The Time Traveler: Cabin Fever

Hugh Ellis

It’s not easy being at home almost all day.

Of course, I’m extremely privileged to have a fairly spacious home and a small garden to isolate myself in during the Coronavirus outbreak. I have access to the Internet on a variety of devices and a whole shelf-full of books. Many Namibians – and South Africans and Americans and Chinese and Italians – are not so lucky.

But still, the anxiety of not moving outside an urban plot, not having access to the psychological security of a workplace, fighting an invisible enemy, maintaining contact with extended family in multiple counties (all nations with their own unique viral issues), it all takes it’s toll. Depression and anxiety, like dogs nipping at their owners’ heels, know little of wealth and affluence.

This pandemic has shown us a number of things. That access to the Internet is now a necessity, not a luxury. That governments, even relatively poor governments like Namibia’s, can move quickly and efficiently when they want to. That sections of the global media still have a way to go in displaying the sensitivity and lack of prejudice they rightly demand in others.

Perhaps the pandemic must also show us the importance of mental health and the need to be gentle towards each other.

In that regard also, let us check on the more vulnerable among us. Give a call to that ‘essential worker’ you know, to see how he or she is coping under the pressure. Don’t forget to check in on that relative who is known to be living with a potentially abusive partner. Go shopping for your friends who don’t have access to a car, or might not be able to afford a delivery fee.

Don’t forget to check in on your strong friends. People like me, who have, literally, seen far worse than this. People who ‘theoretically’ shouldn’t be fazed.

Check in on the guy who, despite having been involved in the very writing of some of the State Contingency Plans for an infectious disease pandemic hitting Namibia, finds himself awake at midnight, wondering how this will pan out, and what will be left of his employers’ liquidity and his career prospects once its over.

Check in on all those people you know doing so-called ‘low skilled’ jobs, the ones that we’ve suddenly found to be valuable. The supermarket shelf-stackers, the cleaners, the deliverymen and women. I’m not sure their salaries will have increased, or their working conditions gotten any better, just because we the general public might for once recognize the vital work they do.

Maybe tell your nephew who refused law school to become a plumber, and is now reconnecting people’s municipal water supplies, that he is not the shame of the entire family after all?

I could go on. The point is: if anything gets the world, and Namibia, though this, it will be kindness. And hopefully a vaccine. And the world’s leaders spending more money on science for humanitarianism and less on war and weapons.

But for now, let’s treat each other gently.

Hugh Ellis is a lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, and a former journalist and public relations practitioner. As communications officer for UNICEF Namibia he was involved in the organization’s Namibian response to Avian Flu and Swine Flu outbreaks in the 2000s. The views expressed here are personal views.

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