This is strictly an opinion piece, no references to back it up. Take it as you will.
A month ago, millions in the US ignored the warnings of medical professionals and scientists and criss-crossed the country, gleefully spreading COVID-19. Now at the solstice, millions more are doing the same because “this might be grandma’s last xmas!” Yes, it will, if you infect her. A lot of this superspreading can be attributed to ignorance and blind belief in Cheetolini’s dictums. But I think there’s another reason they’re doing it.
When I was a kid back in the 1970s, we had only three TV channels, and one of them was CBC in French, which I only watched for La Soirée Du Hockey or English language movies with French subtitles. There were no home computers, we didn’t have a second generation home console (i.e. no Atari VCS), and worse yet, we lived 20km out in the country. Many times in December, just before school closed for the winter break, I would go to the school library and borrow as many books as I could. Every December was the same: I was trapped at home with for two to three weeks. Nowhere to go, nothing to do except read books, do winter homework or play boardgames with unwilling siblings.
In my mid-teens we moved to a larger (but not that large) town where pretty much everything shut down from the 20th until after New Year’s. That’s also whe we got our first computer, but it wasn’t much better because there was no privacy to play or program what I wanted. After finishing high school and working my first fast food job, I was actually glad to be working right up until the 24th when the place closed for two days, taking shifts others didn’t want. I would be back on the 27th, using the excuse, “Nobody else is able to go in,” to get away from my “family”. Even though there were more TV channels, there still wasn’t anything on, all playing “holiday” themed crap, including the sports. (The breeding pair were monarchists, so I was forced to sit through the thirty minute “royal address” every year.)
I moved out and started college in my mid-20s (yes, that late), working as a security guard on evenings and weekends. Coming from an abusive home, I was still guilted into returning for “family xmas”. But working security gave me the excuse to volunteer for shifts on statutory holidays (December 25th and 26th, January 1st). I got out of the house, and I was paid double time. But even when I was away from the friction, living in that town still sucked: again, most everything was still closed from December 20th to January 2nd or 3rd. Improved computers made it more tolerable in one way: internet access via the college’s VAX. (Even in 1990 before web browsers, it was fun – Telnet, Newsgroups, MUDs, etc.)
Call it cabin fever, call it the stir, call it what you will. The two weeks at the end of December were always the worst weeks of the year because they were two weeks of isolation.
I only dealt with a fortnight of it once per year. For millions, 2020 meant and entire year of that. No work, no socializing, no entertainment other than what you have in the house. Millions of people may have been mentally and emotionally damaged over the past twelve months of lockdowns. I suspect the anti-maskers aren’t as much against masks or loss of income as they are freaking out because they can’t do anything. Maybe it’s why many willingly bought into “COVID doesn’t exist” and “freedumb”, because the social and physical isolation was getting to them.
After moving abroad in 2001 to countries where “christmas” is a non-event or only commercial, it was a relief. Lunar New Year also results in a long shutdown (6-10 days where nothing is open) but until 2020 I had the ability to travel to the Philippines or other places where the New Year is a non-event or a minor one.
But living abroad still comes with isolation: you’re living in a foreign country and not speaking the language. Over nineteen years, I have lost count of foreigners doing “midnight runs”: packing a bag the night after getting paid and running for the airport. This is why I tell people who plan to teach ESL, “Don’t come here if you can’t go three days without having a conversation.” I see a lot of the same behaviours and reactions in midnight runners and those rebelling against lockdowns. For those in the US, Canada and elsewhere, getting out of the mentally damaging situation didn’t require packing up and flying home. They could just go out the door and pretend everything was fine.
We are already seeing mental health issues in kids, and increases of Intimate Partner Violence in relationships. Just wait until things “go back to normal”. Mental health could end up being as big a pandemic as COVID-19.
Having said this, I do find it a delicious irony that the religious are now enduring the same boredom and social control that non-believers have to put up with on such “holidays”. I love the fact that those who have long said, “participate or shut up” are now being forced to participate and have no way to opt out.
Now they know. And they don’t like it.