It's only fair to share…

Imagine sitting at a table where there is a breakfast buffet. It is already a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Then a voice starts singing. More voices join in. The song is familiar but somehow not the familiar arrangement. More voices join and the harmonies are superb. By now there are over a dozen singers gathered around a table of diners singing happy birthday.

These are not professional singers. They are wait staff at the Fiji resort where breakfast is being served. From the voices and harmonies, they could well be professional singers. The table being sung to has three people. The youngest, who may be around 20 is the “birthday girl”. After the song is sung, many of the singers embrace the young woman and who I assume is her mother. It is apparently also their last day at the resort.

This simple story tells us much about what is important in human life and how those who have been dismissive of the impacts of lockdowns fail to see the totality of human existence.

Tourism is by far the biggest industry in Fiji. To my surprise they do not grow rice. Sugar is an export crop but not a massive jobs creator. IT services is up and coming but also not yet a source of much employment.

The staff at the resort who cook, serve tables, are on the reception desk, and clean the rooms have all been out of work for two years. Add to this taxi drivers, tour operators and their staff and many in retail. It is perhaps not surprising then that when pulled over by police for a random licence check, on seeing an Australian licence, his words were “Thank you so much for visiting Fiji”. Everyone was so happy to see tourists.

Police were likely still employed but many of his family may not have been. One cannot clean hotel rooms, cook for guests, or drive a taxi via zoom. These people cannot pivot to working at a computer in their pyjamas on full government pay.

The other aspect of this was the simple act of singing and embracing. Music is part of every culture on earth and live music is wonderful for the soul. A hug is one of the most potent positive acts we can do for another human. A parent instinctively hugs a distressed child. When we seek to comfort anyone in distress, we will give them a hug. There is much work that shows human to human contact helps to ease stress.  It shows we care.

Conversely, we hug when there is good news – be it a birthday, wedding, or any small occasion.  Family members will hug on greeting each other.  A hug is simply part of human nature. It nurtures both parties. It feels good or at least a bit better. It bonds people.

One step further out is being with loved ones who may not happen to live in the same geographical area as you do. Connecting with friends and family is a critical part of good health. Isolation has been shown to be a bigger risk factor in all-cause mortality than smoking and obesity. Yet perhaps because there is no pharmaceutical solution, we hear nothing about it. Maybe this is what so many felt completely comfortable in ignoring the significant downside to the Orwellian mantra of “staying apart keep us together”.

There is one further aspect to this which was highlighted by Mark Oshinksie – lockdowns and mask mandates made it harder to form any new relationships. As Naomi Wolf observes in her book “The Bodies Of Others” masks have been traditionally seen as the attire of evil doers keen to hide their face.

Facial expression is a significant component of human interaction and once again, blithely dismissing it absence as not important, show that some lack an understanding of human beings. Loss of facial expression is even more critical in children.

Increasingly we are questioning what has been done and what lessons can be learned. The Great Barrington Declaration of October 2020 outlined a logical balanced approach which weighted up pros and cons.  If we find ourselves in a future pandemic, it is the template to follow.