Prior to COVID, I hugged girls and shook hands with or fist bumped boys. It was my invariable style. Every person is my sibling in the human family and it is my duty to express my love for them. To my surprise, when COVID hit there was not only a resignation to less tactile interactions by my fellows on the left but a seeming widespread expression that tactile interactions were culturally backward and more distant interactions were somehow socially progressive. The sentiment “Why do we still touch each other in 2020?”. This concerned me because it reflected the idea that human progress is a move toward a Vulcan-like state of complete reticence and professionalism where romance is for the bedroom and art is for galleries. I will detach myself from others as a means of preserving my on and others’ health but I am not going to surrender to an idea that adulthood is supposed to be a world of Weberian bureaucracy devoid of human warmth.
This may, partially, also be one of my few surviving Southern traits reacting to an ever more non-Southern Charleston area. That and my exo-Asperger’s which gives me the Williams’ Syndrome trait of being excessively outgoing. These combined make interacting with more reserved neurotypicals whom I may agree with more politically and socially, I have a different and more moral view on how shallow intercourse should be conducted, with an expressed appreciation for the other party’s welfare and humanity. It is true that more regressive cultures, the world over, tend to be friendlier but there are exceptions like Vermont and correlation is not causation and one is not the means to the other.
Keeping human interactions warm between friends acquaintances, and strangers is extremely important. It both reflects that oneself is a polite and empathetic person and also uplifts anyone receiving the communication. To begin with informality, tells the other side that one’s first concern for them is their humanity and whatever use one has for them comes after. Morally and ethically, I feel I have to make the other person know they are not a utility to me. If someone is bagging my groceries or sweeping the floors of whatever building I’m in, I want them to know that I know the floors aren’t cleaned by Roombas but by mothers with children and fathers with child support. In the Vulcan-like society which some of my progressive comrades have posited are superior, those people keep on with their thankless lives, toiling with no feeling of human love and only the heel of their managers and the disregard of everyone else. Lonely and marginalized, passively. I cannot in good conscience participate in that so I have to be friendly and go out of my way to make them feel human.
In the era of this disease, especially, we have to make a conscious effort to maintain our affectionate disposition to strangers and those we don’t know well. Everybody is more lonely, those who were lonely prior to the pandemic, are lonelier now. When the pandemic is over, I’m going to hug and touch hands again, albeit likely less than I did before. Yet, it is imperative for everyone to go out of their way to become more or remain friendly for the sake of the mental and emotional health of everyone in our society. This virus should not make us more callous to one another’s humanity and further restricted to the insular cliques of our closest friends.