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March 29,2020

by Efren Poveda Garcia

Cabin Fever

quarantine

1. Boredom and Despair

The current crisis is making some facts more visible than ever. The incompetence of most governments, for example. Or the worth of strong national health systems. Or the ageism and irresponsibility of blond populist leaders. Or the vital importance of some underrated and underpaid jobs.

On a more positive note, we have the acts of solidarity of low-income people making protective masks for free. Or the contributions by professionals and non-professionals on the internet or from their balconies to keep others entertained and healthy during quarantine. And, of course, the responsibility showed by those who encourage others to stay home and do so themselves.

Masks 2Masks 1

Masks made by designer Selu Gómez (IG: selugomez_) using spare pieces of fabric to be distributed among his neighbours.

I am writing from Spain, a country of hugs and kisses and terraces and vibrant streets and plazas. A country where quarantine and social distancing are extremely heavy words and even heavier measures. In one week of quarantine – the first one – more than 100.000 people were penalised for infringing the prohibition established by the government. Hundreds had to be arrested for repeated misconduct. From orgies (really?) to people throwing out the trash 5 km away from their homes. From dog owners renting their pets so that several strangers a day could use them as an excuse to go out (walking your dog is one of the exemptions from the general measure) to a man directly walking a plush toy. This all had already started on the second day of confinement. Three nights later, the recording of a woman being restrained by the police went viral. She resisted fiercely while crying for help and, in response to the reprimands coming from the windows of neighbouring residential buildings, she proffered a sentence of which only the last words are distinguishable. She said something about “being shut in.” In the context, the information being transmitted is easy to grasp. She couldn’t stand being shut in.

It was the despair in her voice what struck me to the point that I haven’t been able to forget her.

From the second day of quarantine, tweets and Instagram posts have brought to my timelines complaints about having to stay at home and the boredom it causes. From the second day.

Isolation

To be honest, I find it worrying that so many abled young people experience home seclusion as something terribly boring or, even worse, maddening. Just to be clear, I understand that sharing isolation with certain family members can cause severe anxiety; which can be aggravated if the space we live in is reduced (Of course class matters in this too!) or if our privacy is systematically violated. I also understand that in a considerable number of apartments there’s a lack of sunlight because windows aren’t oriented towards the street. But most complaints I have seen on the internet haven’t been written in any the foregoing situations, nor in circumstances of disability or mental conditions.

What’s the problem, then? What happens at our homes that makes our staying in feel like being grounded? Why does it feel boring or distressing to the point of driving many up the wall on the second or third day?

Edvard Munch- The Scream (1895, signed 1896) (8477718108)

This phenomenon isn’t new either. I knew a gym monitor, for example, that on the second day of her holidays was back at the gym, spending most of her time at her workplace and claiming that, if she were to stay home (which wasn’t the only option, as I reminded her), she would spend her time watching too much TV, eating too much and thinking too much. She wasn’t the first person I’ve heard state that they don’t know what to do when not at work.

Something is really wrong when a considerable lot of the population feels this way.

Others, on the other hand, enrol in thousands of social activities (drinking in bars, exercising in group, attending classes of all kinds) in their spare time and seem scared of being alone at home.

Again, something is really wrong when a considerable lot of the population feels this way.

One may think this is a particularly Spanish or Mediterranean problem due to the prevailing habits in these societies. And, yes, there must be some truth in it. However, in the last days I have found laments such as the aforementioned coming from many places in the world, although not with the same frequency. The posts from abroad I’ve seen contained mostly advices on how to spend time during confinement, or were plainly made to entertain others. (Truth be told, the number of Spanish posts of these kinds has been increasing day by day.)

I appreciate very much the positive spirit and solidarity behind them. I really do. And I try to make my part too, precisely because I know how good they are for many, but also to strengthen the solidarity movement and the feeling of togetherness (more on this in “Acquiesce,” this journal, March 16). But I still find troubling the need of these stimulations from outside during the first days of isolation.

STAY-AT-HOME-EN

How is it possible that so many people lack ideas, hobbies or interests that can be practiced or learned by themselves or in the company of others at home? How is that possible when you can access so many parcels of the world through the internet? How is that possible when books and music exist? How is it possible that so many find their only sources of entertainment in the social networks and Netflix, and even so claim to be bored? In the era of overstimulation, we seem to be more prone to getting bored than ever…

2. Part of my guesses to all the foregoing questions:

Since we were children, we have been taught to obey the instructions of others, to behave in ways acceptable by those around us and to satisfy their expectations in order to avoid different kinds of punishment and feelings of guilt. And all this independently of how we felt. At school, we were required to sit for hours behind a desk and stay still and in silence no matter what despite the conditions inherent to our being children. If we didn’t abide, scolding and corrections were the reactions to be expected with most likelihood. Inquiries on the causes of our (mis)behaviours were usually out of the picture.

Furthermore, and still at school, we were trained mostly to reproduce information over and over instead of producing it, and to be as efficient as possible in that reproduction, ignoring emotional and bodily needs that could hinder our task.

We used to move, therefore, in the surface of knowledge. Too frequently, we didn’t need to understand the data being reproduced. Of course, neither did we need to enjoy learning.

Moreover, knowledge used to stop in our own surfaces (external or internal). There was little (if any) engagement with the qualitative “immateriality” of our experience. We were transferred a worldview where the tone of our experiencing (the emotional “colours” inherent to our access to the world) was practically absent. Both in formal and informal education. Such state of affairs continues in most workplaces and institutions as basic as the family.

With time, we have also learned to ask and answer How are youes banally. Very often, fine doesn’t mean fine. Very often, nobody cares.

In addition, the culture of commercials has made us believe that each of us is, more than anything else, her outer surface. Well…, her outer surface and the things she owns. And, paradoxically, that it is through (and in) those aspects (those dimensions) that we can be free.

Finally, the revolutionary black mirrors that dramatically change human patterns of conduct from time to time have made us become addicted to torrents of trivial information and trivial signs of approval.

The consequence: Our attention has been trained to be constantly oriented outwards. We live oriented outwards. We are emotional illiterates. And this has the following…

3. ...implications:

First, our natural curiosity and creativity have been diminished. Numerous human beings have lacked the opportunity to discover their own interests, the things they could feel passionate about, what they want in life.

Masks Tragedy

Second, we get bored because we don’t really know ourselves nor our potentialities. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t there. If we could access them, we would gladly engage in different individual activities instead of feeling empty while we scroll down our timelines. Perhaps we wouldn’t have enough time to get bored. And home isolation would cease to be a synonymous of disorientation.

Third, we get anxious due to disorientation, but also due to the fact that the removal of engaging stimuli from the outside opens a window through which all the unattended processes within us peep out. To express it differently, we make (superficial) contact with the blob of frustration and repressed emotions enmeshed within us through the years. And, oh, how horrible that feels.

If only we could run away from it...

Images:

Coronavirus Quarantine: MGN

Masks made by designer Selu Gómez (IG: selugomez_) using spare pieces of fabric to be distributed among his neighbours.

Isolated women: (There is no title for this image) : REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia - Edvard Munch: The Scream (1895, signed 1896). Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Stay at Home: Matthieu Persan (http://www.barbudesign.com/)

Masks by Jocelyn Herbert. Photo: Sandra Lousada

March 29,2020

by Efren Poveda Garcia

Cabin Fever

quarantine

1. Boredom and Despair

The current crisis is making some facts more visible than ever. The incompetence of most governments, for example. Or the worth of strong national health systems. Or the ageism and irresponsibility of blond populist leaders. Or the vital importance of some underrated and underpaid jobs.

On a more positive note, we have the acts of solidarity of low-income people making protective masks for free. Or the contributions by professionals and non-professionals on the internet or from their balconies to keep others entertained and healthy during quarantine. And, of course, the responsibility showed by those who encourage others to stay home and do so themselves.

Masks 2Masks 1

Masks made by designer Selu Gómez (IG: selugomez_) using spare pieces of fabric to be distributed among his neighbours.

I am writing from Spain, a country of hugs and kisses and terraces and vibrant streets and plazas. A country where quarantine and social distancing are extremely heavy words and even heavier measures. In one week of quarantine – the first one – more than 100.000 people were penalised for infringing the prohibition established by the government. Hundreds had to be arrested for repeated misconduct. From orgies (really?) to people throwing out the trash 5 km away from their homes. From dog owners renting their pets so that several strangers a day could use them as an excuse to go out (walking your dog is one of the exemptions from the general measure) to a man directly walking a plush toy. This all had already started on the second day of confinement. Three nights later, the recording of a woman being restrained by the police went viral. She resisted fiercely while crying for help and, in response to the reprimands coming from the windows of neighbouring residential buildings, she proffered a sentence of which only the last words are distinguishable. She said something about “being shut in.” In the context, the information being transmitted is easy to grasp. She couldn’t stand being shut in.

It was the despair in her voice what struck me to the point that I haven’t been able to forget her.

From the second day of quarantine, tweets and Instagram posts have brought to my timelines complaints about having to stay at home and the boredom it causes. From the second day.

Isolation

To be honest, I find it worrying that so many abled young people experience home seclusion as something terribly boring or, even worse, maddening. Just to be clear, I understand that sharing isolation with certain family members can cause severe anxiety; which can be aggravated if the space we live in is reduced (Of course class matters in this too!) or if our privacy is systematically violated. I also understand that in a considerable number of apartments there’s a lack of sunlight because windows aren’t oriented towards the street. But most complaints I have seen on the internet haven’t been written in any the foregoing situations, nor in circumstances of disability or mental conditions.

What’s the problem, then? What happens at our homes that makes our staying in feel like being grounded? Why does it feel boring or distressing to the point of driving many up the wall on the second or third day?

Edvard Munch- The Scream (1895, signed 1896) (8477718108)

This phenomenon isn’t new either. I knew a gym monitor, for example, that on the second day of her holidays was back at the gym, spending most of her time at her workplace and claiming that, if she were to stay home (which wasn’t the only option, as I reminded her), she would spend her time watching too much TV, eating too much and thinking too much. She wasn’t the first person I’ve heard state that they don’t know what to do when not at work.

Something is really wrong when a considerable lot of the population feels this way.

Others, on the other hand, enrol in thousands of social activities (drinking in bars, exercising in group, attending classes of all kinds) in their spare time and seem scared of being alone at home.

Again, something is really wrong when a considerable lot of the population feels this way.

One may think this is a particularly Spanish or Mediterranean problem due to the prevailing habits in these societies. And, yes, there must be some truth in it. However, in the last days I have found laments such as the aforementioned coming from many places in the world, although not with the same frequency. The posts from abroad I’ve seen contained mostly advices on how to spend time during confinement, or were plainly made to entertain others. (Truth be told, the number of Spanish posts of these kinds has been increasing day by day.)

I appreciate very much the positive spirit and solidarity behind them. I really do. And I try to make my part too, precisely because I know how good they are for many, but also to strengthen the solidarity movement and the feeling of togetherness (more on this in “Acquiesce,” this journal, March 16). But I still find troubling the need of these stimulations from outside during the first days of isolation.

STAY-AT-HOME-EN

How is it possible that so many people lack ideas, hobbies or interests that can be practiced or learned by themselves or in the company of others at home? How is that possible when you can access so many parcels of the world through the internet? How is that possible when books and music exist? How is it possible that so many find their only sources of entertainment in the social networks and Netflix, and even so claim to be bored? In the era of overstimulation, we seem to be more prone to getting bored than ever…

2. Part of my guesses to all the foregoing questions:

Since we were children, we have been taught to obey the instructions of others, to behave in ways acceptable by those around us and to satisfy their expectations in order to avoid different kinds of punishment and feelings of guilt. And all this independently of how we felt. At school, we were required to sit for hours behind a desk and stay still and in silence no matter what despite the conditions inherent to our being children. If we didn’t abide, scolding and corrections were the reactions to be expected with most likelihood. Inquiries on the causes of our (mis)behaviours were usually out of the picture.

Furthermore, and still at school, we were trained mostly to reproduce information over and over instead of producing it, and to be as efficient as possible in that reproduction, ignoring emotional and bodily needs that could hinder our task.

We used to move, therefore, in the surface of knowledge. Too frequently, we didn’t need to understand the data being reproduced. Of course, neither did we need to enjoy learning.

Moreover, knowledge used to stop in our own surfaces (external or internal). There was little (if any) engagement with the qualitative “immateriality” of our experience. We were transferred a worldview where the tone of our experiencing (the emotional “colours” inherent to our access to the world) was practically absent. Both in formal and informal education. Such state of affairs continues in most workplaces and institutions as basic as the family.

With time, we have also learned to ask and answer How are youes banally. Very often, fine doesn’t mean fine. Very often, nobody cares.

In addition, the culture of commercials has made us believe that each of us is, more than anything else, her outer surface. Well…, her outer surface and the things she owns. And, paradoxically, that it is through (and in) those aspects (those dimensions) that we can be free.

Finally, the revolutionary black mirrors that dramatically change human patterns of conduct from time to time have made us become addicted to torrents of trivial information and trivial signs of approval.

The consequence: Our attention has been trained to be constantly oriented outwards. We live oriented outwards. We are emotional illiterates. And this has the following…

3. ...implications:

First, our natural curiosity and creativity have been diminished. Numerous human beings have lacked the opportunity to discover their own interests, the things they could feel passionate about, what they want in life.

Masks Tragedy

Second, we get bored because we don’t really know ourselves nor our potentialities. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t there. If we could access them, we would gladly engage in different individual activities instead of feeling empty while we scroll down our timelines. Perhaps we wouldn’t have enough time to get bored. And home isolation would cease to be a synonymous of disorientation.

Third, we get anxious due to disorientation, but also due to the fact that the removal of engaging stimuli from the outside opens a window through which all the unattended processes within us peep out. To express it differently, we make (superficial) contact with the blob of frustration and repressed emotions enmeshed within us through the years. And, oh, how horrible that feels.

If only we could run away from it...

Images:

Coronavirus Quarantine: MGN

Masks made by designer Selu Gómez (IG: selugomez_) using spare pieces of fabric to be distributed among his neighbours.

Isolated women: (There is no title for this image) : REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia - Edvard Munch: The Scream (1895, signed 1896). Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Stay at Home: Matthieu Persan (http://www.barbudesign.com/)

Masks by Jocelyn Herbert. Photo: Sandra Lousada