We must try not to perceive each other as threats.
The psychological impact of the pandemic and especially of the lockdown and social distancing is immense and will have profound implications for culture and society. Because ultimately it’s impacting our relationship with everyone else.
I found myself in the park, walking behind a couple, and of course, keeping a distance. I felt myself resenting them being there, like one would a slow moving vehicle back in the days when people travelled in cars.
A mixture of annoyance, threat, danger, inconvenience, all these feelings and emotions welled up. Because there was a couple going for a walk in the park. And I stopped myself and considered just how dystopian on a very personal level this is. To be angered by fellow human beings, because they are in one’s persona ‘exclusion zone’ which has a radius of some 20 ft or more.
This is frankly dangerous, in terms of mental and social and cultural health. We are social beings. And we are being required to act against our very basic and innate nature of socialising. So I made a specific effort to greet and acknowledge people on my walk. To see them as people, not as threats.
Will this attitude wear off, once lockdown ends? Or is it being ingrained in us? Will we still avoid each other, avoid shaking hands, avoid being within 6 ft of each other, avoid eye contact as well as physical contact? For some people the impact of lockdown will stay with them for a few days until it wears off, for others, it will be with them for months, years, a residue of fear leaving human interactions and contact tarnished and tainted.
What must then we do? Make specific effort to keep our hearts and minds free, make specific effort to acknowledge people we meet, and make specific effort to de programme ourselves from a lockdown mentality as and when the physical lockdown relaxes. It’s going to be hard, I think, for some.