Lockdown is hard on everyone, but it’s self-evident that it is harder on some than others. Those who live in cramped, unsanitary conditions, those who live with a violent partner, those whose income has dried up – they all have it far worse than those of us working from comfortable homes. We are very careful not to moan – or to caveat complaints about our deprivation and discomfort with: “but I shouldn’t complain. I’m not in a shack. I have work. I have a garden. I am blessed.” Etc.
Well you know what? It’s OK to find lockdown difficult. It’s OK to miss running, cycling, swimming, hiking. It’s OK to miss your friends, and a friendly drink in a bar, or a meal out. Zoom is great but it’s NOT the same. You don’t have to be a saint, just because you are better off than someone else.
Undoubtedly, someone else is better off than you – has a swimming pool, or a bigger garden, or a fuller wine rack, and it’s OK to be a bit jealous of that. It may not be humanity’s best quality, but it is human. While it’s important to care about our fellow citizens and behave responsibly, and be sensitive to the circumstances of others, we all live our own realities. That’s all we can live.
Recognising and owning your emotional responses to situations is a part of looking after your mental health, so that you can be there for others, whether that is your family or your community. Just because you’re not suffering…doesn’t mean you’re not suffering, whether from inactivity, boredom, loneliness, anxiety, or whatever. If you are worried about your fitness, your investments, your family overseas, these are legitimate concerns. Owning them does not mean you do not care about others, or do not have compassion for those worse off.
In general, the collective response to the threat of COVID-19 and lockdown has been fantastic among South Africans. We are seeing wonderful acts of kindness. But inevitably there is also an element of moral high ground and self-righteousness that has emerged. This can make the rest of us feel we have to be super-selfless, so as not to look callous or indifferent.
At SD Law we have always championed the rights of the less fortunate and vulnerable in society. But we also think everyone is entitled to give themselves a break right now, and acknowledge frustration, irritation, apprehension and stress as a normal, healthy, human response to the pressure we are all under, both individually and together.
Simon Dippenaar has a BBusSc LLB degree and Professional Diploma in Legal Practice from the University of Cape Town, and is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa. He is the founder and director of private legal practice, Simon Dippenaar & Associates, with offices in Cape Town and Gauteng representing South African and international clients.
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