Liberty is a human right. Liberty makes its appearance in many country mottos such as Colombia’s Libertad y Orden (Liberty and order), Uruguay’s Libertad o Muerte (Liberty or Death) and France’s Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, equality, fraternity). Liberty is something that is generally only taken away as a punishment; reserved for criminals and those who pose a threat to themselves or society.
It’s unusual to be in a situation where the liberty of innocent civilians has been taken away.
With the current global restrictions looking as if they’ll be ongoing for a while, I can’t help but think of the positives of our situation.
I’m taking enjoyment from smaller pleasures. As I write, we are still allowed to go out once a day for exercise. Usually I cycle to work, so my fitness regime is tied to actively travelling somewhere. Exercise for exercise’s sake is something I find tedious; running laps around a park to boring for words. Now however, the simple act of leaving the house and stepping out for a sunny blast around my neighbourhood is the highlight of my day.
This luxury is all the sweeter knowing that any moment we might be confined to our homes in the same way Italy, China and Spain have been. Taking deep breaths of fresh air, watching the river flow past, and lying on the grass and watching sunlight filter through the branches of a tree – these are all things that I am consciously grateful for. Gratitude is a key ingredient in mental health, wellbeing and happiness so there’s a positive.
The restrictions are also making us think more of our neighbours. Particularly in a big city like London, it’s not uncommon to never see your neighbours. They’re just people who slip in and out on a different schedule to you. Shamefully, I dropped a card through my neighbours’ door last week simply addressed ‘Dear neighbour’. I’ve lived in that house for almost two years, and I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve spoken to them. That’s something else that I’m going to change.
As a result of these restrictions, communities are coming together in a way my generation has never seen. A Whatsapp group in my road is wonderfully positive, offering a tantalising promise of street parties when this is over. Friends are being made, and jokes shared. All of this would never have happened without our liberty being taken away.
Yes, I feel out of control and am concerned about the economic ramifications of keeping people locked at home. I worry that those I love will be put into financial peril and particularly those of us working in the travel industry. There is a lot to worry about and yet there is hope.
In the meantime, I’m keeping myself busy by enjoying all the other rights I have that many don’t have. I am grateful for the abundance of clean water, electricity, heating, the ability to connect with my friends and family remotely. I’m grateful for the company of those I live with, and I’m grateful knowing that I can look forward to regaining my liberty. The first thing I plan on doing once life returns to normal, is going to a small café near my house which I only spotted for the first time on a recent bike ride.
What is the first thing you are going to do when you regain your liberty?