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Covid-19 and creative minority

Photo by Evi T. on Unsplash. Covid-19 and creative minority
By Donny Syofyan –  a lecturer at Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Andalas University

The Covid-19 outbreak has given birth to a phenomenal change. In Australia, where I am currently living, a financial stimulus package supposed to be for ten years is poured out for at least the next six months.

In Wuhan, especially following the lockdown in late January, NASA reported that nitrogen dioxide levels are 10-30% lower than normal, something that also applies throughout eastern and central China. The same thing also happened in our country. The financial stimulus package has been launched by the government along with obligatory social distancing, making streets empty in various cities across the country.

On a smaller scale, the change is seen from the optimized role of the family. The increasingly widespread Covid-19 transmission marked by more confirmed cases and rising death toll prompts people to maintain social distancing and self-isolation. Family turns out to be the strongest fortress to go through the entire steps. Individual compliance with stay-at-home rule reflects broader community compliance. This is necessary to slow and break the chain of the Covid-19 spread until its vaccine is found.

From various social media platforms, we begin to look at colorful pictures of families
struggling to spend their days with amusement, fun, creativity and even confusion. Fearing the Covid-19, many deem self-isolation, quarantine and lockdown as days of being laid off, periods of unemployment. Yet what people seem to have forgotten it is the moment to reinforce the role of family.

Arnold Toynbee is famous for his idea about creative minority that changes civilization. He believes that a civilization will survive owing to creative elite group. The key to this creativity is its ability to respond to the challenges of the times. The absence of the ability would transform the elite group into a despotic minority.

In today’s context, the Covid-19 outbreak is a major challenge that requires a creative response to survive. In addition to healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, or researchers) as front liners against the Covid-19, the family manifests as a minority who are expected to be creative in responding to this challenge.

Then, how to form the family as the smallest unit of society as a creative force? This approach cannot be done formally but is based on interests instead. Just like reading, there is a difference between homework-based reading and reading inspired by interest or hobby. The Covid-19 outbreak becomes an impetus for family members to refocus seriously on developing their interests and hobbies.

The Covid-19 created attachment by design, not by accident. Children can take advantage of this moment to learn online, not in the context of doing a formal school assignment, but engage in a hobby that has probably only been done in their spare time. Children can draw, paint, tell and write short stories, and so on supported by abundant online guides on YouTube or other platforms. Parents can be mentors, teachers or even friends for their children’s hobby. But, again, this must be done in a relaxed manner without pressure like the learning process at school. Kids need to keep entertained.

Adults and children play different roles in undergoing isolation despite their similar aim to strengthen the family cohesion. When adults’ act leads to productivity, children should be for solely pleasure. The difference needs to be maintained given their distinct age and mental characteristics.

For adults, this isolation moment is compatible with productivity. History records how either isolation or prison has contributed to the creation of many great intellectuals’ works. Buya Hamka completed Tafsir Al-Azhar during a period of almost three years in prison from 1964 to 1966. Quraish Shihab needs to be assigned to Egypt as Indonesian ambassador by President Habibie so that he had a lot of time writing Tafsir Al Mishbah.

It was during his exile that Niccolò Machiavelli wrote “The Prince.” The treatise has been a touchstone of political strategy ever since, revered by power brokers as diverse as England’s Henry VII, America’s Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, France’s Napoleon and Mafia leader John Gotti.

There is nothing wrong, however, that adults keep kids’ pattern when it comes to spending their time at home, bringing more attention rightfully to pleasure than on profit.

The Covid-19 outbreak gets many feel pressures to monetize their spare time. The cult of busyness is one of the most toxic aspects of our culture. It is also a defense mechanism. When so many of us are suffering economic hardship as we struggle to put our education and potential to use amid the virus outbreak, it is easier to keep going and glorify the struggle than it is to sit and risk feeling helpless.

However, people should not brush off their own hobby. While passion and interest are still linked to profit-oriented, doing a hobby is to do with joy. You do not have to monetize your joy. Doing your own hobby makes you feel no pressure to monetize our spare time. Hobbies do not have to be imbued with a purpose beyond our own enjoyment of them. They, alone, can be enough.

See: Expats in Indonesia, Have You Hit the COVID-19 Panic Button Yet?

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