Why do we call it "social" distancing?

Submitted by martin on 25 May, 2020 - 2:19 Author: Margit Pfister
Distancing to reduce virus transmission

It has become popular to speak of social distancing when we really speak of physical distancing to protect ourselves and others during a pandemic. This leads to the question why or how this term has entered our vocabulary.

We all have social contacts in many ways, even if we can't go out together to the theatre, concerts, pubs or any other kinds of events at the moment. We all have family and friends, we are able to contact, and we do that. We don't want our relationships to break down, we want to be connected.

The feeling of being connected is what keeps us strong. We are not alone in this and we need to be aware of not being alone.

There are so many things happening in this world, due not just to the virus but to many other causes. The virus could be like a pointer, telling us to look at all the circumstances.

In Germany, for example, one of the spotlights is now on slaughterhouses. The working and living conditions for the hired workers, mostly from Eastern Europe, have been known for many years and were tolerated. Agency work, subcontracting, in fact a new form of cheap slave labour, has led to terrible states of health amongst the workforce. The majority live in disgraceful and crammed housing.

Even though various politicians have acknowledged the existence of the inhuman treatment of those workers, not much was done to end their misery.

This is a very clear instance where above all physical distance could have prevented the virus spreading.
People, including doctors living close to the areas where the slaughterhouses are located, wrote about or reported on what they observed. They did not look away or practise "social" distancing. They took social responsibility.

For the time being our aim is to keep the virus at bay by observing a certain physical distance. But we should not allow the term of social distancing to enter our vocabulary and influence the way we interact with each other. We are interdependent social beings.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.