The virus will live in minds for generations

Former Glen Innes Examiner journalist Steve Evans writes about staying in his home, self-isolating for 14 days. Picture: Karleen Minney
Former Glen Innes Examiner journalist Steve Evans writes about staying in his home, self-isolating for 14 days. Picture: Karleen Minney

Every generation or so, there is an event which shapes the way people think and behave for the rest of their lives.

The current plague is of that magnitude. As I rumble around this flat on my tenth day of isolation, I wonder what on earth today's children will make of it and how it will form their values and ways.

For my grandfather, the defining event was the Depression in Old South Wales with fifty per cent unemployment causing grinding poverty. Ever after, he never threw anything away, not even a bent nail.

Waste was not his way. He built a glasshouse out of wood he found on the beach. He cultivated tomato plants in old yogurt pots.

And that habit was passed down through three generations: I never, ever throw food out. I finished off the scraps of Christmas dinner a month later.

An Australian friend turns off the tap while she brushes her teeth because she remembers a bad drought.

So what must children today make of the current catastrophe? One moment, they are sailing on through school and the next they are kept in isolation.

And all from an invisible enemy, somewhere out there. Will they, I wonder, wash their hands for eternity?

I know one father who asks his children if they are using too much toilet paper. Freud would have a field day with that one.

The Australian Psychological Society advises parents to keep kids away from too much news - but the news is unavoidable, particularly for children confined to home.

As I sit here in isolation, I have a suggestion.

Encourage children to write diaries. After other disasters, children have painted and revealed their fears in the images they created.

But the words are the thing. Writing about something helps us make sense of it - it's partly what this diary is for.

This is the biggest event in my lifetime. It will shape future generations.

Now is the time when impressions are fresh. We need to capture them in all their raw immediacy.

Steve Evans was a journalist at the Glen Innes Examiner in 2017 and 2018. He is now at The Canberra Times