Discussion – Key Debates, Viewpoints & Interviews
Reflections – (Inter)acting in a Different Timeframe
Aurianne Stroude, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
The Coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we interact, we buy, we cook, we work, etc. It has an effect on our daily routines and also on our perceptions of time. We are stuck in the present. We have no possibilities to predict with certainty what life will be like – at an individual and collective level – in a week, in a month or in a year. Our actions are then settled in this present. Nevertheless, the way we act is more than ever shaped by a long-term future that we are willing and forging individually and collectively. This timeframe shift is very similar to what people aiming at voluntary simplicity live in the process of changing their own lifestyle . The evolution of everyday practices changes the timeframe in which they settle their own actions. They accept the contingency of the future, and focus on their present actions in order to participate in more global and long-term change. In many ways, the experience of deceleration that many of us have been forced to live due to the Coronavirus crisis produces a similar shift in the timeframe of our actions.
Acting in the present
Our (inter)actions in the time of Coronavirus are shaped by the present situation. The people working in hospitals, in post offices, in grocery shops, in farming, etc., are constantly adapting their everyday practices to the official guidelines and to the changing reality they are confronted with. They are experiencing an emergency situation that requires all their energy and focus. Those who are living in isolation are also stuck in the present, not knowing when they will be allowed to hug their loved ones, plan their next holidays, or enjoy a meal with their friends. Although we do not know what is going to happen tomorrow, we know that our actions (and the restriction of our actions) today are crucial.
…for a long-term future
There is no action without the anticipation of its track. An action requires a present state – what we call reality – and a projection of a future state – which is always virtual and formed by our imagination . Even though some of our actions are still shaped by a short-term future projection, like having something to eat in the fridge for the next few days, the timeframe of our actions is stretched toward a long-term future. If we act the way we act now, it is because we want to preserve a long-term future. We are individually and collectively acting in order to avoid a future in which society would collapse . Therefore, our (inter)actions are now settled in a different timeframe. We focus on the present time, but the sense of our daily experience is shaped by a long-term future we are individually and collectively forging, in order to avoid a catastrophic scenario of a societal collapse, largely nourished in our imagination by movies, books and pictures.
…for a better future ?
How does this observation help us understand the specificity of the Coronavirus crisis, and what can we learn from it for a better future?
As many observers have already shown, the measures taken to avoid the propagation of the Coronavirus could encourage us to adopt more sustainable practices in many ways. The no-fly movement was anecdotal a few months ago, but it is now a reality for the majority of us. Nevertheless, in order to benefit from this crisis, as an opportunity to transform our daily practices toward more sustainability, we ought to consider the timeframe in which we settle our (inter)actions. Accepting the contingency of the future, focusing on the present, relying less on a short- or medium-term future, and shaping the sense of our daily experience through the imagination of a long-term future, might help us to meet, individually and collectively, the challenge of climate change.
 Stroude, A. (2019) De la distanciation à la transition. Enquête sur le processus de transformation des modes de vie dans la société contemporaine. Thèse de doctorat de l'Université de Fribourg, Suisse.
 Martuccelli, D. (2014) Les Sociétés et l’impossible. Les limites imaginaires de la réalité, Paris, Éditions Armand Colin, p. 20.
 Diamond, J.M. (2005) Collapse. How societies choose to fail or succeed, London, Penguin Books.
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