Same Same but Different
My generation of Austrians has never experienced truly „rough times“. Of course, we heard from our grandparents about the Second World War, about a time when Austria had to build itself up from scratch. But those were stories.
Austria, Western Europe
Story by Julia Schmidbaur
Published on April 18, 2020. Reading time: 4 minutes
I am highly unsure of how to start writing this. „Just write that on tinder I receive more dick-picks than ever“, my friend Naomi states, „or that they have evacuated the train I took after a homeless person coughed at the passengers and peed on the floor“.
As a journalist, I am used to producing three articles a day, but this one seems difficult. How to write about something that affects our lives in a way at least my generation has never experienced before. The coronavirus came at the cost of many: In Austria, more than 200.000 people lost their jobs within three weeks, our economy has lost 11 billion euro so far, and most importantly it has cost lives. Personally, it meant for me that on March 15th, I packed all my belongings in two suitcases and moved out as quickly as possible. I had been enjoying „hotel mamma“, as we call it, for quite a while now. Since my mum is turning 80 this May, I figured it was too dangerous for her to have me around.
My generation of Austrians has never experienced truly „rough times“. Of course, we heard from our grandparents about the Second World War, about a time when Austria had to build itself up from scratch. But those were stories. My mum, on the other hand, was four years old when the Second World War ended, and surprisingly, she is conquering yet another crisis more fearless than I do. With almost 80 she is part of the high-risk category people but keeps up her good spirit and tells me jokes in our everyday calls. Corona can also not stop her from feeding her kids on Easter Sunday, this time the chicken will be handed over in a shopping back through the window.
My daily social interaction is my neighbor Marina. We met once in the hallway before corona. „Hey… so how are you dealing with quarantine? “, was our second sentence. Ever since I feel we both can’t wait for our window chats, which have become the highlight of my day, besides going downstairs to get my mail.
„My friends are my vitamin D“, a friend recently posted on Instagram. And I have to say I agree. Social isolation has made the people in our lives more important and cherished than ever.
After shutting down Austria to a minimum, the columns our economic system was built on, seemed to crumble. Our care system has been built on hundreds of cheap workers, mostly women, from eastern Europe. After closing all borders, they became visible for the first time. Overnight these women have become a high good and our government is flying in hundreds of care workers to keep caring for the elderly.
Well, a bit more than 3 weeks later we made it, „we flattened the curve“, as officials call it. Austria will be one of the first European countries that can relax the rules. But can we go back to normal when this crisis shows us the weakness of our neoliberal system more than ever before?
We have to stick to the rules, our minister of health is preaching every day, or numbers will go up again. "When will we be back to normal?" is the common debate. But should we go back to normal? And what will our new normal be like? Ending this summary of how corona has affected me, my favorite quote comes to my mind: „We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.“ (Robert Frost)
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