From top: Phoenix Park, Dublin last Saturday; Neil Curran
A month ago, a post went up on Broadsheet headlined ‘Dash It’, which highlighted a sign erected in Irishtown, Dublin 4, presumably by locals, requesting no joggers on a street due to the narrow pathway.
Some commenters threw ire at joggers, while others scratched their heads at the anger and some just got a chuckle from it.
Regardless of whether the sign did anything to deter joggers from doing their thing, the post does mark a moment in our Covid-19 journey where society risks turning on itself.
It’s now May and with the Government’s roadmap to lifting restrictions published, the reality of another three months of restrictions is sinking in and there are elements of society looking to vent frustration and anger somewhere.
Certain work groups, such as the publicans, are making noise about the desire to open earlier in line with restaurants and cafes. Until now, public talk of ridiculing the lockdown restrictions was taboo, something quickly shut down and certainly not entertained by the mainstream media.
We were all in this together by staying apart, as the campaign goes. However, as plans to lift restrictions, it is apparent that we may not be in this as together as we think, as we all have different paths out depending on our profession, employer, family status or age.
More and more, people are expressing frustration, pushing the limits of restrictions as the Government notes an increase in motor traffic and anecdotal evidence of more people outdoors going about their walks and exercise without giving much consideration to social distancing.
And to be fair, society’s frustration is understandable. We are social creatures, most of us haven’t seen friends and family in too long and online interactions will never make up for it. Many people are concerned about their livelihoods and are eager to get back to work.
Some are facing the prospect of having to rethink their careers as certain industries have a high degree of uncertainty as to how they can operate profitably in the new social distanced world.
As society’s frustration grows, that frustration will be directed somewhere and the risk of a potential segregation of society is growing.
From the Government’s perspective, the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan recently singled out “younger people in the community” when speaking out about the community infection numbers not falling at the desired rate.
Perhaps the evidence does highlight that “younger people” are part of the community infection chain, but what does that mean when generalised statements are used. What age brackets are “younger people” in? Is it nationwide?
From other parts of society, as more and more people speak out about restrictions, there are suggestions that we should look at continuing to cocoon the elderly and the most vulnerable in society while everyone else gets back to work and gets on with it.
The mention of this one month ago would have evoked the wrath of the heavens, but now it’s becoming more and more acceptable to air these views. While there is no issue in that, the greater concern is the potential slur on society as a result.
Parents with young families, single working parents and families with special needs children are also facing a dilemma. We know that creches and schools are closed over the summer and as businesses return to work, the honeymoon period of working from home will end and parents will have to juggle their job and home-schooling/childcare at the same time, while those with no children or older children have less of a burden.
The option of Granny and Grandad isn’t there due to cocooning, leaving parents in a difficult position. I know of two working parents who encountered issues recently due to this challenge. One lost a client contract with comments made about children in the background during an online meeting and another faced a frosty reception during an online interview. Has being childless suddenly become a huge plus on your CV?
Love it or loathe it, the path to a lifting of restrictions has been mapped out and the next few months are going to bring new challenges for our society as we rebuild our routines and livelihood. There will be anger, frustration and sadness along the way.
We are looking to the Government’s plan as a route out of this but must remember it’s a two-way street; if the virus takes hold again, we take a step back. No one wants that. We may see further anger and frustration directed at parts of our society, including the vulnerable as a result.
The mental health of the nation is strained way beyond anything we have seen in a very long time. More than ever, we need to practice empathy at a time like this.
So, if you are the neighbour, the manager, the co-worker or just stuck in line outside the supermarket in the rain, remember we still need to be kind to one another and recognise that we are all struggling in different ways.
Neil Curran is part of the Broadsheet on the Telly team, an Improviser and in his own words, an unqualified commentator. You can follow him on Twitter here or on Instagram here.