Features compiles the thoughts of Durham students during this strange time. While this has been a time of uncertainty and worry, it has also been a time for reflection and open-mindedness.
It is without doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has been a fascinating study of modern society. Akin to a slightly morbid social experiment for behavioural analysists and ordinary persons alike, what has struck me most about the current climate is the sharp polarising effect that a crisis can have. We have no doubt seen millions of admirable efforts to support the NHS trending on social media, and the national symbol of hope – the rainbow – upliftingly emblazoned in the windows of UK homes. It is a reassuring reminder that the value of community has remained, like second nature, in our muscle memory and has proved a timely respite from the ‘me’ culture which The Guardian described fittingly in 2016 as a “narcissism epidemic.”
But whilst this period of national crisis has induced the best in some, it is inevitable that it should bring out the worst in others. I heard recently that a young person, after stealing a local car, coughed in the face of a police officer and claimed to be infected with coronavirus. And countless times my parents have returned home from the shops, disgruntled at people flagrantly ignoring the social distancing measures, and being rude to staff as a result of their own conceited frustration. So, regardless of when the lockdown is lifted and some essence of normality will be resurrected, one of the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be a fascinating and truly eye-opening study of our society in crisis.
With lockdown confining us to our homes, a lot of us have been finding new, or resurrecting old, hobbies to fill our new abundance of time. On a recent facetime to friends, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the activities they’re throwing themselves into, from taking up guitar to baking, even knife throwing! It struck me how things they hadn’t felt confident to pursue before were now blossoming in lockdown. I believe this is because time alone has provided a sphere where people feel much more free from judgement and it has allowed them to pursue what they enjoy, whatever their level of skill.
Personally, I’ve become much more confident in playing my flute, as lockdown has given me a chance to grow at my own pace and time to reflect on why I used to enjoy this old hobby so much. Doing things simply because they make you happy and they’re fun should be reason enough to try things out, yet it’s so easy to compare your level of skill to other people’s and have your confidence knocked because of it. Although social media can still prompt such comparison, a positive thing to come out of isolation is time to reflect on ourselves, prioritize our mental wellbeing and pursue what we enjoy, even if that’s something simple. This small revelation of how isolation can impact confidence has made me hope more people will pursue new things when lockdown ends with a new found confidence in themselves and their abilities.
You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
I’ve always heard people say it, but it hasn’t quite hit home until now as I’m stuck in the house. I think it’s safe to say that freedom in every shape and form is something we take for granted: the freedom to see your friends; go out whenever you want; travel…there are so many things, I could go on and on. It’s not that long ago we could go to the corner shop or get takeout if we couldn’t be bothered to cook. Freedom in all configurations practically disappeared overnight.
I feel disappointed to say that it has taken almost the entire world to come to a halt for me to realise that there are so many simple things I take for granted in my daily life. And, even worse than that, having to face what so many people have to endure every day. The elderly who need such support on a regular basis, children and families in war-torn countries being terrified to leave the safety of their home and those who sadly don’t even have a safe home to take shelter in. You might be thinking that to link all these is a bit extreme, and admittedly, it might be, but reflections usually amass a certain depth if you dwell on them long enough.
Nonetheless, these reflections keeps me grounded as I thank my lucky stars every day that my friends and family are safe and they ensure I am grateful for the simple things I still have in my life.
During lockdown, I think the main observation we’ve all been making is about the individualism of our society. As people stockpile toilet paper and celebrities such as Ellen Degeneres compare staying at home to ‘prison’, food banks are running low and NHS workers are being overstretched because of little funding and preparation for this pandemic.
It is evident that this pandemic is not a levelling of society, no matter if we all have to experience quarantine. The disparities between our country’s distribution of wealth have become even more evident, as low-income families struggle to provide food for children whilst others wipe the shelves clear. There will be some who benefit from this pandemic, the supermarkets who overwork their staff in view of profits, and those who will be badly affected for the rest of their lives- as family businesses have to shut down due to the lack of customers.
However, I hope that once this lockdown is over that we might perhaps become more understanding and mindful as to whom we deem ‘low-skilled.’ Quite frankly, it is shop workers and delivery drivers who are aiding us through this crisis, through this pandemic, in order for some aspect of normality to go on. They should never be deemed low-skilled again, not when they have been so important in ensuring the functioning of society, of reality.
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