In big and little ways our daily lives will look different. They need to. It’s unavoidable. This global health pandemic has fundamentally changed the world. We need to change in order to limit the damage it wreaks.
Almost overnight, like so many others, the shape of my life has transformed. Work events have been cancelled. Freelance work halted. For the kids, netball, soccer, AFL, band, assemblies and excursions are among the activities that have been postponed, some indefinitely. Various parties, trips and conferences that had been in the family diary for months have been deleted.
There’s no alternative. It’s replicated the world over.
It’s extraordinary to fathom because even just a few weeks ago this widespread shut down was quite unfathomable. Now there is no choice.
The loss of income and work written off is devastating and dangerous but unavoidable. Social isolation and distancing are critical: mass gatherings cannot proceed. Really, even small gatherings should be limited.
It feels like almost another year altogether when Australia was being ravaged by catastrophic bushfires. We are now facing another calamity, possibly of an even greater magnitude. And, like then, we need to do things differently. Kindly, with compassion.
The greater good, more than ever, requires personal sacrifice. It requires compromise. So much of the status quo at this point in civilisation has given individuals unprecedented power and capacity to live on their own terms.
We can watch, listen or read whatever we like, whenever we like. We can order food, drinks, clothes, books, groceries – from anywhere – to our doors. We can shop whenever we like. We have, until very recently, easily taken for granted that whenever we run out of a household supply we can restock without question. So too healthcare services and prescription medication.
A great chunk of the Australian population, myself included, have never encountered any genuine, systemic curtailment of personal freedoms. Living through a World War or Great Depression is something many of us have only ever read about.
I have wondered often about how that felt and how in this day and age we might respond. This is the time we will learn. This virus is so much bigger than any one individual. The only way to limit its destruction is to accept that.
For the foreseeable future life cannot wholly proceed on individual terms anymore. We must act as a collective, as a community of citizens, working towards a common goal of limiting the spread of this virus, protecting the most vulnerable and smoothing the economic hardship this is already inflicting. The toll this virus will potentially exact – in health, psychological and financial terms – is terrifying.
Stemming that requires all of us to carefully consider what we are doing, where we are going and how others might be impacted.
It’s startling to contemplate how quickly priorities can change. Even a week ago there were a few periods coming up where I had fretted about the logistics of getting everyone where they need to be and getting everything done; just run-of-the-mill working parent stuff but how trivial it now seems. It feels almost quaint now to even consider fretting about anything other than keeping all of us – right around Australia – safe. What else matters?