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I read aloud from a Washington Post story about our reluctance to maintain social distance from fellow humans during the coronavirus crisis:
Hermits aside, humans are social animals, even what some call “ultra-social.” For millennia, survival has depended on being part of a group. If distancing seems hard, it’s not just you: It’s human nature.
“Human nature, my ass,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Whoever wrote that article must be tripping. Or maybe she never heard of the suburbs.”
He sipped whiskey from his silver flask and jabbered on. If the post-WW II years have proved anything, it’s that many if not most people prefer to exist as far away from each other as possible. Sure, there are family homes and barrooms and sports arenas, but these are vestiges of an earlier era in which humans felt there was security in clans and safety in numbers.
The automobile and the highway system ended the notion that Americans were inherently friendly and/or group-minded, Swamp Rabbit added. Big cities emptied out as the middle class grew. Suburbs sprang up and metastasized into mega-suburbs where endless expansion is driven by the human preference for private space.
“City peeps ain’t much different,” he continued. “The more money you got, the more you avoid other peeps. If you’re rich in Manhattan you can go from one end of the island to the other without crossing paths with nobody but the doorman.”
I told him he was exaggerating, people really are upset about having to isolate during the pandemic in order to keep the infection rate down. Most humans don’t like social distancing. They like face to face contact with their fellow creatures. There’s no substitute for the human touch.
“What planet you from, Odd Man?” he said. “Where I live everybody’s on the Internet. They stream music and movies instead of going to record stores and theaters. They order groceries instead of going to the market. They socialize on Facebook. If they need the human touch, they go to one of them quickie sites, Tinder or whatever.”
“You’re too cynical, rabbit,” I replied. “When the pandemic fades, things will go back to normal.”
He shook his head and took another drink. “Normal today means staring at a smartphone, in case you ain’t noticed. Ain’t nothing you can do about that pandemic.”