident that my brother even managed to convince his mind to make it convince his body that it should strike a pose like this. It’s very Louis XIV, except there’s no sun outside.
No, I couldn’t let my brother’s courage go unpunished—I, too, wanted a picture. Unfortunately, my pose wasn’t very royal at all; it smacks of “Let’s get out of here before the cops show up.”
Thinking about it now: Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to take pictures at a roundabout. I hope we won’t repeat the mistake of taking needless pictures here again. What do they say about history, however? Something about it being circular, or am I wrong? After the photoshoot, we went back on the street and enjoyed the silence for a second—it was dead quiet.
Another great opportunity to have a photoshoot soon presented itself not far from the original location. As you can tell, I’m much more confident and manly when there’s no chance for the police to see me; indeed, the tunnel provided some great cover to reveal my full testosterone levels that would’ve otherwise not revealed themselves if I was in plain sight.
After the second photoshoot, we finished our walk and returned home satisfied—for two reasons: The first was that we felt human again and the second was that we weren’t stopped. As my brother said: “It was good to clear the cobwebs of the mind.” I can really see how happy he is in this picture and I don’t blame him.
What is it that makes people feel so alive when they do something they shouldn’t? There have been many psychological studies which have noticed the correlation between higher levels of intelligence and an increased propensity for deviant behaviors. For example, The Atlantic wrote about a study conducted by British scientists which reached the conclusion that “High childhood IQ may increase the risk of illegal drug use in adolescence and adulthood.” Interesting, this might come in useful later, and it’s convenient to know that such claims are also supported by Psychology Today.
Another study demonstrated that intelligent people gravitate towards unnatural preferences and values that are novel in human evolution, meaning they have predispositions and tastes that ordinary humans don’t have and our ancestors didn’t possess. In other words, a greater intelligence gives people more agency to arrange their preferences and values independently of society’s obligations and demands.
Since people are greatly influenced by communal forces, those with lower intelligence levels are more likely to go along with the “wave” because they don’t have the necessary intellectual tools to see beyond the hypocrisy of society.
The oft-repeated argument is that we’re prisoners of our genes, so to say; however, the authors of the article state that the ability to have preferences can exist independently of genetic influence: “Similarly, genetic influences and constraints do not preclude individual acquisition and espousal of values and preferences. Individuals can still choose certain values and preferences even in the face of genetic predisposition.” This is good stuff; exactly what I needed to hear.
In all fairness, however, it should be noted that it’s higher intelligence who are more likely to develop preferences in contrast to their genetic predisposition and the influences of society, which is why, according to the authors, “more intelligent individuals are more likely to be nocturnal than less intelligent individuals,” which is just one of the novel preferences and values that more intelligent people may hold.
There, see? Psychologists have given more intelligent people the right to break quarantine. I joke, of course, high-functioning people have always needed to contend with restlessness.
Boredom and intelligence have never been married for too long, especially when the marriage is an arranged one that the government is forcing upon someone in the interest of the greater good.
I know. I know; this epidemic is serious, but sometimes the personal good needs to have fun as well; otherwise, it starts coming up with creative ideas like this—don’t take it too seriously; it’s just a new shadow play about Brutus killing Julius Caesar.
All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.
Until next time.
About David Garyan
David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with a full collection, (DISS)INFORMATION, with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.