How lockdown changed us

Feb 25, 2021 by

by Freddie Sayers, UnHerd:

As every prisoner knows, once freedom has been taken away it doesn’t take long to become grateful for the tiniest details of life being restored. The thrill of outdoor tasks in the yard, say, which allow a few more precious minutes under “that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky”.

I caught myself having similar flashes of gratitude as the Prime Minister set out his roadmap this week, towards liberating schools, restoring outdoor socialising and eventually — gasp — allowing people to see their loved ones when and where they like.

Our expectations have become so diminished that his granting of permission “to have coffee on a park bench” is taken not as an insult but a gift; and the restoration of permission to “hold hands on care visits” is accepted with joy, the cruelty of his withdrawing it in the first place long-forgotten. For parents across the country, the relief that schools will soon be opened will no doubt temper the anger at the damage it has wrought on the people they love the most. All the horror of livelihoods destroyed, funerals with no mourners, older people aged beyond recognition by a year of isolation — the instinct will be to forgive it all in exchange for getting our lives back.

This, for me, is the most frightening thing about the past year. More than the virus itself, more than the political divisions that have opened up — it’s that extraordinary ability of humankind to adapt their horizon of expectations. Twelve months ago it would have been unthinkable that we would so readily accept, apparently with an overwhelming majority, another four months of such drastically reduced existence.

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