“The skyscrapers and office buildings in the city centers that used to be our most valued real estate have become places people avoid out of fear of infection,” Bloom said. “I don’t see people growing comfortable with packed subway trains and elevators, and firms aren’t going to want to open and close every time there’s a wave.” “It’s the fear of the virus that keeps people at home,” said Sven Smit, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. He added that while it was too early to be certain the shift would stick, “the tendency [for longer-term change] is there.”
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.
Is our reaction to bad odor learned?
I once asked the great historian Richard Southern whether he would like to have met any of the medieval saints and churchmen about whom he wrote so eloquently. He gave a cautious reply: ‘I think they probably had very bad breath.’ He may have been right about that, but it would be wrong to infer that this was something which didn’t bother them. The men and women of the Middle Ages may have had a greater aversion to unpleasant body odours than their descendants do now. If so, this was bad luck, for they were much more likely to encounter them than we are in our deodorised world
Start with the coronaverse, which people everywhere now inhabit, or the quarantimes, the era in which they now live. Early fears of the total breakdown of society in a coronapocalypse have proved, thankfully, too pessimistic. But viral anxiety reigns, as do complaints of Zoom fatigue. Participants appear on screen for meetings with a quaransheen of unwashed sweat on their faces. Feelings seem to be on an emotional coronacoaster. Meanwhile, covidiots are spurning lockdown restrictions in ways likely to make the pandemic worse, amid an infodemic of dodgy news and half-informed coronasplaining. At least there is a locktail hour at the end of the week (or, for many, at the end of most days).
There were 427 custodial deaths in India between 2016 and 2019. A 2019 survey of 12,000 police personnel across 21 states by Common Cause, a civil society organisation, and the Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, an MHRD-supported research institute, noted, among other things, a very high approval rating for police violence towards criminals. Nearly three-fourths of those interviewed thought it was acceptable for police to be violent with criminals for the greater good of society. Four out of five surveyed submitted that there was nothing wrong in beating up criminals to extract a confession.
Indeed, Finns derive a great deal of pride from the high level of social trust present in the society, which in turn is an indication of the perception that people are believed to be acting honestly. “In Finland the state is a friend, not an enemy,” Kananen said. “The state is perceived as acting for the collective good – so public officials act in everybody’s shared interest. There is a great deal of trust – towards fellow citizens and public office holders, including the police. Finnish people are also happy taxpayers. They know the tax money is used for the common good and they know no-one will cheat when collecting the taxes.”
Do you feel guilty when you are happy?
Liberal guilt has become a shorthand for describing those who feel keenly a lack of social, political and economic justice, but are not the ones who suffer the brunt of it. According to the cultural critic Julie Ellison, it first took hold in the US in the 1990s, on the back of a post-cold-war fragmentation of the left, and a loss of faith in the utopian politics of collective action that had characterised an earlier generation of radicals. The liberal who feels guilty has given up on the collective and recognises herself to be acting out of self-interest. Her guilt is thus a sign of the gap between what she feels for the other’s suffering and what she will do actively to alleviate it – which is not, it turns out, a great deal.
The remoteness of the risk is always the hardest part to get our heads around. Our past moments of calm or our current nightmare, like the last coin flip or turn of the roulette wheel, tell us nothing about when the next one might arrive. One in 500 years isn’t a prophesy, just a probability. If anything, as Wolfe pointed out when I first met him over a decade ago, global warming, urbanization, and destruction of species habitats are only accelerating the speed at which the next pandemic may arrive.
What if, just what if..
The truth, as I heard from many of the newly remote workers I interviewed, is that as much as our offices can be inefficient, productivity-killing spreaders of infectious disease, a lot of people are desperate to get back to them. At the Zoom “happy hour” at GoNoodle, when the employees talked about their newly renovated office, they sounded wistful. They yearned for the tricked-out kitchen, the plants and big dark couches, ideal for lounging. “We had this killer sound system,” Tracy Coats said, with a sigh. She’s an extrovert, she said, who longs to hang out with her “peeps.” “You know — we’re drinking coffee, or maybe, Hey, want to take a walk? I miss that.”
In The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, Olivia Laing tells the stories of a number of artists who led isolated lives and found meaning in their work even if their relationships couldn’t fulfill them. While she focuses specifically on visual artists in New York over the last seventy years, their methods of using their loneliness and transmitting it into their art carry wide resonance. These particular artists tapped into sentiments many of us will experience at least once in our lives. They found beauty in loneliness and showed it to be something worth considering, not just something to run from.