Why Coronavirus Fatigue is both a Blessing and a Curse

Why Coronavirus Fatigue is both a Blessing and a Curse

There are days when fatigue and stress are almost unbearable in the coronavirus crisis. However, coronavirus fatigue can be both exhausting and also liberating...

"Are you that tired, too," people keep asking those contacting the nerve-wracking virus of the last couple of years. But this tiredness is not limited to physical alterations in our body. All of us are tired when such social confinement (or transformation) is imposed on us by an invisible force (and of course, our governments). You wake up, take care of a few errands, and yes, you feel tired when it is just 10 AM. So tired that maybe you should go straight back to bed.

Coronavirus Lockdown 2

Fatigue is a double-whammy as you feel both exhausted and bored. You want to scream out loud: no video conference, no coronavirus statistics, no lunch breaks, no duplicitous Trump news, no shopping, cleaning up, organizing children's remote education, etc... But it doesn't help. Lockdown means we can/must avoid social interaction, but we still can/must work. Often, even more than before. Talk more, be more careful, always have your to-do list, lose touch, keep Zoom in your reach... Of course, this part of the article should exclude those who feel redundant or desperate because the pandemic has wiped out their industries...

More artificial interaction

Now many conversations are necessary as opposed to where interaction with colleagues used to clear everything. The chat notifications keep chiming on our smartphones and drive us crazy while videoconferencing. We need to shoot emails while standing at the supermarket checkout because we have to eat, and maybe cook, something from time to time (read our article on cooking during the pandemic). We have developed habits over the months, that's true, but a lot remains exhausting. Above all, many beautiful things have simply disappeared. No practicality anywhere, no carefree movements, no physical steam-blowing if you disregard a short period in the summer.

Homeschooling vs. Home Office

How much can you manage in life without being physically involved? The exhausting combination of homeschooling and home office from the first lockdown continues to this day. There is this constant concern about the coronavirus situation, financial situation, whether and when the schools will close or resume education, not least the health of the elderly parents. The tense neck, the aching shoulder, the months of work in the kitchen or at the children's desk accompany all of them. Is free night time so that you can shut the laptop, or is it the perfect time to binge-watch Netflix offerings thanks to your laptop? Working hours are never over with technology, which creeps into our private life and decomposes it slowly from within.

My god, am I tired.

The Burnout Society, Coronavirus Books, Books during Coronavirus

In times of the pandemic, the neoliberal labor camp is called 'home office, as explained in the book "Palliative Society" by the philosopher Byung-Chul Han. Han is often referred to as a star thinker since his book "The Burnout Society" was published in 2010. When it comes to the home office and labor camp, this analogy does alleviate the physical strains faced by millions in forced labor, including those in Bangladesh and Africa. Well, this is just an analogy at the end of the day, and it can be tolerable as this labor camp is a mental one.

Therefore, when deliberating over our (coronavirus) fatigue, we should first express our gratitude that we can work at home rather than facing such challenges or being exposed to the virus more in healthcare facilities, supermarket checkouts, government offices or in public transport. And the obligation to work means the ability to do so in contrast to the numerous self-employed people, artists, musicians, organizers, actors, restaurant, café, bar, and club owners. How tired are they compared to the average remote employee?

Living in the fatigue society

So what to do with all this tiredness? That's why it is worth reading the Burnout Society. The title fits so well even 10 years later. Byung Chul Han explains his book's thesis very aptly by highlighting that we no longer live in a disciplinary society ruled by prohibitions or orders but in a performance society that supposedly refers to freedom and ability. But this leads to more compulsions where you think you are free, but in reality, exploit yourself voluntarily and passionately until you break down.

We used to be guided by norms, roles, class affiliations, prohibitions. Today we can be anything, achieve anything, become anything, especially ourselves. But the social imperative of having to become ourselves has a downside: It leads to depression and exhaustion, to the exhausted self. As Han writes: "They are not infections, but infarctions; they do not follow from the negativity of what is immunologically foreign, but from an excess of positivity."

Burning out under the dogma of self-optimization

In the past, the immune system fought against the disease from the outside, just as there was a clear friend-foe scheme in the Cold War, today people suffer from "internal" burn-outs and depression. Han also expands on this thesis in his most recent book, "Palliative Society." Pain is avoided as what needs to be avoided in every society. Instead, we live in a "courtesy culture" of likes and smileys and the dogma of "be positive" has made us slaves of increasing self-optimization (ah, one cannot help remembering Harari's Homo Deus here).

Homo Deus, Coronavirus Books, Coronavirus Reads

And now, what do we do with our infinite fatigue, with our heart attacks caused by the performance society? In 2010, Han wrote that we had already left the viral age behind us thanks to medical advancements. Now it is pushing back with power; biologists warn that coronavirus could only have been the beginning. "Going viral" has been the goal of almost everyone on the net in recent years. However, in early 2020, infarction met the infection. The coronavirus-exhausted self meets with the already exhausted self.

Fatigue can also be liberating

Even his inferral is not very precise, Hans Buch takes an interesting turn at the end. According to Han, there is not only the exhaustion fatigue that arises from having too much "Yes, we can." But there is also another form of fatigue that he refers to in Peter Handke's "Experiment on Fatigue" from 1989. Tiredness loosens the clamps on identity and makes things flicker at their edges, opening up an in-between. This space of friendliness opens up the ego to the world while lifting the rigid demarcation between us and others. Ultimately, this tiredness leads to a community that does not need belonging or kinship.

Doesn't that sound like HUGE a promise? Especially in times that are characterized by division, polarization and the abuse of one's own freedom? Because this tiredness frees us from every "to-do" and must, Byung-Chul Han's tired society is a vision where there is more solidarity instead of self-centeredness. Couldn't we use lockdown in that sense? To free ourselves from the permanent "Yes we can." The annoying lockdown that isolates us from our friends and relatives as an interim period that enables friendliness that connects us with others? Maybe that's too exaggerated and pathetic - and maybe it's because of the inevitable Christmas lockdown that causes people to long for the community instead of individualism.

We know that we "can", rather than, "must" think about it.