At times like this our words matter. Flippant, throw away remarks can cut and hurt and even damage those around us. But it’s not only the words themselves, it’s how we use them. A number of terms have emerged in recent days that capture key concepts for dealing with what is now a pandemic (itself a powerful and evocative term). While I get what these words mean, and appreciate the importance of what they convey, I am concerned about hidden and subtle nuances that may confuse and hinder. I’m pretty confident my ‘alternatives; won’t catch on, but maybe their intention might help us be more prepared to reach out rather than close in.
Self Isolation: I get the intention and importance of isolation as a key way of containing and overcoming the impact of Covid 19, especially if our health services become overwhelmed with the number of patients in need of critical care. I also understand the significance of adding ‘self’ to isolation as it focuses on the importance of us taking responsibility for our own care and protection, particularly if our symptoms are mild and manageable. However, given that a significant number of people within in our communities will not be able to cope with self-isolation for a vast array of reasons, I prefer to use the term ‘Protective Isolation’. It highlights that we are not just focusing on our own protection and well-being but that we are also seeking to protect others. It also implies an act of kindness and consideration for everyone, and not just ourselves.
Social Distancing: this one has really started to annoy me (maybe I have too much time on my hands!!). Again I get the importance of distancing to prevent the spread of this particular virus, but surely we are talking about physical distancing rather than social. Whoever first declared that ‘no man is an island’ clearly understood this. Most of us need to social and communal interaction, it sustains us, it helps us cope. Surely there has hardly ever been a time when we need each other more. We will get through this challenging season, but not on our own. It is only if we work together and do whatever it takes that we will persevere. Thankfully there has never been a time when social interaction has been more achievable even with appropriate physical distancing. Whether it’s using our phones and social media to check on friends, family and neighbours or even complete strangers; this time of tribulation will define who we are and where we are going, as a society and community.
Which brings me nicely to a key point. It is not so much the words we use that matter, but how we use them. Alongside the disturbing obsession of so many with stockpiling toilet rolls it is horrible to see how online trolling and vitriolic commentary has become so commonplace and somehow an acceptable part of our communication. Can those of you who are so callous, self-aggrandising and imperious to kindness please cop on to yourselves. Even without the challenges of Covid 19 your actions and verbal diarrhoea are not acceptable. They speak only of your own ineptitude, small-mindedness and insufficiencies. And those of us who are appalled and paralysed by such vicious cruelty please consider a new form of isolation ignoring and stepping away from those with poison pawprints as they type their tripe. This keyboard con artists have nothing to offer but plenty to spread.
For those of us who will spend the emerging season of ‘Protective Isolation’ and ‘Physical Distancing’ scrolling feverishly along newsfeeds and commentary Please, Please, Please lift your eyes up from the screen every so often and see and appreciate the wonders that still surround us. Can we be wary of negativity and accept that those who are leading the struggle to contain and manage the situation genuinely do have ‘nothing to hide – but something to protect’. Rumour and scaremongering will abound, days will be filled with and unsettling fear and confusion: But we will not be defined as a community by these things. We will strive to protect our values, our principles our appreciation for the unique gift that each person is, our sense of perspective, and most of all, our determination to love freely even as we have been loved unconditionally.
May God bless and protect you all