I have been hesitant to write this post.
At first, I felt as though people must only want to read blog posts from the epidemiologists and medical professionals rather than the educators and sociologists. I know that’s the only content I have been devouring for the past two weeks. But, as we settle into this new reality, it has become clear to me that we need to hear from one another now more than ever. We need to think deeply about our human interactions in a time when they have become scarce. I think sociology can help us with this as we ease into our new way of life, however temporary.
I write about this historic, unprecedented and extraordinary time we currently find ourselves in…together. The keyword here being ‘together.’ At the most basic level of sociology is this idea that we are shaped by the people around us; that we are the drivers of our personal destinies and that we can decide what we want for our lives. In these uncertain times, all of these ideas seem to be under siege. Our governments continue to be forced to draw on rather draconian measures to flatten the COVID-19 curve, our destinies are relegated to the confines of our homes (and our digital worlds) and our social networks stop at our immediate family members.
What sociology also tells us, is that the most intimate of actions are shaped by the larger social world around us. Perhaps never before in history has this statement been so powerful and so obvious as we ban together in nothing less than wartime to fight this intruder. Staying inside with your family, in what might feel isolating and personal, is of course part of a powerful social collective undertaken in the name of our common humanity. I am finding great comfort in this notion that ‘we are all in this together’ and that the concepts inherent in sociology are still very much intact as we continue to be shaped by the world around us from the confines of our own homes. It also helps me to stay at home.
This is a time when we need to feel empowered through new kinds of human interaction. I sat on my first ‘zoom’ call last night and connected with women I respect on multiple levels through our screens. At first, it felt contrived, but after several minutes, I settled into this idea, and I felt empowered; empowered that I could still connect with these women in times when I couldn’t see them in person; in a time when seeing them in person could put others lives in danger. And this is the sociological idea that we can see ourselves in the actions of others – we are doing it for one another and because of one another. If only on our computers, I could still pick up the deep sense of purpose each woman had as we found ourselves in this new reality. It almost brought me to tears.
If sociology is truly a study of the interconnectedness of humans; the shared experiences we all have that shape the very personal decisions that we make, there perhaps has been no time in history where we have been more connected towards a common goal attained through individual effort then now. We are truly living history. Though it is devastating to watch lives being lost (my heart breaks for Italy, currently), it is also uplifting to watch the videos my friend sends me from her apartment in Spain each day when the people clap in unison and play music for the health care workers (clip below). I watch my daughter begin to understand actions for the greater good as I explain the idea of sacrifice (today, it was not going for ice cream) for ‘grandmas,’ and I am anxious but excited to gear up and engage with my students all over the world on a digital platform next week. If we are all in this together, then we can surely accomplish great things from our couches and home offices. And we can surely educate our young people; these past two weeks have been an education in itself.
So, as we move forward in making our very personal decisions, shaped and intertwined with a global fight, I hope that you connect with those you love outside of your home, that you smile with your students as you start to navigate online learning and that you enjoy your time connecting with your loved ones as you find yourself in these precarious but unifying times.
In good health,