By Indranie Deolal
With its big, bright yellow sign, “Khan’s Hideout Bar” proved anything but a safe drinking hole for 17 thirsty men who defied COVID-19 regulations on Tuesday, and ended up being arrested at the Montrose, East Coast Demerara establishment.
Judging from the photographs released by the Guyana police force, which was tipped off about the illegal gathering, none wore a mask, although a few did manage caps. While the nonchalant group was placed on bail, there was no word about any action against the owner or operator of the bottom-house tavern. Did the reckless men believe the best way to avoid touching their faces meant holding a full glass in each hand or maybe they told the mysterious bartender, “We will each have a Corona, hold the virus please”?
I could tell another coronavirus joke, but you would have to wait for two whole weeks to see if you got it. In our ongoing locked down household, my cheerful husband and careful children help spread the light and dark humour, as a way of coping with the continuing challenges of 2020 which is going viral faster than anyone thought it could.
Yet, this August week, I did not feel like laughing much given a sudden stomach bug, steady fever and a dreaded cough which I optimistically put down to allergies, especially since I righteously avoided, for the eighth straight month all beckoning beaches, bars and beauty spots.
Dip and sip
Last weekend, hundreds of others were not so cautious, curiously choosing to crowd Trinidad’s north coast for a last public dip and a last public sip before the pandemic and precautions conveniently resumed Monday morning, as the returning prime minister freed from close-contact contagion and campaigning, rolled back not just the opposition but also a raft of previously relaxed measures.
He again banned in-house dining at restaurants and bars; stopped contact sports; and closed all teaching institutions, beaches, rivers, places of worship, water parks, casinos, members clubs and cinemas. The government plans to make wearing a mask mandatory, but critics sneer that the defeated party leader need not worry for she already wears a permanent one.
The British-born Evolutionary Theorist, Alastair Clarke, published the universal study of humour called the Pattern Recognition Theory a few years ago. He found that more than a hundred types of humour is based on the surprise recognition of only eight patterns, regardless of civilisation or culture.
He argues that we are able to find jokes funny because our brain recognises patterns, such as in language, an ability that has been important to our species’ survival, helping us to quickly understand and function in changing environments.
We are rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast as laughter, encouraging more pattern recognition in the future, he explained. Pattern recognition starts early, with babies able to giggle at games like Peek-A-Boo, based on surprise repetition or a clear style that alters unexpectedly.
Clarke even suggested a fancy equation for identifying the cause and level of our responses to any humorous stimuli: h = m x s. Since, we rely, for behavioural instruction, on culturally inherited information, accuracy is obviously important. Yet the individual is exposed to the continual threats of error and deception, which can affect one’s chances of survival and success.
To compensate, humour rewards us for seeing through misinformation that has come close to taking us in. The pleasure we get (h) is calculated by multiplying the degree of misinformation perceived (m) by the extent to which the individual is susceptible to taking it seriously (s).
Humour therefore exists to encourage us to take information apart and to reject that which is unsound and could potentially harm our prospects, he added. Every time we laugh, we have successfully achieved this, resolving inconsistencies in the fabric of our knowledge as we do so. Clarke did point out, “I am not attempting to claim that we each engage in an algebraic equation before we find something funny,” maintaining that “this schematic description reflects the instantaneous reactions of the brain to potentially dangerous misinformation.”
No laughing matter
As cases of COVID-19 rise across Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, it is no laughing matter that Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed Europe, last Friday, to become the region with the most COVID-19 deaths, according to an AFP count based on official data. On Wednesday, Guyana reported four more fatalities taking the number to 29, with 40 new COVID-19 cases in six of the ten Regions, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 776.
Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded over 213,000 fatal cases, with nearly half of all global deaths over the previous week occurring in the region, which leads with the highest number of infections at least 5.3 million, including more than half in neighbouring Brazil which has over 100 000 deaths. The pandemic is ebbing in some areas, but the number of new cases is growing faster than ever worldwide, with more than 200,000 reported each day on average.
However, I am heartened by recent findings that the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, although presenting at least six strains, shows little variability, which is good news for the researchers working on a viable vaccine.
The original L strain appeared in Wuhan in December 2019 and its first mutation — the S strain — emerged at the beginning of 2020. Since mid-January 2020, we have had strains V and G. To date, strain G is the most widespread, it mutated into strains GR and GH at the end of February 2020. Across Europe, the most prevalent are strain G and its relative GR, while the L strain from Wuhan is gradually disappearing, like strain V.
On the world coronavirus map, in North America, the most common is GH, and in South America, it is the GR strain. Globally, strains G, GH and GR are constantly increasing, the University of Bologna disclosed earlier this month. Strain S can be found in some restricted areas in the United States of America and Spain, the August 3-report from Science Daily said (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200803105246.htm)
Disaster and dangers
As I contemplate the public relations disaster post rigging, and other dangers of top elected politicians posing for photographs without any recommended masks or the six feet social distancing, I also worry whether to find the equivalent of US$350-US$400 to take a private COVID-19 test that I probably do not yet need, given that I was absent from any super spreader engagement parties down the lovely islands. After all, I can still distinctly smell the sharpness of the faithful mentholated Limacol, and taste the searing Scorpion pepper.
I will decide on rewriting my will tomorrow. In the meantime, because humour is essential in these tough days and I would rather laugh than cry, did you hear the joke about the germ? Never mind, I don’t want to spread it around.
ID advises that if you don’t understand a coronavirus quip, be patient. She agrees there are so many coronavirus jokes out there, it’s a virtual “pundemic.”