It was the idea of rationing that did it.
All week long I’ve been thinking about life at home during wartime: life suddenly locked down and changed; living under the threat of death; loved ones separated on foreign shores; food shortages and panic-buying. Shift your historical reference a little and what we are describing is the home front of World War II that some Australians are still alive to remember and that many more will recall as an epoch-defining time.
Then the Federal Government suggested that if we didn’t stop our panic buying they could introduce rationing, and I realised that the war front and the home front have converged.
It is not an exaggeration to say that we now live on both the battleground of COVID-19 and the home front of lives that continue greatly changed and under threat of the war against mass infection. How will generations of Australians cope for whom “on demand” and “more” are simply descriptions of how we expect life to be lived now?
Do we know any more how to put ourselves second, third or even fourth? How to share resources and go without?
The war kept young couples apart. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)
I hear of people now sadly separated by border restrictions for the health of communities and I think of the young couples who didn’t see each other for years after a quick wedding and one night of bliss, separated by war and with no Face Time in their pocket. There’s something about their forbearance from which we could learn.
We are entering a kind of wartime through which we will eventually establish a kind of normal, a way of getting through life while the bombs fall and we head into the bunkers, we now endure the infective pandemic version of that.
We will need to make sacrifices. And that’s a term, a concept, so foreign to us now.
Oxford historian Jose Harris writes that WWII and the British home front was perhaps the only period in the whole of British history in which its people came together as a metaphysical entity: “an entity that transcended the divisions of class, sect, self-interest and libertarian individualism that normally constitute the highly pluralistic and fragmented structure of British society”.
I hope that in adversity, if we come together for the common good, this home front might just be the making of us.
This week we have a great piece on how businesses are adapting to survive an unprecedented threat to their survival and the future employment of so many of us. You can play your part by contacting your favourite service providers and continuing to buy and use their stuff as much as practical.
Tell the grocer to pack you a box and put it in a cab to you, or do a drive-buy for takeaway.
We also have a fascinating insight into how our bodies fight coronavirus, the battleground is in us as well and our immune systems are the most courageous armies.
Have a safe and happy weekend. The parks and gardens of Australia are simply glorious now in this season of mellow fruitfulness, so please get out amid them — there’s lots of socially distanced room to move and breathe.
And after you read this TURN OFF YOUR PHONE AND YOUR COMPUTER! Stop checking updates! Give yourself a break. Read a novel, play a board game, watch the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as it keeps live music alive while we stay at home.
And dance. Never forget to dance.
What to read this weekend
Virginia Trioli is presenter on Mornings on ABC Radio Melbourne and the former co-host of ABC News Breakfast.