As governments around the world look at the next step in the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s worth noting that lockdowns have not been easy for many people.
For some, it’s been staying home, streaming content like there’s no tomorrow and things are peachy. For others it’s harder. Around the world cases of domestic violence have increased. In my home country of Canada liquor stores remained open because there were segments of the population that wouldn’t be able to cope while sober, and domestic violence would jump. As they said, now is not the time to judge.
Being stuck at home can be a vastly different experience. Some are stuck in abusive relationships, some people are simply stuck alone, getting a taste of what solitary confinement is like. And make no mistake solitary confinement is enhanced punishment in prison for a reason. We are social animals. Nobody does well by themselves indefinitely.
Then there are the folks in the news in the United States who are actively protesting to reopen businesses despite warnings from scientists and lessons that should be learned from places like Italy or Spain where Covid-19 forced lockdowns because it spread unabated for too long.
Tom Nichols, the author of The Death Of Expertise (2017) tweeted about the “reopen” American protestors and said, “This is how Americans now interpret freedom: not as a political condition in a democratic society but as a constant chant of ‘you’re not the boss of me’. This is not freedom, or at least not freedom in any political sense. It’s a child-like understanding of autonomy.”
And it’s hard not to see it like that. If this is indeed our era’s hardship, a test of our generation, like the world wars were of previous generations, then Covid-19 is the crisis for our individualistic times. During the world wars the civilian populations endured hardship after hardship. Seeing your loved ones go off to war for years at a time, the economy reworked to serve the military, doing your part to ration food and supplies. Even if you didn’t go to war, you felt it at home. And no one knew how long the war would last. World War I was supposed to be finished by Christmas the year it began in 1914. It lasted four plus years.
During this Covid-19 pandemic, all we have to do is stay home to keep ourselves and, most importantly, others safe. And if the lockdown is respected, a few months should be sufficient to curb the infection rate. During this time, we can stay home and stay connected with the Internet. Stay entertained with streaming services. Yes, being home isn’t as dynamic and fun as being out with friends but on the scale of generation-defining hardships, I’d rather have to stay home to save the world than have to work in a munitions factory while fearing for loved ones in a warzone.
This is not to take anything away from people staying home. It’s not an easy thing. Tempers flare. Patience is tested. Your ability to jump from Instagram to TikTok wears thin. You can only watch so many families dancing. But it is good to keep things in perspective.
Nichols went on in his thread about our responsibility to one another. Citizenship “is how adults balance group obligation and individual freedom”. And that’s why Covid-19 tests the strength of our citizenship not nationally but globally. Can we be good global citizens and endure being home for a while to help everyone else?
There is the argument that people have to work. But most governments have implemented stimulus packages and loan forgiveness to help people stay home. Because a government that shrugs and let’s economic conditions force people back to work in unsafe circumstances is not doing its job.
It is worth remembering that in the past when viruses raged across the world, like during the times of the plague in the 14th century or the flu in 1918, all the population could do was resign themselves to the fact that you or your loved ones might be killed, and get on with life. But we aren’t thinking about Covid-19 like that. We’re all thinking about the vaccine and when it will be ready. Not if. Because now we have the ability to stop this virus, and even when the lockdowns end, the social distancing and mask wearing must continue because these are small hardships to prevent much bigger ones.
Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at email@example.com and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.
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