Our generation has been called selfish for clearing supermarket shelves denying those who made sacrifices during the wars for our prosperity and freedom. We’ve faced criticism for whining about having to stay indoors with the TV and Internet but free from air raids. Yet aren’t we products of our upbringing, adaptions to our environment?
Levels of anxiety and insecurity that were already high are rising, and with fewer opportunities to express concerns and find support, the effects of long term stress are likely to worsen. Unfortunately those constitute a very long list, which even after Corona has passed, will likely keep health, social services and the third sector busy for some time.
I wonder about these effects and consequences upon the mental wellbeing of both individuals and society. It’s hard enough to get things straight and formulate a coherent plan at the best of times, but losing that which is familiar: the distinction between work and home, the space between here and there, can only go to make it harder – as well as the prospect of pestilence and suffocation. I think people will struggle to find their balance, at home, at work, outside but especially online.
From having taught digital skills, I’ve seen how confusing and frustrating the virtual world can be. Confusing, as it often lacks the usual landmarks, and associations that have for millennia defined our perception and cognition, frustrating because so much of it still lacks the usability to have “people succeed first time, with the minimum of help”
The metaphor of a desktop is successful because it provides familiar icons that facilitate working with otherwise impenetrable file lists (as anyone familiar with command lines will vouch for). If we are unsure about what to do next or what response we will get, it’s easy to assume the worst and not do anything.
In the local coop the other day, the cashier observed that with “essentials” limited to two items per person, some shoppers had stood by the door in tears unable to enter whilst others were distraught at the prospect of having to leave home to go shopping more often. The parents that promulgated stranger danger now have cause to fear it themselves as they keep two metres apart and wait in very long queues.
This week feels as if we’ve been stunned: overwhelmed by new circumstances, uncertain about our priorities, paralysed by the rate of change. In response we’ve retreated into the safety of the herd and been encouraged to disapprove of those disobeying the lockdown who instead go to the beach. In an opinion poll for the Observer “57% of the public think the lockdown measures should go even further”. But what safety does the herd really offer? I fear Errol Graham’s fate will become increasingly common. I fear those who die at home from malnutrition will not count as much as victims of the flu.
So what comes next?
I have faith in human nature and believe that we’re at our best when under duress. The scheme to enrol volunteers to hep the NHS attracted 400,000 people in one day, many of whom I suspect would already have counted toward the 20 million or so who volunteered in 2017/18. We will be inspired by examples of courage and selflessness, encouraged to feel camaraderie and drink in the war spirit.
But I doubt things will ever be the same.
I see Corvid-19 as ushering in a new order that’s less personal, more remote and online. Making digital work isn’t easy, let alone in a way that promotes positive values such as community, patience and inclusivity. Besides chinks in the armour of capitalism, one of the positive things to emerge has been Zoom a new online meeting platform. It’s pretty good but still takes some getting used to.
Time will be needed to learn how to bridge the gap between the pre and post Corona world, how to retain what we value in ourselves and our kind, time to adapt if we are to move forwards. After the Lockdown has ended, I wouldn’t be surprised if the policy of social distancing continues. I wouldn’t be surprised if a very great number of people found themselves on universal credit or zero hour contracts.
An article in the Guardian today entitled: “Coronavirus has not suspended politics – it has revealed the nature of power” elaborates on a reference to Hobbes in the previous post.