Tom Hodgkinson wonders whether we’ve all got healthier and happier as a result of doing less
I hope you’re enjoying the summer heat. I’ve just realized that I have not had a cold or any sort of illness since the beginning of lockdown, despite drinking gallons of real ale.
That makes we wonder whether the world has got healthier as a result of simply doing less. Maybe we are feeling better because the thing that makes us unhealthy – which is stress – and is caused by work and school – has diminished, in many cases.
I was talking to Molly Goodchild the other day. She is the fourteen-year-old daughter of friends. Molly said she didn’t want to go back to school, having tasted the freedom of home education and time spent at home to pursue her own interests.
And I have met many grown-ups who say they have no desire whatsoever to return to their old job – certainly not under the same conditions.
I wonder… will we look back on the old ways and marvel at the fact that we used to force ourselves daily into overcrowded commuter trains, get nervous breakdowns through exam pressure, and make ourselves sick with overwork? After all, the opiate crisis in the States could be blamed partly on an insane work culture – rather than quit their jobs, blue collar workers, who were in physical pain caused by their work, chose to take drugs to dull the pain in order to continue toiling.
It was William Morris who called the London Underground a “stinking vapour-bath of discontented humanity”. By contrast, no one was ever unhappy on a bicycle. I’ve been cycling through London every day to our Idler studio and it’s been pure joy, as well as being obviously good for you.
These comments were mailed to us after the above piece was sent as a newsletter. We like to publish a selection and reserve the right to edit them for clarity. Feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts.
I am actually not enjoying the heat. I am in London at the moment and it feels dangerous! We are failing to make changes when climate change is already causing great suffering. Many more will become climate refugees while the rich will keep digging deeper basements in their mansions to keep cool. The government is failing us by ignoring the Paris Agreement so we are on a disastrous trajectory to an uninhabitable world. I also think that our “lockdown utopia” is almost over. As people need to pay their rent and mortgages, they have no choice but to rejoin the rat race, even if they’d prefer to home school and work from their (sun) bed. Now that we’re in a recession, many people will be forced to idle but it’s no fun when there’s no money for food and heating.
Lucky you that you can still cycle to the office. I had to give up cycling years ago as the roads where I normally live in Liverpool are now death traps. Cars still rule our cities and the cycle lanes are too dangerous. There are rarely any barriers between bikes and very congested roads. Gentrification has also put a stop to idling in Liverpool. It used to be simple to do that in Liverpool for a long time but unfortunately gentrification put a bit of a stop to it. Rents and mortgages are extortionate, and wages still pretty poor.
– Tracey Dunn
I think this piece is a bit tone-deaf, as well as just…wrong. The world, in general, is much unhealthier than it was 6 months ago. Many people affected by lockdowns, isolation, and job layoffs are anxious, depressed and more exhausted than before. Ever been at home 24/7 with young children who are also stuck at home? Ever wondered how you were going to pay your bills? Or when you would see your ageing parents again? I am very fortunate, as are you, to find a personal sweet spot in these times, but I’m keenly aware of the dread that so many are living with. I fear that a state of dread is becoming normal.
– Stewart Weinstein
It seems to me that the emptying-out of our city centres is a phenomenon that has occurred over the past 150 years or so because our cities had become heavily industrialised, and so horribly polluted, that they were no longer liveable-in. So, of course, our forebears moved out to leafy suburbs if they could afford to do so. However, we’ve all been working hard to establish cleaner, greener city centres. So we should now be in a position to revert to old pre-industrial days, where we can enjoy city life if that is what we want; or live in smaller towns or suburbs if we prefer. Surely we’ve now reached the stage where commuter culture has become a meaningless convention, and should be regarded as a thing of the past?
– Julie Speedie
It might be that you’ve stumbled on real ale as the miracle vaccine, Tom?
– Duncan Collins