The current lockdown is not a period of economic crisis, although it will probably result in one. In the first place, the lockdown is a human crisis. By removing most of our distractions we are confronted with our unfiltered reality.
Before the lockdown started quite a few of us were close to the edge of society or had already fallen over. The lockdown drew back a veil of social and economic shame. These are a few examples. The United Nations warn for a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence”: “However, even before the global spread of the new coronavirus, statistics showed that a third of women around the world experienced some form of violence in their lives.” Divorce rates are up because, as a divorce lawyer explains: “For every marriage that was on the brink, this is what’s going to push people over.” On Facebook, even more posts promoting violence and hate speech have been removed. And, already existing serious mental health issues among youngsters are being deepened.
Economically, the lockdown has shown for instance that twenty percent of all people self-employed in the Netherlands have a financial reserve of fewer than three months. And restaurant owners in the United States “now reveal that they had … been operating under razor-thin margins. … Even famous, successful chefs, owners of empires, those with supremely wealthy investors upon whom you imagine they could call for capital should they need it, now openly describe in technical detail, with explicit data, how dire a position they are in. The sad testimony gushes out, confirming everything that used to be so convincingly denied.”
The shame of not being able to deny anymore our proximity to the brink, or us having been pushed over, will be at least as hard to live with as our economic downfall as the result of social distancing policies. Besides economic revival blueprints, we will need social policies that will help us recreate dignified identities for ourselves.