Today was quite the red letter day. For the first time since gyms shut due to the Covid pandemic, my local reopened and I was able to train again. Though vowing to take things easy as I pulled on my sweats, it seems my body has lost what little fitness it had. Consequently, doing nothing more than going through the motions of a workout was enough to provoke bucking hysteria from my muscles. The other thing which took me by surprise, the way in which my local community seems to have completely forgotten about Covid. This got me musing on the power of the snub.
If I had been cryogenically frozen prior to Covid becoming a household name and then dropped into my gym today, apart from odd signs on the floor telling me to stay 1.5 meters from my fellow trainers, and that gym staff now seem to be actively engaging in clearing the equipment, I would have been none the wiser. This odd situation, given the positively post-zombie apocalypse attitudes of everyone until this week, was heightened by the surrounding mall being packed by shoppers so desperate to ‘grab a bargain’ that they were absent mindedly bumping into each other in a race to the checkout. When only the other week the mere thought of entering the 1.5 meter danger zone would provoke the most pained expressions and instant dousing in surgical alcohol.
Perhaps this is only natural. After all, the human capacity to dissipate cognitive dissonance knows no bounds. But it did make me wonder what the long term implications for Covid will be. In the 80s and 90s, one could not turn on the TV or walk down the street for being bombarded by HIV-Aids awareness campaigns. Today, hardly a word is spoken of the disease.
What is striking about the Aids pandemic is that behaviour only partly changed. After the initial awareness campaigns sparked rapid and profound changes in behaviour, it quickly became apparent the changes were incomplete and by the late 90s, barely 19% of American adults attested to changes in their sexual conduct.
Fast forward 20 years, and declines in sexual activity seem to owe more to ‘the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the global recession of 2008‘ than fear of contracting Aids.
Given today’s encounters at my local mall, it seems Covid is likely to follow the same trend. While the activists campaigning on your local street will violently disagree, social attitudes change far more than many of us think, but credible threats to life are less often the proximate cause than less existential social pressures.
In short, the power of the snub retains a capacity to alter social actions and it does so in a more subtle way than the more vitriolic alternatives in use today.