Socially Distant

When the Covid-19 Pandemic began, only a few might have thought that it would bring such huge impacts so quickly! Now that we’re approaching winter and the „long foreseen“ second wave seems to just begin, I have been thinking a lot about the flaws of our modern society that are (probably) more visible than ever right now; and what we might learn from this event. One instance that caught my attention very soon was the usage of the term „Social Distance“. What does it mean to be ,socially‘ distant? Shouldn’t it be „Physical Distance“ instead? I mean, that’s basically what it actually is, right?

I went on a short trip to Italy to see a friend lately when the number of Corona-cases was still allowing it; more specifically: I went to Veneto – this region around Venice in northern Italy that was hit very heavily by the pandemic already in spring. Thus, the people there have experienced a strict lockdown, being not allowed to leave their homes for several weeks.

In contrast to that, my home country Saxony-Anhalt, is the region with the second-lowest number of Covid-19-cases in Germany and besides closed clubs (bars and restaurants re-opened in July) and the obligation to wear a face-mask in the super-market and public transport, life is still pretty normal here. Saxony-Anhalt is also the only German federal state that doesn’t charge a fee for not wearing a mask (Berlin: up to 500€!). Our prime minister said: „We don’t need a fee! People in Saxony-Anhalt are reasonable!“ – which sounds somehow sarcastic to me.

To be honest: I’m sometimes pretty bothered by seeing so many people in my everyday life that simply don’t give a damn. The other day when I went to the shop, some guy walked in without a mask. He apparently preferred to have a 10-minutes-argument with the cashier, holding up the whole line, than just doing this simple little thing for like 5 minutes. And just last weekend there was another demonstration in my city by some „cross-thinkers“ that, in all seriousness, still argue if Covid-19 even exists.

These kinds of people, to me, seem to be socially distant in a literal way. Meaning, that they distanced their ego, their whole self so far from others that they can only care about themselves. So, egocentric, anti-social beings, one could say. But this is a phenomenon that I’ve been observing ever since my teenager-years: society seems to become more and more de-solidarized in a way. And my impression is that most people nowadays tend to mix up „being individual“ with „being ignorant“.

With that in my mind, I was very curious how the Italians would handle the whole thing and how the mood would be after the (first?) lockdown. I was surprised to see how literally everybody was following the duty to wear a mask in public, all without complaining or whining (I counted exactly 3 people that didn’t have one at all). I spent most time outside and everybody seemed so calm and relaxed. The total opposite of the stereotypes that many Germans have about Italians: hectic, loud, chaotic, cannot follow rules, and so on…

Maybe it’s a cultural thing: Germans are said to be a bit cold and reserved – more distanced, one could say. Hence, I found it interesting that in Germany 1,5 meters is considered a ‚safe-distance‘, whereas in Italy 1 meter seems safe enough. Hence maybe my friend’s opinion on ‘Social distance’ when I asked her: “Being socially distant means to keep distance or to give space to others and pay regard to people, from a basic ‘social’ motivation. All that in order to protect them and maintain a society.” …pretty funny how sometimes views can differ, even though, their aim is the same.

I truly learned some lessons during this trip and I find it really comical – almost bizarre – how different the people behave in this pandemic not even 1.000 km apart from each other. While the ones don’t want to end up in a second curfew and pay (more or less) respect and regard to each other; the others see a mask as a kind of muzzle and scream „Corona-dictatorship!“, even though while just using their right to demonstrate (not to mention: in groups of up to 500 people with no distance and no masks…). And I came, once again, to the conclusion: The world is one crazy place!

Sascha Schlüter

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