It’s a tricky balance to strike. You might want to keep the mood light and cheerful on social media. All sunny walks and lovingly prepared sourdough loaves.
But are you inadvertently shoving your lockdown privilege down the throats of people who have got it pretty rough right now? We take a look at how the pandemic is throwing a glaring spotlight on the have and have-nots.
Shots of you BBQ-ing up a storm in your lush garden might grind on those cooped up with barely a window to throw open. Live-streamed lip-sync battles might not be quite as entertaining to those who’ve just lost their job.
I found myself enraged by calls to close parks, where city dwellers could mostly be found minding their own social-distanced business taking strolls or getting a much-needed vitamin D hit from a bench, while second-homers flocked to leafier suburbs.
Not to mention the health workers, bus drivers, shopkeepers who aren’t able to self-isolate but are putting their health and that of their families on the line to keep our essential services running.
And let’s not even get started with the celebrity vantage point, their naively earnest cries of “we’re in this together” from mansion living rooms, painfully oblivious to the deafening dissonance between their message and the reality many are feeling right now – very much alone and very much helpless.
This New York Post piece rather hilariously captures the plight of the rich learning to master household chores for the first time in their lives in the absence of “the help.”
Rather less hilariously some are actually paying nannies and housekeepers extra to lockdown with them instead of their families lest they might not manage the cleaning or childcare…
Furthermore in this Guardian piece, Lynsey Hanley explores how lockdown is exposing existing class divides, particularly when it comes to space and who owns and controls access to it. Other aspects also come into play, like whether you have a separate work space when working from home and all the mod cons that make it feasible on a day-to-day basis like a laptop and strong WiFi. Or somewhere to buy fresh food nearby.
Beyond the physical and practical constraints, they can also be crucial social factors that influence how you experience lockdown. Rich or poor, being trapped inside without respite or support while in an abusive relationship is a terrifying prospect.
And even those on the affluent end of the spectrum can face life-changing blows. You might be a high-earning couple in a fancy flat but if one or both of you is suddenly unemployed, mortgage payments can fall behind, debt rise and anxiety set in.
Which brings us to ponder about the world we’ll find when we emerge. How will our very differing experiences during this (God knows how long) period of self-isolation shape the society that we are left with when it subsides? Can we be sure all will bounce back to normal or will some scars from this time of crisis never heal? Will already yawning gaps between the have and have nots been further entrenched?
Perhaps the battle lines will have been redrawn, with those who were lucky to find themselves on higher ground – for example working in the tech industries – able to flourish during this time – and those who work in the hardest hit sectors – travel or hospitality for instance – suddenly be plunged into destitution.
So what’s the message? Could there in fact be some positives to be drawn? We can perhaps hope that at the end of this period, we all have a greater perception of what’s important, as we collectively prioritise preserving life over economic gain. As Arundhati Roy’s beautiful FT piece from a few weeks back suggested, this could be a portal to a new way of being, if we choose to see it that way.
It’s also a time to suspend judgement. Yes your uni pal may seem to be having it large on endless cocktail-fuelled Zoom quizzes but she may have a parent who’s sick. The prolific baker on your Insta timeline may be out of work. Your fave celebrity might be having blazing rows with their partner.
Yes some may seem to have it easier – and some may well do – but the truth is the virus and its fallout can affect everyone. Best to take it all with a pinch of salt, be kind to yourself and others, and allow people space to take joy in what they can.
By Sarah Bradbury. Published on #ThisMuchIKnow on 25th April 2020.