What have I learned from COVID-19?

During a couple of COVID-19-themed webinars at The Australia Institute in the past week, Richard Denniss complained that many of the proposals made by business and the government to re-establish economic activity after the pandemic are simply the same old things they have been proposing for the past twenty or thirty years, being lower taxes for business and “pro-growth” policies from the government. Denniss himself wants investment in renewable energy (amongst other things I suppose), which I’m fairly sure he would also have supported for a long time before COVID-19.

Of course if one thought something was a good idea before COVID-19, one might well think it to remain a good idea afterwards. Now that Australia’s governments are taking some tentative steps towards relaxing restrictions, I can look forward to resuming my weekend hikes, doing some limited travel, and visiting friends. But I already knew the value of these things, so a more interesting question in this context is: what have I learned from spending six weeks (so far) without them and what will I continue to do even after COVID-19 has passed?

I’ve already mentioned that I’ve learned a bit about the role of luck. Had this happened a year ago, I might have been trapped in Singapore with no easy way home, considerably more expensive living arrangements, and a job (if I had one at all) far more difficult to carry out on-line than my present one.

Like many others working in professional positions, I’ve learned a bit about participating in teleconferences, though I think I’d be just as happy to never see one again. They are, however, a fact of life at multi-campus institutions like Western Sydney University and for people who live a long way from their places of work so I might as well accept getting a little better at them.

More happily, I’ve learned to appreciate the outdoor facilities of the property in which I live. Up until now I’d rarely done much other than walk through the property to get between my unit and road; but there also gardens and picnic tables that have proven an excellent place to eat morning tea or lunch when I need some time outdoors. I’ve also greatly appreciated having a balcony that seemed like only a nice-to-have when I bought the unit.

I’ve learned a bit more about the local take-away restaurants, and re-acquainted myself with a habit that I enjoyed when I first moved out of home: taking a meal home once a week for a relaxing night in. Since then, I’ve typically only eaten out when away from home, which has mostly meant eating in Sydney when I haven’t been able to get home for dinner. But, when the local pubs and bars re-open, perhaps I can allow myself to enjoy them more than I have been. All this has its downside in that said meals might not be the healthiest ones, but I can work on finding the proper balance.

One thing that I may not have done very well is to allocate my time across my several projects. Without having a pattern of going to Sydney on some days, going shopping on others, and so on, I’ve tended to let every weekday blur into the same routine of responding to e-mail and attending webinars, with a lot of fooling around in between, instead of allocating blocks of time to writing or other projects. I haven’t been writing on this blog as often, for one, and I probably haven’t written as much fiction as I might have.

I have, however, learned to do a few exercises around the house. Boring as they are, and as ineffective as they have been in losing any weight, I do feel better and more ready to face the day after a few basic exercises. So these are something I ought to continue doing, even when I go back to taking morning walks. Travelling to Parramatta or Campbelltown three days a week has left me spending far too much time sitting on trains and buses, for which this sort of exercise might be a step towards remedying.

Perhaps these are all quite trivial things compared to the best way of re-activating the economy or even learning to live without full-time work to the extent that I have already done. But I’ll leave the former to economists, sociologists, and others in a position to look at Australia as a whole, while the latter is an on-going project of which this learning is a part.

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