On Being Remotely Human #1: From #SocialDistancing to #LockDownSA …

Text by Werner Schmidt | Photo by Kolar.io on Unsplash


Hours before #LockDownSA


A familiar silence, as we count the hours to #LockDownSA?

Part 1 of the #123CYLockDownSeries [thanks to Johnny for the series’ sub-title!]

The past week here in Central South Africa has almost felt like the December Festive Season lull, with a few key differences:
Virtually nobody is gathering in groups during this season, and certainly not for celebrations.
We are being encouraged to stay home, wash our hands, reduce touching our faces. Lock-down happens from midnight, Thursday, 26 March.
Many conversations are about medical and economic statistics and social oddities.
Security guards accost shoppers with spray-canisters at shop entrances, and limit the number of shoppers inside, shopping.
In shop queues, shoppers with overloaded trolleys reflect on how empty the shelves are.
Shop assistants only interrupt their medical-update deliberations to briefly greet the next shopper arriving at the checkout, and then continue with their conversations, while transacting and filling shopping bags.
Waiters report for work, to energetically serve nobody, clean tables and chairs regularly with an alcohol-water mixture, throughout the day, with blue-gloved hands.
Commercial media, which is normally quiet during festive season, has added a new primary topic to their news feed framework, and is hyper-active.
Social media contains many consecutive posts about aspects of this topic, interrupted by ‘are you tired of this topic? Share the 13th photo on your camera roll below’ (this is not unlike social media during the festive season). Fake news on hyper-super steroids.
Telegram-style texts spread like wildfire, containing the latest shocking revelations of illegal gatherings, infections, and a hotel-turned-quarantine-site a stone’s throw from our house.

I breathe deeply. 
Stretch my arms above my head. Get up to wash my hands, as they feel a bit grimy. Clean my laptop keyboard with an alcohol-water mixture, the smell reassures me. I feel protected, for the moment.

Thoughts about what we need to ACCEPT, before committing to action

COVID-19 is real. We have no clue what its eventual impact will be on the physical, mental and economical fabric of society. Words like ‘significant’, ‘huge’ and in some cases ‘devastating’ come to mind.
Human activity has become shockingly less than usual, over-night, much like a typical festive season. In this case it will be Christmas with deadlines and put-bread-on-the-table-pressure for working people.
The economic impact is immediate and in some cases as severe as successful businesses having to contemplate business rescue in a matter of days, as demand for their goods and services simply vanished.
The need for physical distancing is real and a key component of the management of the spread. #LockDownSA has advanced social distancing to the max.
We need and want to buy things to make living possible and comfortable.
Children and adults at home for prolonged periods are challenging.
Thinking and talking about the phenomenon are essential steps in preparation for concrete action.
Our need for social connection are as important, if not more so, than usual.
Getting small children to regularly wash hands and keep their hands away from their and each other’s faces … is impossible.
Contributing to the hype, the mania, through reckless communication, will only serve to increase society’s fever.
The list goes on, however I don’t have to.

I get up, to the kitchen, make coffee, return to my keyboard. Feel clean enough to postpone more hand-washing, for now.

Thoughts about what I can COMMIT to doing during the lock-down period, however long it might be

Adhere to the lock-down measures, as soon as possible. How about right now, if I can? Challenge myself to install a number of new habits into my daily rhythm.
Regularly wash my hands well, notice when I want to touch my face with my hands, particularly after grocery shopping.
Blend empathy with concrete, practical action, starting with myself, and my inner circle, where I have some control.
Remove words from my vocabulary that recklessly add to the hype, particularly if the words point to occurrences far away, and completely out of my control – practice self-questioning in this regard. Creatively non-mention that which everybody is very aware of!
When engaging face-to-face with strangers, e.g. during lock-down grocery shopping, act as if I am infected, and want to protect the stranger.
Having said that, attempt a real, ordinary conversation with the shop assistants, while I spend a minute or three at the checkout.
Go remote, if I can, professionally speaking, make it happen for my employees who can work from home.
Give paid leave to cleaners, gardeners etcetera that come to my house or workplace, especially since the lock-down announcement.
Practice gratitude for who I am, and who and what I have in life, at this moment.
Call, email, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype etcetera with my professional and personal network, let physical distancing make my network grow stronger.

May we strive to be human, remotely, and remotely human, today …

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