Melbourne is out of lockdown and hopefully we will not need to experience another one, or not as long. We dust off and prepare to make this city again the cultural heartbeat of Australia. The Eastern Seaboard, Sydney, and Melbourne will reclaim their natural place the nation’s economic, cultural, and intellectual centres.
Lockdown was a cumulative 267 days since 2020. Australia coming late into vaccination had much to do with that. Worryingly infections in Melbourne now sit around 2000 per day, and our hospitals are under pressure, ICU beds are filling up all due to the unvaccinated. It is a fact that 97 percent of those in ICU are unvaccinated.
Lockdown limited deaths and suffering. The Victorian and Commonwealth governments vaccinated Victorians. Soon Victoria will reach 80 percent double vaccinated. The disease has now become ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated.’
The period was often tragic. In terms of tragedy, for me the deaths of loved ones who I could not honour at their funerals impacted. For those infected by Delta there was Illness, and for some, death. I find tragic and disturbing that the death of some elders in the Greek community was caused by their anti-vaccination children that infected them. The lockdown created debate, usually not very edifying. The conflict between the civically responsible and selfish individualist came into sharp relief. Democracy is the constant struggle between Ayn Rand’s “virtue of selfishness” and Locke’s “social contract.”
The lockdown opened new opportunities. Zoom and TEAMS made it possible for colleagues, and likeminded people to meet easily, and to get to the point. Fruitless coffee meetings were gone as were endless hours spent in traffic.
Lockdown created space for reflection and philosophical enquiry. We created liminal time, time out of time. We listened to more music, read more, and felt more. Our immediate world became more noticeable – our backyards and the streets that we walked in, the birds and creatures that inhabit our urban world became were more visible.
The lockdown had negative effects, but how serious? Some small business suffered while others thrived. We supported our local businesses and will continue to. Trusted media became more important. There was no surge of suicides, there was an increase of calls to Lifeline.
We all knew that there was support for us. Medical, and psychological support was a phone call away and free.
We found time to renovate, garden, read, write, and paint. Performers suffered. Many took the time to reshape their art. The period offered inspiration and after major global crises cultural and intellectual renaissances materialise.
For me lockdown moulded deeper bonds with my immediate family. I came to really know my 19-year-old son. My wife and I spent more time talking to each other about things, not just who, where and how.
Lockdown was it tough for some students. Though for some it re-focused them on study, particularly Year 12 students. Extracurricular activities, sport, going out meeting friends, disappeared.
We spent much of 2020 assisting our son in VCE. We enjoyed seeing Othello and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and I loved going through the entrails of the French and Russian Revolutions with him. We had a tutor for maths, given our parental ineptitude in that area. In 2021 I also assisted him with his first year of university. Here lockdown and university don’t go together. University needs social connection, face-to-face learning, and discussion.
Overall, lockdown was not dreadful. We had access to food, (too much), we had good medical and mental health care, and educational support, (in the form of state funded tutors), we had small business grants, and a raft of government supports. Our system works, it made life safe, and it provided for us. Unlike the Nordic nations who have similar supports, we do not have to endure six months of darkness every year.
We live in one of the wealthiest multicultural nations on earth. We enjoy freedoms, few in the world have. Most of us live in detached housing, not cramped apartments. Life was safer for us than for those in Europe, US, Africa, and Asia.
We saw no morgues pile up, no mass graves, no freezer trucks full of corpses. We had no food shortages. We had no riots, looting or mayhem, like South Africa, and the US. Our welfare, educational, social, health and economic systems did not collapse.
Over four million people have died since the beginning of 2020 from COVID. The real estimate is over 10 million.
We have those innate freedoms back and we will experience life again as social beings.
However, lockdown allowed many of us to create profound connections with life. I will miss the deeper family discussions as our lives no doubt begin to clutter again.
Whichever side of politics one belongs to, our governments are responsible, and they work. As Victorians and Australians, we should be proud of the tenacity of the social contract.