Following “the Vid” (as the kids like to call it) the world has gotten meaner. Meaner may not be the best word, but at least more anti-social. Had I been called on to place a wager at the beginning of lockdowns about how survivors would feel after, I’d have lost.
I expected the world to emerge with a sense of relief and gratitude. Grateful for their lives being spared and the chance to plan, create memories, and do more than exist. The sky would appear bluer, flowers more aromatic, akin to Dorothy stepping into Oz. When the invisible jail doors opened, however, I was accosted by a landscape more in line with a collaborative effort by Orwell, Huxley, and Bradbury than Baum.
Had the world forgotten how to behave in the span of two calendar purchases? Are manners so tenuous that unlike the skill of riding a bike, we find ourselves unable to employ them without continuous usage? One might think it makes sense that social distancing will create a less social world. I might agree, we’re I two or four without the knowledge of any other way of life.
There were signs, of course, over the months spent at home. Harsh stares and hurried footsteps away from me in public if my sinus drainage dared cause me to cough. Holidays separate from loved ones who thought my protocols were too stringent or not stringent enough. That didn’t ruffle my feathers too much, since as a self proclaimed hermit it was easy to just do my own thing and allow friends and family to do theirs.
There were also strong indicators on “social” media…a truer misnomer would be difficult to ascribe. I sat mute as I watched people within my own circle wish the ultimate penalty of death be visited upon strangers whose only crime was being uncertain in a time of great uncertainty. Maskers wishing it for no-maskers. Anti-vaxxers wishing it upon the vaxxed. Once again I brushed it off and chalked it up to hyperbole in rhetoric which often happens when we’re frustrated and fearful.
I felt in my bones that once things settled down it would be business as usual again in the world. My bones are apparently naive at best; liars at worst. The world opened up again, but people didn’t.
It seems that not only did a large swath of people discover they liked working remotely, but also an even larger portion decided they were more comfortable being remote in general. Time to discuss ideas was no longer of interest. Opinions had fossilized when the doors closed on the world. Rock solid, never again to bend or yield from the position in which they’d been frozen.
Insular, hidebound intolerance became the order of the day in a the post-pandemic existence. Other-ing anyone with a different perspective; leaving only tight razor-wire bordered cabals on the extreme ends of the spectrum. Those on the remaining portion of the line relegated to fighting on two fronts with their pleas for sanity, or staying mum altogether.
It’s difficult to overcome an individual’s self righteousness, let alone an army’s. So what recourse is there? I think it starts with the overwhelming majority realizing there is strength in numbers. While brow-beating the extremes into submission might be tempting, it will likely be ineffective, but we need to at least stop being silent.
This world will become what people of action choose to make it, so act. Lead by example with kindness and light. Reintroduce sharing critical thinking without throwing in the utter dismissal of others who don’t think like you. Agree to disagree. Stop employing pejoratives against the speaker and address the facts of an argument. In fact, stop arguing altogether and discuss things again.
If we don’t, it’ll be more of the same. And was that really worth waiting for?