This lockdown does not compare to the ones that preceded it. The age of innocence is gone. For one, we are less scared of the situation, though it is invariably worse. This is the hubris of the surviving human spirit – the belief that we won’t be dealt with the bad card, or, conversely, the belief that, somehow, a bad situation will turn out ok, much like the death row inmate who eats his last meal expecting a stay of his execution. I may have taken the analogy too far, but the fact remains: humans have a seemingly unwarranted optimism that generates immense perseverance.
Most of us are hanging on, but the energy and the optimism, as well as the sense of collectivism that defined the first lockdown, are now long gone. Everyone is in bad spirits, moody, about to burst. We have put our lives on hold and we wait for this to pass in order to resume the experience of living. For this is not living. It’s a pause, whereby we are simultaneously drenched in fear and clinching on hope; like the fighter who was left behind after a lost battle, laying among the dead hoping to go unnoticed and resume a version of his previous life.
Will our new lives resemble the ones we left behind over a year ago? History shows that people keep going on. A third of the world’s population was infected with the Spanish flu but people then went on with their lives; they buried their dead, licked their wounds, and started hugging, hoping, living. But they did so in a vastly different world.
What will our world look like? I don’t know if we will cherish what we are now denied such as spending time with our loved ones, boozing out with friends, the laughs of children playing together in the park, or whether we will absorb the poison that we now receive as medicine, namely distancing, being suspicious of everyone in our proximity, and the isolation and retreat to the private sphere, away from anything collective.
Whatever the case, one thing is certain. Many people will be worse off than they are today and renewed efforts are already needed to practically demonstrate allegiance and offer support to those who are or shall become less well off than us, as well as those who are or will emerge marginalised in this new world that is upon us. For survival is maximised when there is cooperation. Collective action is as important as competition; in our case, the fittest are the many striving towards a common goal.