These invisible particles stalking our every connection are helping us rediscover the importance of bonds of conglomeration, localised relationships we had all but lost.
Under the forces of globalisation, neo-liberal capitalism, the great acceleration, where there is ‘no such thing as society’ (and certainly not much time for it) we are only atomised individuals making our way in the world for purposes of progress and profit, learning to travel the world’s gossamer threads of international connection, sitting next to people from one side of the globe to the other, people to whom we do not speak, and do not know.
And on these connections the virus jumps, exploiting the vulnerability of our thirst for freedom, consumption and connectedness like nothing before it.
Yet its power to exploit has uncovers a latent instinct for conglomeration. A latent power for for returning the genie of atomisation into our common bottle. Neighbours speak as neighbours. The healthy support the vulnerable, the young the old, the unaffected those at risk. We speak at street corners, at a safe distance. And yet we speak. Atoms rediscovering the old gravitational pull of personhood. Coalescing.
We have turned the forces of digital atomisation (which pose as connectedness) into a tool for local resilience, building groups of local support and communication. The virus has exposed our weakness, the society we have made, yet is unmaking it, unmasking the fallacy of the global village for what it is, a dangerous veneer of colloquial well-being covering a slow process of disease.
We are tasting (some for the first time) the mundane power of local human bonds. House to house, street to street, normal unglamourous people with unspectacular lives finding they have more in common than they ever imagined, and more need for each other than ever before.
And now that we have tasted this and seen that it is good, recognised the strength and resilience of place-based connection, will we want to keep it? What will be the new normal when this crisis of abnormal life subsides? Will we hold the bonds between us? Will we fight to preserve what we have found? Or will the force-fields of the modern globe atomise us all again?