Has the Pandemic Changed Our Conceptions of What Work and Leisure Mean?
Think about it, human history was messed up with pandemics that have killed millions.
It concerned working at home, because it is disproportionately easy for people like me who work in digital media to work at home, and the question it revolved around was: Is a pandemic the time to get extremely productive? Or is it the time to take a break? First, there was the King Lear argument. Shakespeare, as people reminded each other, wrote King Lear when he was quarantined during a plague. And it soon became clear that Shakespeare was just one of the many geniuses of history who accomplished miraculous things while confined to his house. Sir Isaac Newton discovered the laws of gravity and invented calculus under quarantine. Mary Shelley, well, was not under quarantine when she wrote Frankenstein and invented science fiction, but she was at least cooped up in the house because of the year without summer, so truly, can’t she serve as an inspirational figure as well? After a period, it began to seem somewhat astonishing that anyone ever managed to accomplish anything without some global catastrophe confining them to their home. And then, inevitably, came the whispered implication: Shouldn’t you yourself be using this time at home — dare we say this gift — because you are at home and not working in an essential field? Shouldn’t you be using this time to become more productive? Shouldn’t you be buckling down and writing a masterpiece or inventing a genre or discovering fundamental laws of the universe? At the very least, shouldn’t you be taking up a new hobby, mastering a skill, or perhaps be reaching your fully fledged form as what Forbes termed a “coronapreneur?” But then came the backlash. The push to be productive while sheltering in place during a once-a-century global catastrophe was the latest sign, critics argued, of capitalism corrupting our minds.
Is Covid-19 an example of this – we think so? After Covid-19 the world will not be the same and notwithstanding numerous apocalyptic movies, conspiracy theorists, and political opportunists, we cannot but help to hope that future pandemics can be avoided if we learn the lessons, we cannot help but think should have been learned before Covid-19.
And although we may have to wave goodbye to the lively, crowded bars, theatres and gyms that we used to love, at least for some time, we also have the unique opportunity to rediscover what togetherness means in new spaces – and to reimagine those spaces from scratch.
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