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All Animals Are Equal

By Jeremy Ireland on August 3, 2020 in Other

It wasn’t me. Photo: Daniel Battley

It’s hard to believe that spring is just around the corner. As we start to shrug off the effects of winter, the impending season is looked upon as a time of anticipation and regeneration. The days get longer, temperatures rise, flowers begin to bloom; all things that elevate one’s mood and make you feel good about the world. The optimist in me wants this year to be no different, the realist isn’t so sure.
In what can only be described so far as a very trying year, I was desperate to try and find a ‘feel good’ topic to celebrate the end of winter and help us out of hibernation. But the more I tried, the more it just didn’t feel right. This year will be quite unlike any other. This virus has reshaped the world and how we live. We are facing what Lily Rothman from Time magazine describes as a ‘society-wide problem’, exacerbated by the fact that the psychological impact varies greatly from person to person. It’s the first time in living memory where a health crisis has caused an economic shutdown, dragging us into an enforced recession.
To try and put this into perspective, it’s worth looking at the different challenges people have faced during lockdown and their varying impacts on mental health. Economically, to have your job classified as non-essential and shut down for an indefinite period sends a clear message about the types of jobs, if not careers, that keep the world turning during a crisis. If yours didn’t make the cut, the psychological fallout may be very different from someone who held their job in an industry that was considered essential. Similarly, the impact would be just as stressful for someone who did hold their job but was asked to work extra hours to meet the increased workload. Throw in some home-schooling, especially while trying to work from home, and you’re starting to get the picture.
Socially, the same principle applies. Psychological impacts will differ depending on where people sit on the lockdown curve. My dear elderly neighbour, who is more at risk than most, has no doubt felt the effects of isolation more than a younger person would have. Those who have fallen victim to an increase in abuse, domestic violence, and crime will have a different experience as well.
Even politically there were differences. As the second wave hit, it felt like there was a witch-hunt going on in Victoria. The language used and the way it was delivered by the various state premiers was verging on belligerent. “Don’t come to New South Wales,” Victorians were told, “or you’ll cop an $11,000 fine and six months jail.”
Unfortunately, a by-product of what we have seen through this economic and social lockdown has been prejudice, which is judging people based on stereotypes. When we stereotype, we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear, or place a person or group of persons into an inflexible, all-encompassing category. In the US, it’s come down to “Democrats wear masks, Republicans don’t”. In Australia, it’s “Everyone from Melbourne is a risk”, and blaming backpackers for Bondi becoming a hot spot.
Even your vocation can be stereotyped. Consider the musicians who lost out from the closure of our pubs and clubs. “Surely muso’s don’t get paid? That’s not a real job, they’re just doing it for the fun and a few free beers, right?”
The main point here is that everyone’s individual experience of the pandemic will be different. Some people will benefit, some people will be decimated by it, and some people will barely feel a ripple. Either way, don’t ignore how you feel about it. If you feel it’s getting on top of you, please seek professional help.

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