Guest Post by Patrick Cini
As children we are sometimes told to stand in the corner, as teens we are told to sit in detention, and as adults we can be segregated in a cell.
Why is this isolation considered an effective form of punishment?
Perhaps this relates to the way in which we find meaning throughout life. As social beings our sense of being exists in the relationships we have with others. When this relationship is interrupted, we feel that we are not whole. When forced into isolation, we are not only restricted from doing what we want to do, we are restricted from who we can do it with and a connection is lost.
The Australian government has instructed us to work from home if we can. What was once termed “flexible working” is now the new norm for the foreseeable future. People are still connecting with video conferencing programs such as Zoom, MS Teams and Skype. But is connecting “meet-ing?”
One of the downsides of the coronavirus crisis for me is that almost every video conference is a serious conversation. There is less time for casual chit-chat and therefore less opportunity to create a real connection with someone and have a private meaningful conversation. On a side note, my manager has organised “Friday Afternoon Beers” over a video call, which has allowed our team to maintain a better relationship although this may not be valued by the rest of the organisation.
p align=”center”>“All real living is meeting” – Martin Buber
Buber explains relationships in his book I – Thou much better than I ever could. Buber explains that relationships fall into either I-It or I-Thou. Lotman adds that a third I-I relationship ought to be considered.
In I-It a person experiences the world as an object. Things and people are treated as objects to be used and experienced. Essentially, this form of object-ivity relates to the world in terms of the self, i.e. how an object can serve the individual’s interest, but the world is not presented by experiences alone.
I-thou is established in a world of relation. An I-thou relationship is mutual and real, one side does not exist without the other. Love, Trust, Respect all lie within I-Thou and cannot be measured.
An I-it relationship is nearly the opposite of I-thou, whereby two people may encounter one another, and do not actually meet. Most relationships we have fall into the I-it realm, and the less we are able to “meet” the less chance there is to develop an I-thou relationship.
The relationships we are having during the coronavirus seem to be more formal, less spontaneous and, not as real.
Who is punishing us? Is it a god? Is it the government? Is it the virus? Who has the power? Indeed, are we being punished? These are all questions we might like to consider next time we log on to zoom and seek to have a meet-ing.