The Rise of Public Vulnerability?

[March 18, 2020] By now anyone who cares to know, is aware of those groups of in our society that are most vulnerable to COVID-19; the sick, the elderly (anyone of retirement age really); and the immunocompromised.

Most people are quickly identifying those in their circles about whom they are most concerned; and doing the mental work to understand that our friends, our neighbours, our coworkers, and those we’ve never met, know someone or are someone in the most vulnerable groups.

This week too, has seen a rise in the conversation about our individual and collective vulnerabilities beyond our physical health – our mental health, our financial stability, the list goes on.

People are beginning to lay bare the secrets they guard, in an attempt to make social connection, to clarify boundaries, and to provide comfort to others.

Personally, I have seen this play out across my network – colleagues self-identifying as immunocompromised in an attempt to justify their need to socially distance (this was 6 days ago); friends speaking of their own vulnerabilities and those of their children and parents; people talking about how the fear, and the panic, and the isolation are impacting them.

I like to think I’m a fairly open book, my boundaries are reasonably well defined (mostly due to the events of the last 18 months); I don’t hide that I have asthma, and don’t consciously (at least) hide that I’ve experienced panic attacks in the past and find them to be an unpleasant experience I’d sooner not repeat.

But, on some level, I’m still practicing a level of self protection; I’m concerned about the health of elderly and ill family members, I’m finding it challenging to block out the panicking tone of others – I’d really like a good night’s sleep and maybe for my digestion to settle the f back down, and as someone who runs with a high-degree of empathy I’m finding it exceedingly difficult to stop the endless worry about the mental health of those around me who are feeling this more acutely.

So, as I look for the light in the darkness, I wonder; will this rise of vulnerability be something we as a society carry forth from this time of tragedy? Now that we have begun to peel back the layers, will we each see that the world did not end (at least not because we’ve spilled our own tea)? Will we connect more deeply with our families, and our friends and with strangers, because we do so as our more authentic selves?

Some food for thought, will COVID-19 give way, to an age of Public Vulnerability, when we all recognize the fragility not just of our society, but of each of its parts (the individual)?

This post is one in a series of thoughts as the world faces COVID-19. Series: Love in the time of COVID.

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