Thousands of people, some more sincere and accurate than others, have come up with theories about the potential change in human beings in the face of the dreaded pandemic. The most naive came to think that the plague would forever transform the species, its way of understanding life and its relationships with others. They were wrong. As the days have gone by, it has become clear that not even the fall of a meteorite would have such a virtue. However, it would also be a mistake to flatten the current situation and strip it of its capacity to lead us -forcibly- to conclusions. Revelations that had gone unnoticed and today by dint of missing yesterday have become irrefutable. One of them is the contempt with which we conceived and inhabited the public sphere.
For decades, we lived submerged in the mire of private spaces, which we thought were enough to have full, fertile and happy days. In fact, many city designs privileged the private experience over the development of public scenarios. Everyone, when leaving their jobs and studies, rushed to take transportation to get home. Safe, sound and alone. It was enough that this house, this refuge, was the only possible and probable way of life, to begin to understand the vileness and danger of not going out into the street. The great majority of people in the world began to miss the simplicity of public life: walking through a park, strolling aimlessly along a boulevard or taking an insignificant stroll through the city. Only after this pandemic, which refuses to pass, did we discover how essential it is for everyone to open the doors of an enclosure and go out into the street. The house is also outside.
The public space, as an experience, lives between two fundamental universes, which easily intersect. The universe of agreement and the universe of disagreement. Indeed, what happens in the streets, parks, and transportation is a meeting -in principle peaceful- of interests. However, the slightest dispute is enough to bring us face to face with the real human social experience: confrontation and negotiation. In the best of cases, solved with a brief dialogue or a succinct apology, or, in the most common case, with an intoxicated look or a verbal or physical threat. We seem to need to see others to argue with them. There is no wall that replaces the neighbor.
Also, and in this I highlight an immense fortune, the advance of the digital, with its hegemonic momentum, has lost millions of followers. While I doubt that the pandemic has made us more responsible for our docile attitude towards the digital world, it has shown us that a cell phone screen is a precarious and hateful (and even painful) medium. Personally, I preferred to stop meeting my friends through the Zoom platform than to receive so little from them. Everyone was talking and no one was talking. A screen turned into a wall.
Although, after so many victims, it would be somewhat indolent to think of the benefits that this whole situation has brought, it is necessary to assume that not everything has been lost time. In the simple fact of missing the street and the public, we have been forced to recognize its importance. Hopefully, over the years, when we look back with nostalgia to the difficult years of the pandemic, we will remember that it was there when we rediscovered the marvel that inhabits the outside and decided to recover the public in the cities. The noon when we preferred the park to the phone screen.