Will we be sorry to have closed?



As the Covid-19 pandemic continues around the world, one wonders if it has not already profoundly changed our way of life. Could we find ourselves like those prisoners who, once released, miss their cell, finding in their regained independence the bitter taste of anguish?

This last year and a half, so focused on security, has brought a remarkable reduction in social charges: less contact, social events shortened or made optional, long trips impossible. And the little thrill of illegal dinners and difficult trips to Europe or elsewhere depended on the context of the ban. The popular cliché in France of a post-Covid return to the Roaring Twenties should not deceive us: many French people (and Europeans more generally – and undoubtedly, this is also the case for many Americans) no longer want to return in their offices, and they want to continue working from home. Many leave the big cities and settle in rural areas, dreaming of a simple life close to nature, far from the rampant consumerism and noise of city life, sheltered from the vicissitudes of history.

It is not clear, in other words, that everyone will experience the return to normal as a release. The pandemic worried us, but it also delivered us for a time from an even greater worry: the anguish of freedom. To parody Pascal, who explained that the misfortune of mankind consisted in the inability to sit quietly in his room, alone, we could say that the misfortune of mankind after Covid may be to be locked in his room – and like that.

There would be historical precedents for such an attitude. While young people, after the French Revolution, celebrated tumultuous desires and strong passions, some authors have taken a different turn. Among them, in France, Xavier de Maistre, author of Travel around my room; the Swiss Frédéric Lamiel, in his torrent Newspaper, devoted to the tiny events of his daily life; and Russian Oblomov, who spends his short life in bed. All of them are opposed to the two predominant types of human beings in the 19th century: the bourgeois, whose entire existence is based on profit and calculation; and his opponent, the bohemian or the revolutionary, who wants to change the world and establish justice. Faced with these active characters, lovers of banality insist on the wonders of insignificance, the greatness of inertia, the truth of laziness. They will have successors in the twentieth century in Samuel Beckett, EM Cioran, Franz Kafka and Robert Walser, but also in the movement on the fringes of the ecology of disaster – “collapsology”, which preaches negative growth, the end of the journey. and retirement. in small communities, while waiting for the end of the world. Here, we have a whole underground school that has reappeared with the containment policy.

Isolation has a softness that recalls the long tradition of Western monasticism: the monk’s cell, less transcendence, more social networks. Even before the pandemic, this hidden story had found new life, adorned with all the virtues of resistance to global warming: you have to stay at home to avoid the greenhouse effect, adopt vegetative immobility and ban the movement that produces too much carbon. The universal cell of contemporary humanity, from Los Angeles to Beijing, is the sofa facing the screen.

Will we thirst for the great outdoors again or will we give way to stunting propagandists? For these activists, the call to fight is not the need to save the planet but the need to punish the human race. Life must be changed, that is, reduced as much as possible to the minimum. There are so many who want to convert us, professing the best of intentions, to a morality of troglodytes.

We may find that the Covid has given birth to a new anthropological type: the curled up and hyper-connected human being no longer needing others or reality. We could then interpret Rimbaud’s famous line, “real life is absent”, as follows: “real life is the absence of life”. For all those who still promote the spirit of exploration and the taste for bonding with others, it would be a double catastrophe: to the deaths of the virus we would add, as a kind of atonement, the penance of shrinkage.


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