Allow me to write one personal and intimate reflection on this dramatic moment we all live in.
While the epidemic in China is officially over, and while the life in China is slowly recovering and assuming its previous character and shape, Europe is only at the very beginning of the epidemic.
I left China on January 23 for the Spring Festival holidays but after only a week or two it turned out that I cannot come back. The flights were canceled, the airports closed. I did what I had to do — I moved to Croatia with a hope that I would be able to come back home and to my work at the Eurasia University in Xi’an soon. And here I am — after two months of traveling around the world like Odysseus, I found myself in Croatia, at the remote island in the Adriatic sea, in the middle of epidemic, isolated and safe, but disintegrated, without a possibility to return. Like Odysseus on the island of Aeaea imprisoned by sorceress Circe, I am watching the sea and longing for home.
I am thinking about the time of quarantine and how did we spend that time. So many questions in my head:
Did we learn something from this crisis?
Did we use the given time for diving into ourselves, or did we spent it idly?
How many books did we read? How many movies did we see?
How did we treated our children? Did we offer them something new and different from what we were giving (or not giving) them before? Did we give them something that we couldn’t give them before? Did we change some bad habits? Did we spend quality time with our children or we left them at the mercy of cellphones and computers?
How did we, adults, treated each other in time when we were together 24 hours a day like never before? Were we “sentenced” to live together or did we have a privilege and fortune to finally be together? Did “social distancing” made also a distance between the family members and disintegrated them or the “social distancing” helped us to integrate and to establish more intimate communication and contact with our the closest ones? Did many hidden agendas, thoughts and feelings came to the surface? Did this help us make our relationships stronger or weaker?
On which side of the seesaw we are?
So many questions that the future will give the answer.
I read in a western newspaper:
“The global impact of the Corona virus pandemic poses a fundamental question: is this one of those historic moments when the world changes permanently, when the balance of political and economic power shifts decisively, and when, for most people, in most countries, life is never quite the same again?
Put more simply, is this the end of the world as we know it? And, equally, could the crisis mark a new beginning? For countless individuals and families, normal life has already been upended in previously unimaginable ways.”
(Guardian, March 30)
Indeed. The change already happened. In a Chinese newspapers I found the following:
“The Marriage Registry Office of Xi’an reported an unusually busy workload as divorce applications are piling up.
Between the Spring Festival up until today, everyone stayed home. And while you would think that this allowed people to spend more quality time with one another and become even closer, things look to have shifted the other way.
Registry office staff said they are processing more divorce applications on a daily basis than ever before. Many couples across the country just couldn’t make it through this self-quarantine period and, from the looks of it, drove one another crazy to a point of no return.”
What to say to this? Indeed, if the premise that there can be no return to the pre-Covid-19 era is correct, then it poses many unsettling questions about the nature of the change, and whether it will be for better or worse.
Where are we in China, and where shall the rest of the world be, on which side of the seesaw — better or worse? Did the social distancing give a birth to intimate distancing? Did we lose trust and respect to each other and if yes, how to bring those back. How shall we trust each other on the streets, in the schools, on our work and in the families? Shall we continue making distance to each other until the final alienation and disintegration or shall we find a way how to integrate again and find the lost intimacy.
What about children that are the biggest victims of this social distancing. Disintegrated, without possibility to be with their peers, without a chance to play with them, closed into the computer games and cartoons, children even more than before lost the contact with the real world, with other children and what is devastating — with the members of their own family. If the number of divorce applications are bigger than ever before, it means that we shall have bigger than ever number of children that are living in disintegrated, nonfunctional families. Is this the new world that we are going to live in after Covid-19 era?
What shall we do? Obviously, there must be a change in the paradigm of education and raising of children. This distancing and gradual alienation, this disintegration of children must be stopped and replaced with gathering, joining, assembling, holding, playing, socializing, in one word — integration.
In this respect I see the noble role of Drama that must come back to its roots and stop being the tool for education but rather possibility for resocialization and reintegration of children and all of us.