The parent of this great nation has always resided in its rivers, valley’s, meadows, woods and pastures. Before the age of the television, or more pertinently the internet, children would learn about the world through this natural lens. From climbing our great oaks to fishing out of its many rivers – Avon, Stour, Severn & Trent. These are the arteries of this country and through them flows the knowledge, nutrition and vitality needed to set it straight and keep it on course. However, these have merely become vestiges of a time long gone. Children no longer play by the riverside, nor can they name each indigenous bird by its call. The fields have become silent and the local farmer has been put out by the Chain. The Monitor has become your mentor, your guide, and master. It teaches your children and it watches You. We have been in a deep sleep, dulled by the video; while the volume was up, we were turned down. Our national effervescence has been lost – it’s just Netflix and Die.
However, it appears that we have emerged from our hibernation. While lockdown has kept us in, it has simultaneously allowed us to venture out. Hidden away in our stately homes we have begun to recognize what freedom actually is. This worldwide pause-button has enabled time to stand still, and in that moment of chaotic stillness, thrust deep into the eye of the storm, we have all had a moment to observe and reflect upon our current reality.
While health and exercise have become increasingly important within our society, they too have been the subject of crude aestheticism. While many work on their physical traits to build character and vitality, others have just used this preoccupation as another excuse for an Instagram post.
Although this will always continue, today we are possibly seeing a change in our attitudes on the frontier of national health and national pride. Once again, people have begun to take an interest in the countryside, nature and outdoor activities. Never before have I seen so many people want to visit their local park, nature reserve or hop on their bike for an afternoon jaunt. While this indeed may be a passing phase, a fancy during these dark and confusing times, it too may signal a coming era in which we remove ourselves from the screen and place ourselves within the great landscapes of Britain.
Over the past three decades we have seen a deterioration in family life. Roughly 1/10 people within in the UK have never had a meal at the dining table with their family; 42% of families do not even usually eat together during the weekdays; and 44% have even said that they stare at their mobile phone while they eat with others around them. While the TV did at least keep the family together within the confines of the living room, the computer has emptied it, leaving many within their own quarters.
However, due to recent circumstances we have seen a revival in the dining table. Research has shown that 44% of families are eating more meals together than ever before due to being kept in at home. This has led to 36% to feel closer to their relatives, while 32% believe that they have become kinder to one another.
While it remains difficult to assess if this trend will be a lasting one, it nevertheless indicates that family sociability during dinner time could potentially be rekindled.
Of course, it should be emphasised that the lockdown has not led everyone to suddenly become happy families who wander through meadows washed in sunlight and junipers. While crime overall may have seen a drop by as much as 20% in some areas, domestic abuse has risen by 24% in London, while The National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests since lockdown began a few months ago.
It is therefore important to recognise that while lockdown has brought out some of our best characteristics, it too has highlighted many of our worst. In times of peril, such as these, it is paramount to reflect upon how we, as a society, manage and deal with both ourselves and our communities at large. While no one could have predicted this very situation, it is inevitable that something of this kind and manner will arise again. It will therefore be of the utmost necessity to understand our collective behaviours if we are to adjust to this new epoch.
While it is unquestionable that the series of events that have taken place over the last few months will establish a dynamic shift within the collective unconscious of this worlds peoples, affecting the way in which we go about our daily routines, I fear that many of the positive changes that have taken place will be fleeting.
Although many are currently partaking in the family unit, local community activities and exercise to a far greater extent than we have seen in many a decade, this ‘progress’ (if you deem it as such) may only be a triviality of these strange times.
We have to ask ourselves: will people want to spend as much time with their family once lockdown restrictions have been completely lifted? Will citizens partake in helping the community once this tragedy is over? And will those who have so actively explored their local parks and countryside wish to continue doing so once this is all said and done?
Of course, this is difficult to determine at this current juncture. We will have to wait and see. However, it is quite likely that once this nightmare has ended, that people will wish to return to the norm – the banality and doldrum of everyday living.
Now, you may be asking – why is this a bad thing? Surely we wish to return to ordinariness, to regularity. Yes, of course this is true, I, as much as the next person, wish to get back to that place of comfort and constancy. However, there is something to be said that when we enter such periods of great change, particularity those of great calamity, that we should grasp onto them, mold them, and from them fashion something new, impactful and lasting. For it is only through this that we can establish meaningful progress.
This change is happening. However, it remains unclear on what form this change will take. While, we have seen people open up to their families, communities and local landscapes, I fear that the trauma stirred by this event may, in time, achieve quite the opposite effect. Will we have people unwanting or unwilling to leave their houses? Will we feel less trustful of those around us; either through the fear of catching some deadly disease or due to a feeling of greater separation to those who are not within our ‘selected’ few?
Only time will tell.
Undoubtedly, we will witness the repercussions of this lockdown in the coming months: socially, culturally and economically. Albeit, it will be up to us on how we manage and handle these outcomes. Only through the conscious effort and will of all, will we manage to see these events through to the bitter end. A new age is rising. The megalopolis is questioned, the state is questioned, the corporation is questioned, technology is questioned – society is questioned. Through all these queries, one thing remains certain – people are once again in search of answers. The volume is slowly rising, and it is increasing with each day that passes. The static of the television is beginning to crystallise and the picture that appears will unlikely be a pretty one. While we may find a glimpse of truth, some form of certainty, it will likely come at a heavy cost.
People are angry. They feel hard done by, by the ‘system’, the seesawing economy, the restrictions to their movement and speech. But most of all, we have a generation that feel that they have not received their millennial promise. As Chuck Palahniuk writes:
With an impeding possibility of economic collapse, future lockdown’s, continuing civil unrest… that dream is slowly fading. Will people turn to their families, nature and the community for respite? Or will they look inward, becoming angry, lost and alone – seeking revenge for a world long gone?