Has the Pandemic Changed Our Conceptions of What Work and Leisure Mean?
As a matter of fact the virus was first recognized to have infected humans late last year - in an open seafood animal market in Wuhan - and belongs to the coronavirus family. The SARS epidemic as well as the MERS outbreak was caused by coronavirus too. Think about it, human history was messed up with pandemics that have killed millions.
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.
The pain is personal, emotional, psychological, societal, economic, and cultural; and it will leave scars. In many regards, we view Covid-19 as analogous to that which Taleb (2008) calls a ‘Black Swan Event’ – a shocking event that changes the world (as similarly also noted concurrently by a number of authors and editors – see for example Grech, 2020, Mazzoleni et al., 2020). While Taleb (2008) discussed a range of examples of such past events (such as the events of 911) his analysis highlighted that human responses to such shocks tend toward critical reverse prediction. That is, after shocks that change cultures happen, people within those shocked cultures almost immediately rationalize such events by reflecting that they could have been predicted and probably avoided. 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.
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