Exeter, Devon UK • Feb 23, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home International Coronavirus says “OK Go” to a second wave – and so “Here It Goes Again”

Coronavirus says “OK Go” to a second wave – and so “Here It Goes Again”

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Coronavirus says “OK Go” to a second wave – and so “Here It Goes Again”

Aled Midha digests Sweden’s response to the pandemic and sheds some light on an early pandemic prognosis courtesy of an American pop group.

Despite their aptness in describing the mood of the entire world throughout 2020, there is no way even OK Go could have predicted the events of the past year back in January, let alone the mid noughties. And yet, here it really does go again, with the news last week that bars in Paris could close for two weeks, as France’s capital prepares for its imminent placing on maximum COVID-19 alert.

Sightseers in Paris will have to get used to the “new normal” as the city looks to enter lockdown once again (Image: Pixabay)

Back home, with the UK government’s “rule of six” and 10pm curfew seeming to make little difference to the continuous streams of new cases each day, “how long before our pubs close too?” I hear you cry. And such questions never surprise me, given that’s how this whole debacle has eked out – every European superpower cowardly following each other into rule after rule and lockdown after lockdown, with no real clue how any of us are going to succeed in getting out of this mess.

Well, actually not everyone – OK Go’s above mentioned 2005 hit was recorded a mere few hundred kilometres from where I currently reside, having moved to Uppsala in central Sweden to (very fortunately) study my year abroad in person. And I am sure you are very aware of it by now, given the British media’s love affair with the famous “Swedish way”, they do things a little differently over here.

Given the British Media’s love affair with the famous “Swedish way”, they do things a little differently over here

Swedes are egalitarian in nature, with a behaviour strongly balanced towards “lagom”, which roughly means “everything in moderation”. A laid back and anti-extreme culture meant Sweden was one of the few European countries that never had any sort of “lockdown”. Bars, restaurants and student unions have remained almost fully open as normal to this day, as the Swedish government saw the social importance in being able to go out and meet friends and family, particularly for our own mental health.

A standard sight on the streets of Stockholm – bars and restaurants remaining open with no face mask recommendations (Unaltered image by Holger.Ellgaard found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Den_gr%C3%B6ne_J%C3%A4garen_2010.jpg licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

This was obviously extremely beneficial for me, moving to a different country and starting afresh at university but still having the ability to attend student societies and events, and meet new friends and colleagues in the process. Had Sweden been under lockdown when I first moved in mid-August, I would definitely have reconsidered my plans to travel, given an expectation that social life would be so much more difficult. That said, I must admit that moving from a country under strict lockdown to one on the opposite end of the spectrum made it incredibly tempting to once again live a free and “careless” life, and so I make sure to remind myself that standard precautions remain necessary, as the virus is as prevalent here as anywhere.

The pub at the student “nation” (a bit like an Oxbridge college) that I have joined, which has remained fully open throughout 2020, although now with certain restrictions such as capacity (Image: Wikipedia)

Despite this almost all my lectures and teaching remain online via the almighty Zoom (tell me again how it suddenly came upon this Earth in March?!), which of course was something to get used to for all of us at first but at least for me I feel it really is the “new normal”. And I will say it works extremely well, especially for discussion-based lectures or seminars with such functions as the “breakout rooms”. Though there really is something missing when learning through a virtual platform – that secret ingredient of in-person interaction. Private messages don’t do nearly enough justice to the good ol’ lean over to person next to you to ask: “what on earth is they talking about now?” And of course, there is almost never any pre- or post-lecture banter anymore – whether it be course related or what the Barcelona score was the night before.

One of the main reasons for anyone to study abroad is to immerse themselves in a completely different international culture, while experiencing so many more from all the people around them. Despite the online teaching and lack of connection to any of my course mates, I am very lucky to still be able to engage in the ongoing social events across the university and the city. But when I put myself in the shoes of the majority of our study abroad students – who are either studying in locked down countries or who are distance learning from back in blighty – will they ever get the full cultural experience through a virtual platform?

Despite the online teaching and lack of connection to any of my course mates, I am very lucky to still be able to engage in the ongoing social events across the university and the city.

Nonetheless, it remains an impressive feat from the British public in general to keep spirits high through mostly online social interactions for the past 7 months. I still “meet” my friends and family back home for a beer and a catch up, of course the odd quiz now and again, and it is *almost* as good as popping down the local for effectively the same thing. It will never truly be the same as proper face to face social interaction, though given the variety of modern social technologies readily available to us, I feel that we will still be able to manage a little longer yet. We just need to keep it in mind, as every crisis that has spread across the Earth before this one, and as OK Go also once said: “this too shall pass”. And we can’t keep letting it get us down.

“Just when you think you’re in control
Just when you think you’ve got a hold
Just when you get on a roll
Oh, here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again”

Kulash, D. (2006). Here It Goes Again.

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