Coronavirus lockdown was never the right time for self-improvement

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May 16, 2020 by Cláudia

When the pandemic was mostly an abstract idea, or a transitory phase, having to spend 2 weeks inside seemed, at first, exactly what I was needing. For some months I had been feeling like I needed to stop for a minute. Not to think, relax or heal, but to get started on my “less urgent” to-do list. I got into this mindset of frenzied productivity: I was going to read all the books and all the articles, learn 15 new languages and finally clean my closet (literally).

I spent those first two weeks of lockdown, paradoxically, just feeling very lost and unmotivated.  Part of it was because any readjustment takes time and I was not used to spending so much time inside. But I soon realized that I was also feeling extremely oppressed by the constant suggestions to use this new “free time” wisely.

This discourse, that I initially unquestioningly also adopted, that we should use this as an opportunity to do all the things we normally don’t have time to do, to spend time with ourselves, to pause and refresh… is extremely problematic.

It took me a while to realize exactly why this midset was so inadequate for the current situation.

It was only when I saw in the news mass graves to bury nameless bodies in New York that it hit me. The idea that we should be using covid-19 lockdown to be productive or spiritual, as if it were a gift in disguise, is extremely individualistic. And frankly, quite disrespectful for everyone who’s suffering. The individualistic mindset that created the idea that the deaths and suffering of others are the drivers of an optimal moment for everyone privileged enough to seize it… is exactly what’s wrong with capitalist individualism.

This is a historic moment of collective trauma. Like I addressed in the previous post, it is okay to not be okay at the moment.

But, like any other crisis, this is also a time of increasing inequalities and cruel injustices.

This moment, and how we react to it collectively, will be decisive for our future as a species and as societies. This is no time to be individualistic.

If we are to overcome this pandemic, then we need to be guided by empathy, not individualism. Because we are in this (world) together but we are not on the same boat.

Empathy has to be the driving force:

  • For everyone who’s fallen sick and/or lost their lives due to covid-19;
  • For every broken family and for everyone who couldn’t say goodbye properly to a loved one;
  • For everyone that cannot stay safe at home;
  • For the ones who lost their jobs or their income;
  • For everyone who will lose their job in the coming economic crisis;
  • For everyone who does not have a place to call home or who isn’t safe in their own home.
  • For everyone who has been failed by this system.

Like any crisis, the covid-19 pandemic has highlighted already existing structural inequalities. Tough times are lying ahead. We are headed towards an unprecedented economic crash. The climate crisis is rampant and climate disasters are occurring routinely, endangering the very future of humanity.

We are at a crossroads. Capitalism is broken. Our current system has proven time and time again incapable of effectively dealing with crises. We are living in a system that is not resilient, compassionate or fair. What will we do? Will we revive capitalism, a system that has constantly failed us? Or will we recognize this moment as the long-awaited beginning of the end of the current system, that puts profit before people, and begin to build something new?

Coronavirus lockdown was never the right time for self-improvement. Coronavirus is, however, absolutely the right time to put big change-oriented ideas into practice and build the society that we need and deserve.

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