Check Your Privilege, Lockdown is Not a “Gift”

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If you’re talking about lockdown as if it’s an extended yoga retreat, you need to check your privilege.

In the last week, I have seen so many people in the online space talking about 2020’s lockdown as our “gift”. “Exactly what we needed”, “time for ourselves”, “an opportunity to disconnect”. But for people without the privilege of a garden, stable income, or good health, it is so far the opposite. I have held in feelings about this for a long time, because perspective and positive thinking can be a tool for many people to get through this difficult year we’ve been faced with. However, something ticked this weekend and I saw someone else projecting this “mother nature’s gift” rhetoric on socials and I physically burst into tears.

I have a very strong objection that lockdown is not an “opportunity”. It has not felt like an extended summer holiday. It has not felt like a retreat, a gift, a sign, or anything like that. It has felt like a living hell, and nothing else. I can only speak from my own experience, and I cannot imagine what lockdown and the fear of coronavirus feels like for a person of colour, or members of the black community protesting for rights, or physically disabled people.
There are some days I can bury my head in my work, focus on the incredible community we’ve built within Books That Matter, and how much we’re growing; and I feel incredibly grateful – it’s been such a blessing to have this space and this work. But behind the scenes, which not many of you will know, is that I suffer with chronic asthma, and I’ve been shielding at home since early March. Until very recently, I’ve not been able to leave my house, interact with others, and I’ve had weekly check up calls with the NHS shielding service. For me, the fear and overwhelm of what coronavirus could do to me, and other vulnerable members of my family, who are mostly all key workers, is ever-present in my life. I have hysterical moments of crying and mourning this year at least once a week, and I know I’m not alone in that.

This “new normal” has not been an easy transition for me. Whilst Books That Matter is thriving, tripling in size, gaining so many new members of our community and being offered such wonderful opportunities; overworking has been the only thing keeping me vaguely sane. As a home bird, I find it difficult not seeing my family and closest friends at least once a fortnight; and I miss them every day. I’ve cried to Abba, I’ve cried to Billy Ocean, I’ve cried to every song that could possibly remind me of a memory or person I love. I’ve come to realise how much I’ve taken for granted when it comes to autonomy, free time, and the ability to travel, and I’m certain I never will again. However, this is not my “gift”. The gift I am grateful for is the ability to pay my rent, have the support of my partner, and to take each day as it comes; but I am not grateful for this time. It has erased almost a year of therapy which has put me into a good mental health space, it has made me paranoid of my health, it has taken my autonomy, it has taken my first opportunity to travel with friends, and so much more.
And the torturous thing for me is thinking of people I know and people I don’t who have lost so much more; people that are so far from the “lockdown is a gift” rhetoric that it feels like they’re not even being seen by those perpetuating this awfully insensitive sentiment.

For those who have stability, good health, expendable income, a safe home, a garden, activities, and the ability to leave their house; this might feel like a real treat. Time away from work, time with your family (if you’re able to see them), time to take country walks, practice yoga, change your life, write a novel. But that’s not everyone’s experience, and in not recognising that, it’s damaging. There are people who can’t see family who are key workers, people who have welcomed new life that they can’t share with family and are overwhelmed and alone, women who are juggling childcare, house work, and their jobs, carers who aren’t able to access support, families living on a tight budget who are suddenly faced with furloughing or unemployment, people suffering loss and dealing with it alone.
The gift lockdown does allow us is that of the ability to take perspective on our life and the difference of those around us; privilege impacts everything and everyone, and we all need to be aware of that. Whether that privilege comes down to class, race, health, ability, and everything in between, we are all responsible for being empathetic people online and offline. Choose your words carefully and kindly when you talk about the lockdown experience. Please do not post that you “never want it to end”, that it’s “mother nature’s gift”; you are, perhaps unconsciously, trivialising the suffering felt by many, and the needless deaths that have happened all over the world, which should never have happened in the first place.
Be kind, be thoughtful, and check your privilege.

Written by Molly Masters

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