Following up on Isabel’s blog post title, I thought I’d provide my own Marquez novel title, equally relevant to the unprecedented levels of seclusion and social isolation experienced by many during this corona crisis. ‘100 years’ is blatantly hyperbolic, but it does echo the uncertainty surrounding the end-date of this current state of affairs. When will things return to normal? – the thought on everyone’s minds. What people ought to be asking is the extent to which things will return to normal, as it seems unlikely that this event will fail to trigger some lasting shift in the status quo. Surely some positives can be drawn from this sudden slowing down of modern society’s frantic pace. Quarantine puts many aspects of life on pause, which is a shock but also an opportunity to breathe, take stock and recalibrate. Solitude can be difficult, a test of character, but it can also provide space in which to reflect, silence amidst the cacophony of everyday life in which, perhaps, some form of clarity can be attained.
Solitude is not necessarily the dominant force, however. It is counterbalanced by an equally important phenomenon during this pandemic: solidarity. I don’t wish to sound overly idealistic, but it is impressive the way people have rallied in the face of the corona threat. Even the economy, the driving force of our capitalist society built on the precept of competition, has been put to one side in a massive, near-unanimous effort to place human health as the number one priority. Simply by staying at home in self-isolation, people are protecting others who may be more at risk. Health-workers (including my aunt here in Geneva) are working day and night to provide support for patients who have contracted the virus, placing themselves at risk through their efforts to help. Musicians are providing free, live-streamed concerts from their living rooms to provide distraction for the quarantined millions. Solidarity is everywhere, linking people in spite of physical distance.
At this time, relationships between family members become more important than ever, a test which many households are sadly struggling with, as shown by the spike in domestic violence in the UK. This adds a bit of nuance to my idealistic diatribe; some people can’t deal with constant proximity to others, tensions rise, and violence ensues. But I’d argue that such reactions weren’t created by the corona crisis, but were instead revealed by it. In solitude, everything comes to the fore: the positive, the negative, the need to help, the need for change.