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Dutch Anthropologist Experiencing Lockdown

I love the one-and-half-meter protocol. I don’t like people uninvitedly entering my personal space. I prefer to be selective in who touches me. I hope the new protocol will bring a lasting respect for personal space.

On the other hand, don’t we need to affectionately touch and being touched? Aren’t we skin hungry? Sure so. But that’s just partly at stake under the ‘intelligent lockdown’ imposed on us. Within the household we can touch as much as we want. Singles can select a few trusted others for visits and touch. The restriction only goes for larger company outside our inner circles, especially in badly ventilated indoor spaces and long-time contacts outdoors.

In societies where social life happens mostly in the open air and physical is more frequent, adapting to the new protocol is much harder. For us, in the Netherlands and other northern countries, keeping physical distance is less strange and we have less reason for complaints.

Besides, the degree of physical distancing is rather changeable over time. Paintings of the famous, 17th century Jan Steen show the richness of bodily contact. But remarkably, in that same period, stricter rules of physical distancing grew when the rising bourgeoisie started to imitate the distancing behaviors of the aristocracy.

It got a radical reaction in the 1960s, with the slogan of Everything Is Possible. Boy oh boy, what a relieving storm of liberation it was. I wholeheartedly contributed to the storm. But, boy oh boy, what all did not go wrong in the social tempest?

The realization of disadvantages led to the retro-culture of The New Decency. Children of parents who had thrown legal marriage overboard, wanted official ceremonies followed by wedding parties with brides in white and cakes five stories high.

Next reaction was the restoration of behaviors from the 1960s seen as positive: yoga, meditation, mindfulness, free dance and hugging: The New Love.

And heck, right now that we get that restoration going, the government prohibits free dance and hugging because of Corona. There’s a strong temptation to neglect health risks and push the trend of New Love further.

Trends, whatever the risks, have a formidable force and are therefore a fascinating object of study for anthropologists. I live in golden times.


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