The talk of the moment is social distancing. Faced with a zoonotic virus for which there is no defense logic dictates that we aggressively attack its transmission vector. That vector is us. By limiting or completely stopping our own movement we, essentially, stop the transmission of the virus itself. Infection rates go down and, statistically, so do deaths.
In this way we can, sometimes, stop a virus entirely as it runs its course. Or, we can buy ourselves time to come up with a cure. However, just like any other kind of strong medicine, social distancing is hard to take.
Despite the solid logic behind the argument of limiting our own social contact we find it hard to do. Part of this is down to how hard we find it from a practical point of view. Part of it is denial which stems from the fear we feel when faced with something we are totally unprepared for.
As World War Z (the novel) makes abundantly clear, the response to a global threat is locally differentiated because of culture. Culture, in its most basic form, arises out of the actions of peoples directly responding to their environment. Culture, in turn, mixed with knowledge and experience gives rise to beliefs. Beliefs determine ‘destiny’ by enabling certain decisions and choices which, in turn, result in outcomes.
Human behavior on the planet appears complex and diverse because our environments are complex and diverse. Neurochemically and biomechanically we are, largely, identical. This only becomes truly apparent when an external, existential threat appears that erodes and flattens local culture; creating, in the process, a monoculture of fear and uncertainty.
Then and only then does our reaction appear similar all over the planet. Similar reactions acknowledge the universal basis of our human condition. The fragility and vulnerability of each individual becomes apparent. We then understand each other better because we feel part of the same human tribe. This, in turn, allows something amazing to happen: we exhibit greater empathy. Empathy, as an emotion, has a place in the evolutionary trajectory that has enabled us to survive because it allows us to predict what someone we have never met will do next. That then generates greater trust.
In times of global crisis, like now, these complex mechanisms kick in and allows us to sync our thinking and behavior and cooperate so we can survive. Solidarity emerges. Collective altruism and hope arise.
When all you need sometimes is just 15 minutes to workout not putting in the time, especially when it will help you feel better about yourself and boost your immune system is a no brainer.
Social isolation is a real challenge. To get through it we need each other.
I know you’ve stockpiled enough coffee for a month. And sufficient sweets to feed an army of ER doctors. So, I am not in the least worried you won’t have enough supplies to dee you though this read. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.