socially distanced – Thoughts

Zvi Weinstein, Israel – WG4

Socially Distanced sounds like an event connected to chaos, disaster, an outcome of unusual, abnormal situations where people are affected and feel remote from civilization and from their traditional, cultural, educational and economic communities. This kind of chaos is not a local event but a global one and therefore its results and outcomes are much more severe.

A human internal feeling of being socially distanced reminds me of publications of two authors who described the term “socially distanced” which we are using today, 60 years before the current COVID-19 pandemic:

1) Robert D. Putman  (1995) in his book “Bowling Alone” where he describes the reduction in all the forms of in-person social intercourse upon which American used to found educate and enrich of their social lives. He argues that this undermines the active civil engagement which a strong democracy requires from its citizens.

2) Jane Jacobs (1961) in her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. Jacobs was a critic of “rationalist” planning of the 1950s and 60s. She argues the modernist urban planning overlooked the complexity of human lives in diverse communities. She opposed large-scale urban renewal programs that affected entire neighborhoods and built freeways through inner cities. She instead advocated for dense mixed use development and walkable streets with the “eyes on the street” of passers-by helping to maintain public order.

Today, when we look outside our balcony towards the street where we live, we miss the commons walking in the streets, the cars  and public transportation that cross by, the noises and voices of the people walking along the pavement, the colorful objects outside shops. Instead, we can listen to the singing of the birds, see trees and flowers blooming, look up to the blue sky and enjoy the quietness around us.

Being socially distanced makes us think thoroughly and look around ourselves, asking questions that sometimes have no answers about our daily lives. How to re-build again our community, our social contacts, our behavior according to new rules and codes? How do we manage our income, treat our children, find ways to save our resources? Solutions might be found inside us, as we develop opposite socially distanced actions  and overcome feelings of isolation, and humanize technology for our new daily needs whether in person or collectively.

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