A return, yes, but to what?
I understand (and have full respect for) those among us who want to return to where we were in late February, for reasons that have to do with their economic survival and that of their families. However, I am less certain about the rest of us: What exactly is it that we are so anxious to return to?
Would it be a return to the daily commutes of billions of miserable workers around the globe who every morning pack into the subway or sit in their cars in crawling traffic as they struggle to be at the office “on time”? It’s extremely hard to come up with reasonable arguments in defense of such labor conditions inherited from a world that is already dead.
Or would it be a return to the endless meetings that were once hailed as the quintessential part of an advanced office routine until the lockdown made us realize their not-so-great contribution to productivity?
And let’s not delve into the millions of lost working hours wasted on meaningless business trips, the millions of euros frittered away on flights and posh hotels where one professional gets to meet another professional so that they can conclude in three days what was during the lockdown wrapped up in a one-hour Zoom meeting.
Let’s not mention the damage to the environment from transport pollution or the pressure on our immune systems from the endless air miles, the trips around the globe and all sorts of obligations that keep us away from our own people, or even from our own selves, because “this is just how things work.”
Would it be a return to our national pursuit of record-breaking tourism figures as we turn a blind eye to their repercussions on local communities and the country’s natural wealth? Would it be a return to Airbnb-transformed neighborhoods just because this happened to be the current trend of an unfettered tourism market? Would it be a return to countless cafes, bars, restaurants and souvlaki joints that seem to have popped up in every empty storefront in Greek towns as a result of an insatiable thirst for socializing?
If there is one valuable thing to take away from the whole lockdown experience, it is that we were afforded a fleeting glimpse of an alternative version of our lives. If we are to return to exactly where we were two months ago, we’d better get ready for a mass wave of nostalgia for what were rather inhumane conditions which however revealed how badly we had shunned our most human aspects.