A Distant, New World

I have to admit, as an outgoing and social person by nature, the news
about potentially restricting my freedom struck me really hard. I am not
even mentioning the sociopolitical nature of these decisions, which
fundamentally questioned my own reality.
However, I did my best to balance between personal responsibility, the
loopholes of the law and my will to go out every day. Going out did not
stop but I had to minimize my interactions to those only essential to me:
close friendships.

This virus, along with the excessive expansion of technology in our every
day lives, will change everything radically and irretrievably. It was
common sense that this would happen sooner or later, but It happened
within a blink of an eye. We expected Skype meetings to take a
significant part in our working environments gradually, delivery was
already embedded in our culture and companies like Amazon or E-food
were trending like never before. I consider this change, progress.
However, I don’t believe that there are many people out there with their
mind in the right place that foresaw another aspect of this “progress”:
Social distancing.

Unconsciously, I tried to greet my buddy with a firm handshake as usual.
All I got was a weird look, my friend taking two steps aback and telling
me that “we should protect ourselves and abide by a sense of joint
responsibility” . I was in awe.
Allow me to take a moment and flash back three years ago when I
visited Norway. In this beautiful country, social distancing was a trend,
before the term was even invented. Every time my warm, inner Greek
self came out and I tried to be more “touchy” I got that same reaction
my friend gave me. At the time it seemed absurd and I always thought to
myself “this would never happen in Greece”. Well, it might take a lethal
pandemic, but things do change.

Every day brings news of developments that, as recently as February,
would have felt impossible. These developments are coming so fast that
it’s hard to remember just how radical they are. What they remind us
though is the fact that (democratic) governments are capable of making
big moves, quickly, in order to protect their citizens. And, i am curious,
how are we, the citizens, going to handle the relatively small- albeit vital-
moves, our very own social interactions.

Is this distancing going to last, and for how long?
If a cure or a vaccine are invented, then are we going
to feel safe, returning back to normal? And if so, what will be this “new
era” normal? These questions depend on many variables and it is
difficult to make a realistic prediction. The way I see it, we are in front of
a historic crossroad and it’s upon us to decide which path we’ll follow:
Further isolate ourselves, sacrificing our liberties for the sake of safety
Or incorporate these sanitary measures in our lifestyles while at the
same time strive for an improved welfare system all together.

Of course, this is not one single choice that will be decided with a
referendum. It is rather infinite, smaller choices that will take place each
and every day from now on. Since the quarantine will be over soon, we
had better think about our next actions-both literally and figuratively.

By George Pardalis.