By Jimmy Rhatigan, Editor Kilkenny Observer
THE above quotation is from the late John Ernst Steinbeck, an American author who won the 1962 Noel prize in Literature ‘for his realistic imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.
The words of the author of ‘Of Mice and Men’ are particularly relevant as we battle with Coronavirus.
Millions of adults and children are now in quarantine in their own homes, or engaged in ‘essential’ travel in the public sphere, while maintaining an unnatural distance from one another, because they have been told this is the best way to protect their individual and the public health from a deadly virus.
But what are the consequences of the social isolation caused by this mass social distancing experiment?
Social distancing, also known as physical distancing, is defined as a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions taken to prevent the spread of presumably communicable diseases by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the frequency people come into close contact with each other.
The latter inevitably results in some degree of social isolation, defined as disengagement from social ties, institutional connections or community participation.
There is a growing body of scientific research demonstrating that social isolation has significant adverse health impacts on both the psychological and physiological health and well-being of individuals.
It is in this context that we encourage our people, particularly our most vulnerable, i.e. our aged and ill, not to allow themselves to be battered by what amounts to an overkill of information, call it news or whatever.
Our people are making a huge sacrifice by locking themselves into their own homes in a bid to save as many lives as possible, including the lives of those who are housebound, it should be said.
It is not easy but following the advice of our medical experts it can, and hopefully will save thousands of lives.
Being locked up has its downside but the great hope is that it will not have to be continued for too long a period as isolation and loneliness can also be killers.
In the meantime over enthusiastic sections of our media, along with teams of local politicians, for the general good or for their own politician images, would appear to be intent on battering us to death with Coronavirus bulletins.
Health experts tell us that what we might call suffocation coverage can be a health hazard, playing havoc with our mental health in particular.
The advice is to keep in touch, with small doses of news rather than large helpings.
And remember, if you feel you are being hurt by what some might call too much information, there are always the off buttons on radios and televisions and you also have the choice as to how much newspaper Coronavirus you should have to digest.
Elderly and vulnerable only
Meanwhile, some supermarket ‘closed shop’ times for our elderly and vulnerable, launched no doubt with good intentions and nobility have descended into a free for all.
The Observer has learned that on several occasions when it was supposed to be ‘for vulnerable only’ big stores were open houses as all age groups were searching the shelves.
The latter is certainly not healthy and is indeed very dangerous for vulnerable pensioners.
In fact some shop owners would probably be doing elderly in particular favour not to hold such ‘closed shop’ times as it amounts to inviting them to what can be ‘free for all’ times that could prove to be fatal.
To be fair, distancing seems to be well observed in most stores.
The reality is that anything else is playing with our own lives and the lives of others.