An interesting twist to the restrictions on travel and movement that have been put in place asa result of SARS-CoV-2 is to make many people spend a lot of time at home or wherever they were when the emergency measures went into effect.
This situation has clearly been very more comfortable for some people and has also put others into extremely difficult and even desperate situations. On a personal level, I feel blessed that I have enough space, food, and wifi to get through the crisis without any hardship but it does make one think about where home is or where should it be?
The importance of place, is often underestimated. The english philosopher, Roger Scruton, discusses the idea of love of home, or what he calls “oikophilia”, to talk about people’s attachment to a specific place. While living and working far from home can bring much satisfaction and growth, there are also enormous advantages in living close to family in a place where you feels you belong.
My eldest daughter lives in New York City which is more or less where my family comes from. Not long ago we were getting out of a taxi and as I paid the driver and got out of the car, she told me that I “fit in” in the city. Thinking about what she said it hit me that I really never “belonged” in Barcelona in the sense while I speak one of the languages in the city (Spanish) I barely speak the local language (Catalan) and have a strong American accent in any case. Nobody really understands my sense of humor and my daughters have grown up accepting the fact that their dad is an expat who does not really get it.
Many of our full time MBA students left Barcelona when we took our classes on line and went back home – typically to their parents houses and I know many men and women in their twenties who chose to ride out the restrictions at home. A friend in the U.S. had his two sons and their girlfriends move in for the duration and there is something about a crisis which brings us together and tugs at our own sense of oikophilia.
Probably one of the most likely impacts of the current emergency is to increase the number of people who work from home or at least work some of the time from home. This tendency then may add to the issue of where is home and where should it be? Will more companies begin to operate like Automated, the publisher of WordPress, the software I am using to write this blog? Automated has their head office in San Francisco but has been working virtually for many years.
Another layer to this issue is the overall structure of civil society and the strength of the institutions in a given place. In the United States, there are huge differences between state governments in terms of their approach to taxes, basic social services, and regulations. Similar differences exist at the local level between different cities and towns even in the same region.
Between the U.S. and Western Europe and Canada, perhaps the most glaring difference is the lack of a centralized, publicly owned and operated health care system. This difference has become tragically apparent during the actual crisis.
The idea behind the Forum section of turbulenttimes.org was to get people talking about different places they may want to live, work and call home. If an increase in virtual work loosens the bounds we have to a particular place, then it becomes even more important to spend some time thinking about where we want to be.
I encourage you to go to the forum and start up a thread about where you call home.