Isolation and social change
We are undergoing a period of great changes, that is affecting the entire world. When people are forced in their domestic walls, like criminals convicted but innocent, they despair. Why is that?
I was wondering why this compelled isolation has shaken individuals so much. I'm still feeling lost, even if now I got used to this situation, and I was having a hard time understanding why I'm uncommonly not in touch with my emotions. I think this is the first time, since my adolescence finished, that I really have no clue of what's going on in my head; what am I feeling? I don't really know.
However, my inclination to question myself encouraged me to reflect on how diffusely we are not used to a circular life, or routine, anymore, typical of old rural societies. Over time, our idea of productivity has shifted from the agricultural seasonal successes that gave us some security throughout the year, to the industrial production that brought us out from our homes and towns.
Production started to be realized elsewhere, and our personal and social rhythms changed accordingly. From slow to fast, from patient to inpatient, we have become anxious to produce something, to stay active. In some ways, this makes sense: industries need to develop, people need money and they desperately want an employment. We know the only way to achieve these goals is by producing, however I believe there is something really wrong in what this does to our minds.
Production and meaning. Life before quarantine.
In past times, farmers were on the front lines of the production process. They also needed their seeds to sprout and grow, in order to produce food for themselves or to sell it as trade good, but they were taking care of the whole process, they were putting all their love and efforts in that job.
By this I'm not meaning that contemporary jobs are less noble than ancient ones: on the contrary, I'd like to underline that today our occupations have become estranged from our private lives, as the meaning of doing them. We are producing for others, in most cases, but we aren't spiritually taking part in the whole process. Simply, we don't care, most of the time, how important our job is important for the greater good of our society; or we care, but we can't feel the satisfaction of actually being considered useful by our society.
I believe that we got used to the necessity of producing because it has to be done, not because we really believe that a project can give value to our lives. We produce to keep our position, to have the money we need to survive, and we got enormously anxious over producing: because, otherwise, we would be fired.
This anxiety, jointed with the impossibility to feel how necessary we are to our society and to feel the satisfaction that would be consequent to that, converted or encouraged the vision of occupation as something useful for our private or maybe even "egoistic" interests more than for the creation of something valuable for the greater good. There is nothing wrong with seeking for the best position, producing a lot (a part from bad consequences on environment, but I'll explain my viewpoint on that in other articles) or trying to develop our societies. Yet the bad consequences on our emotions are evident and real, as I tried to explain.
We got to a point were having the best position achievable, the best marks at school, and a productive role within society seem to be the key points of our existence, and those who are poor, unemployed or homeless aren't even deemed worthy of consideration. Of course these are general thoughts, and exceptions are luckily always present. However, I've noticed how much we generally tend to ignore those who don't have an ordinary job-centered life.
And competition, anxiety, necessities and dissatisfaction put human beings under a great pressure, filling them with envy and contempt. It has become so easy to consider ourselves better than others, to judge others because they do or have less than us, or because they are (or seem to be) less useful than us. Especially, it has become so easy to complain, oh gosh how much we complain, especially if we have many things.
Is it possible that the more we own in term of goods we gift ourselves, the less we see the value of each good we own? Is it possible that thus we get even more bored and dissatisfied of the way we reward ourselves after all the efforts we put in our job?
To lose the real meaning of the reason why humans need to work, which is to contribute for their private and social well being, and not to be better than someone else, entails the risk of losing the personal (spiritual) value and the social (factual) value of our occupation.
And now? Quarantine has stopped everything.
As I suggested in the title, COVID-19 determined an epochal change in our lives. For I think the first time since the last Industrial Revolution happened, we can't rush to produce: we have to stop, almost in every kind of industry, or we have to adapt our job to home-working conditions, that slow down the entire process and subvert any kind of organisation.
In Italy, a great segment of employers can't work: they can't do what for decades has been considered by the majority as the centre of people's life living in industrialized countries. They don't know how to occupy their time; they feel a bit lost.
Maybe, for the first time people have the occasion to reconsider the meaning they give to their job, that can't be only an instrument for getting money. Maybe, for the first time everyone has the chance to reconsider how the unemployed might feels. But, most of all, we should take this spare time to think how much we need to work in today's societies, but at the same time how much we should fill with meaning the time we spend, working and in general.
We have the occasion to rediscover how long a day is, how slowly a flower blossoms, how much time we have at our disposal we can fill with interesting things. If we live with someone, we can share thoughts, emotions, projects and activities. If we live alone, we can reevaluate the preciousness of silence, to which we got unused in this loud world.
Giving the right meaning to having a lot of time and using it properly might, in this period, teach us the value of those few moments of freedom we have when we are in the job-routine, moments that we can fill with memories instead of screens.
On the same wavelength, we are asked to reflect on how much our job means for our life: we should see it a gift, because not everyone can work. Instead of complaining, we could see it as an occasion for our personal growth and knowledge, and as something that contribute to society's development. This means, in my opinion, giving sense to our occupation, doing it because it can teach us something, even if its not our dream job, and not because it has to be done.
Maybe this epochal change will help humans, or at least Italians, realise the value of every gift life gives us: a job, the goods we can buy thanks to that, how much we comfortably live compared to even less than a hundred years ago.
Above I wrote: «Is it possible that the more we own in term of goods we gift ourselves, the less we see the value of each of that good we own? Is it possible that thus we get even more bored and dissatisfied of the way we reward ourselves after of the efforts we put in our job?» I would answer yes.
We have forgotten how harshly our great-grandparents have lived and how they saw every good as a venerable gift obtained from their work in the fields. We are so used to owning that we aren't satisfied with possessing so much, as it's often meaningless.
Once again, I would consider giving ourselves the time to reflect on how lucky we are to be alive, to have a job and all the things we own, and to think of how useful we can potentially be for society's good, with our employment and with our positive and meaningful actions.
Finally, I would really like to see if anyone who's doing their dream job or if any independent worker, who organizes their job freely and chooses their profession, will share their thoughts in the comments of this article, as their position is very different from employed.
Personally I'm not the kind of person that just sets for a standard profession: I seek something active and stimulating for my personal culture and my mind, something that gives me at the same time the possibility to share something with others. However, I had the necessity of sharing my thoughts on this topic with all those workers who work without seeing a point in doing that. As I seek something that will make me happy, I want to encourage others to find their happiness in what they are doing. Giving a value to that might be the solution.