Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Julia Hanschell
Even with technology, online teaching with interesting lessons planned, personal space in which to concentrate and supportive, involved parents at home, why is our computer-literate generation detaching from learning?
The fact is that a screen is a poor substitute for in-person, human connection. Remote learning is bland, in spite of laughter and conversation that can still take place. The unspoken sadness, driven by loss of personal contact has created a numbness and deep-seated feelings of futility that are not being addressed. Mental health is at an all-time low and we have so few tools with which to address this.
What we’re seeing is hopelessness pure and simple, with a generous topping of grief. We are basically crippled by our collective sadness.
We must start acknowledging this and finding the energy from somewhere to connect somehow. Perhaps we can learn from not so distant History.
My thoughts have been returning to my ‘old people’ with increasing frequency and specifically to World War II which they lived through for six long years. I often ponder how they would have handled this pandemic. They, too, lived through fear and uncertainty, news of deaths, hunger, joblessness and decimation of their normal lives.
Families would gather in person to listen to the wireless or play the gramophone or ‘parlour games’; fantasize when they would have sugar again in their tea, or eggs for breakfast. Like us, they read depressing news daily but they could still ‘connect’ within their close circle, commiserating their mutual deprivation.
Unlike them, we no longer have connections like these. That’s what we have lost.
The huge difference between us now and our ‘old people’ is that they found a purpose to every day. All of the women learned to knit – scarves, socks, balaclavas, hats, gloves – for the war effort. Everyone planted food so they would not starve. Curtains were sewn into dresses, clothes were ‘re-fashioned’ into something different and families sang, played and read together. They shared their fears, sympathy for others, anger, hopes and dreams. They devised usefulness.
Perhaps the connection we have not taken advantage of in this pandemic is one which is staring us in the face: FAMILY.
I remember, at University, many moons ago, examining the ‘replacement’ of the family unit by the friends’ circle in the post-war years. Fashion and Music were no longer globally synonymous and played a pivotal role in separating
the ideology of generations.
Seventy years later, our friendship connection has become our everything; being of far greater satisfaction to us than family. As we try to survive this pandemic, the loss of our close friend connections is truly intensifying our grief.
Being now ‘stuck at home’ within a ‘family bubble’ is unfamiliar territory, driven by generations of withdrawal.
Unless your family happens to be a fortunate minority.
So what did our ‘old people’ do to survive each day during six years of isolation?
They got up each morning and got dressed to get them in a positive frame of mind, putting on their makeup and their shoes as if they had somewhere to go. They ate together, talked about daily mundane tasks to preserve their sanity and they did something worthwhile, as menial as it might be. They planned moments together throughout the day: a tea break, mealtimes, discussing the news, reflecting on miniscule, positive highlights, shared household tasks, picking fruit or making bread. They chit-chatted.
I remember as a young adult still hearing the small talk between my aunts that kept them connected throughout the day as one sat picking rice for dinner while the other laid the table. It was the little things, done together, that helped them
Have we lost the art, or the choice, to do the little things together that were really big things, that kept us constantly connecting?
Few pursuits were isolated, unlike in today’s world. One washed the dishes while another rinsed, a third, dried and put away, chatting all the while.
One collected eggs, while another fed the chickens and a third cleaned the coop. They all met in, and shared common space, so they were in physical proximity, even if they practiced ‘companionable silence’.
Little words of dismay might slip out and be met with an understanding smile or a sympathetic comment.
Families, marooned together, kept to a routine and stayed physically close. Complaining was rare; each one understood the negative impact on the others, so restraint was their weapon against grief. When hopeless helplessness reared its head, there was philosophical encouragement.
Deep down this pandemic is a recalibration of our lives on many levels. It’s time we started looking for the good it is trying so desperately to offer. In trying so frantically to keep our friends close remotely, we are ignoring the gift of reconnecting with family in person.
Our war is far from over. We are sequestered with those who love us. Let’s get the most from the experience of reconnecting with family and getting to enjoy each other again. Is there any other choice that makes sense and could produce such
a positive outcome?
Julia Hanschell can be contacted on smartstudying @gmail.com.