Questioning the Quantified Life   /   Summer 2020   /    Notes And Comments

Lockdown Nostalgia

Nostalgia idealizes, romanticizes its objects; it falsifies memory.

S.D. Chrostowska

Social distancing in Japan; Shutterstock.

Back to normal? So soon? Am I the only one to reminisce with nostalgia about the time of the lockdown? It is, to be sure, a nostalgia by anticipation, not yet a full-blown case.

Disclaimer: I take stock of the present from Canada, where precautions and advisories have been rife, but restrictions of daily life mild as compared with their counterparts in Spain, France, Italy, India, New Zealand, or aboard cruise ships stranded at sea, Narrenschiff bound for no paradise. Above the 49th parallel, we practice physical distancing and stay home. Like you, we are apprehensive, vulnerable, and responsible. When we dare to take walks (privileged, without curfew), we have virtually nowhere to go. Cafés, nightclubs, and cinemas remain shuttered, playgrounds cordoned off with security tape, and national parks closed until further notice. Our economy is suffering. Our wheezy culture is reeling from the blow. They, too, have corona. We are far from agreeing on a de-confinement plan. The return to normalcy will be long, and we might even change our mind along the way.

The language of “outbreak,” “lockdown,” “downturn,” “shutdown,” “standstill,” “tailspin,” and “meltdown” will be engraved in our memories of this time. The dangers of the current dispensation are almost too great to wrap our heads around. They bear reciting: spikes in domestic violence and sexual and child abuse; lack of care for the sick, the disabled, and the elderly; penury; hunger and famine; paranoia and depression; radicalization and extremism; suicide; xenophobia and hate crime. For their victims, huis clos means suffering and acute stress. While agoraphobics and claustrophiles may welcome the house arrest, claustrophobics dread every minute of it. Those with preexisting hypochondria, well prepared for stringent sanitary measures, report being comforted by seclusion, but are no closer to being cured. As for those severely ill with the virus, not one “star-rover,” Jack London’s eponymous hero reliving his past lives while in solitary confinement, will be found among them. To speak nothing of the trauma among medical staff attending to them.

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