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social distancing: a quote by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

Solidarity in social distancing

Moving closer by moving apart

These are paradoxical times, now even more so than usual. While humans have a natural knack for proportionalities, exponential growth is much less intuitively available to us. Because of this and also because only few of us are virology experts, the responses to public life being severely shut down range from spontaneous understanding to huffy indignation. „I am healthy, so why should I not be able to eat in a crowded restaurant?“

To me it is remarkable how in the face of uncertainty the extremely thin layer of civility and rationality that we cover our more archaic and emotional personality bits with becomes visible. Then thin veneer which we often assume is the main part of reality. Your neighbour started hoarding canned food? Let‘s go soup shopping too! No more football league games? What is this world coming to?

Not even polititians in power are free from being only human. Boris Johnson thought he could sit this one out and bet on the UK getting herd immunity from everyone getting infected. At the same time Donald Trump tried to secure the rights to a drug developed by a German company to make it available in the US exclusively.

This current crisis lays bare the many gaps and shortcomings of our social systems. Things that previously had been totally out of the question are suddenly possible. Money that had not been accessible before can now be be spent with relative ease. The number of flights has dropped radically and working from home online is now seen as a valid approach in many professions. Many of us now find ourselves with some unexpected time on our hands. Chronically underfunded and underappreciated professions are now the ones keeping the system together.

A lot of the pathogens we have to fight in recent years are zoonotic in origin, often occuring in connection with animal farming so many of these waves of infections are consequences of our own conduct. Still the human species is an evolutionary exception in that we fight back with research and medical care as well as deliberately protecting the ones at particular risk.

We see fist fights breaking out in the toilet paper aisles. And then we see people organising help for vulnerable and lonely neighbours as well as amazing flashmobs in Italy where those affected by the lockdown make music together helping each other to forget the social distancing fow a few precious minutes.

These times are as complex as we are ourselves. Humans have the capacity for being creative and wonderful and to close ranks while at the same time keeping a healthy distance. I wish that in the coming days and weeks we manage to not forget this fact and that we will learn from our experiences and will memorise these new insights right in front of our eyes now.

Take care, stay safe and stay connected.

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