We have entered the fourth week of social distancing. I had planned to write about something not related to the coronavirus. I have the feeling that all we have been talking about for weeks is this virus. We have all become experts in virology, masks and laws – or at least we think we have. I also read an article that for governments with populist tendencies benefit if we only focus on talking about the pandemic. It distracts from a critical discourse about our society. Hence, I really wanted to write about another topic.
However, for the first time in very long, I had no idea what I should write about. I usually think about the Monday Postcard over the weekend. I read articles, do research or think about what happened over the past days. But this time, I did not come up with anything. My mind seems to be exhausted. I tried to paint a new fashion illustration yesterday and failed. I did some research for blog posts for this website but could not really focus. For the past two weeks I have struggled to sit down and write new posts.
For the past three weeks, I have been mostly at home, except for the necessary errands. I am fortunate to be at home with my family in a house with a garden. I have been really productive with work, as I finally managed to tick things off my list which have been there for weeks. I read a lot, much more than usual. It has become a refuge from all the corona-related news which I still find very scary. Every evening when the numbers of infections and deaths come out, I try not to watch it. Call me a coward, but I do not want to hear it over and over again. Mathematically, we already know what is ahead of us. And even for non-mathematicians, we just need to look into other countries. I also help my parents out in the garden and bake with my mum. If you live abroad, these are things you hardly get to do. I am grateful that I can spend isolation like this.
I know all of this is a privilege. Hence, I do not want to complain about anything. But when I was unable to focus over the weekend, I realised that social distancing and the constant state of uncertainty has taken an effect on me too, even if I do not really want to admit it. We are social beings and while talking on the phone and reconnecting with everyone is nice, it cannot substitute a real date with your partner or a coffee with your friends. I know it is necessary now and we will make it through.
I can slowly see the impact on my creativity. In Bangkok, I try to explore and see new things. When I am in Vienna, I go to the museums as often as I can. At the moment, I see my laptop, the garden, the TV with coronavirus news. For three weeks I have powered through, not looking left or right. Work has been keeping me sane. Usually, Monday mornings are a highlight of my week. I go to my favourite café, enjoy my coffee and write to you. It is a really nice start of my week. Yesterday was the first time I dreaded thinking about the postcard topic. I do not just want to write about anything just for the sake of sending you one on Monday.
But I do want to be honest here. And even though I have been positive, no matter what new measures have been announced or how uncertain everything is at the moment, I also have days where I am just thinking “f*** that”. Pardon my French. I hear about fellow entrepreneurs struggling after building up their businesses for the past years, I see established family businesses contemplating if they can keep their employees, I hear about my Pelagona-partners worrying how the pandemic will affect the poorest. I am worried about seeing European countries doing their own thing and I wonder about the impact on the European Union in the future. In our neighbouring country Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban used the coronavirus to hand him even more power. Countries are debating to or have already started to monitor their citizens with software. Even our chancellor Sebastian Kurz wants to use what he calls “big data” to monitor where we are going. We do not know when our borders will open again. We do not need to look into our past or read George Orwell again to see where we might be going. The danger is that the pandemic is being used as an excuse to build surveillance states. All of this is scary and it comes on top of our the fears about the virus itself. Even though I tried to shut it all out, it has been subconsciously affecting me.
I wanted to share my thoughts today because maybe you feel the same. Maybe you are over the phase of “I will clean my house, relax, refocus and enjoy a home spa”. My goal with the Monday Postcard is to spread positivity and connect with likeminded people over topics which I feel passionate about. But in times like these, I think it is also about honesty. Even more than usual. I am confident that we are a strong society. And it gives me faith when I see the reaction of the opposition or civil society to certain measures. I do agree that we are in an exceptional situation and I do hope that our government acts to protect us, our health and our economy. But at the same time we need to be vigilant.
We will make it through this. Please stay safe and do not forget it is OK to be scared. It does not make you a coward. At the same time, we all need to try to stay positive.