24 March 2020: Sociality and Distance
How far should we put a gap between each other?
The protocols for each encounter, right now, is unprecedented. With this infectious disease preventing us from mingling with each other, we are reminded of our greatest weakness as social beings. We can no longer enjoy the moment of being together, at least physically, including the prevalence of touch and intimacy and surface tension between each skin and friction.
Social distancing, a new word invented for this duration, has been enforced in legislation, in speeches, and procedural interaction amidst this contagion. No more big weddings and grand banquets, carnivals and rituals, Sunday brunch or a good morning walk with children going to kinder classes. We are now reminded, in fact, forced to, distance ourselves, a metre and a half apart, from each other. Most of us, now, are working from home, connected and wired to devices, networks, intranet, call/video capable platforms while fidgety and distracted by other domestic worries. We don’t enjoy the usual moments with friends or lovers, dates and initial encounters, a horror flick or a stroll in the mall, lunch with co-workers or Friday night drinks and neon walk.
And for much many, this means hunger and inability to hustle and peddle and juggle casual shifts or bartend. This means a loss of gig, or that party as a clown or caterer. Events cancellation leads to not only a disruption of a wedding or a funeral but those precious work hours for the blue-collar and daily wage earner. The intimacy that exists today is not only limited to that relationship that leads to an offspring or a domestic and inclusive partnership. We now also exist in forming relationships around work, neighbourhood, political and community affiliation, ethnic or racial identity, school culture, family, religion, and networks.
The virus and its contagion will force us to restructure the way we deal and transact and form a connection around these multiple groups and encounters. Or perhaps, it will force us to go deeper and see this configuration and eventually, will let us choose, which is the most important and enduring at times of crisis and social breakdowns.