This is a very stressful and, indeed, frightening time. In addition to the fear that we or someone we love could become horribly ill or even die and the worry of how to pay our bills if our work cannot be done from home, we also find ourselves living in a world so changed, it feels almost surreal. The streets are empty and the pubs, clubs, restaurants, theatres and gyms are closed. The world has suddenly become so much smaller for all of us who are following our governments’ advice or laws to socially distance or even self-isolate. We are confined to our homes, either alone or with family, both of which provide different kinds of challenges.
While many businesses are finding themselves without work, Areo is experiencing the opposite problem. With so many people self-isolating and having time to think and write, we are receiving so many submissions that they are hard to keep up with and we cannot possibly publish all the pieces we would normally accept delightedly. This puts us in the horrible position of having to turn down thoughtful, informed and original commentary on current affairs right at a time when there is a hunger for information and balanced analysis of it. We intend to address this problem in two ways.
Firstly, we are going to try to publish as many pieces as we can. We will speedily publish pieces that provide expert analysis of the coronavirus and the social and cultural issues around it, but also at least as many articles on other topics. We are very grateful to the new patrons who have joined us in the last couple of weeks, keen to help us keep running and support freelance writers at this difficult time. Areo is solely funded by our Patreon: our patrons and writers are the ones making this magazine possible! Similarly, we greatly appreciate those writers who are established in careers and waive their fee, preferring our limited funds to go to junior academics, students and freelance writers.
Secondly, we are working with Letter on ways to get more of your arguments out there and still connected to and accessible from Areo. We have set up a Letter tab on our homepage, where you will find articles related to Letter and those correspondences that fit Areo’s scope. Letter itself will be working to facilitate communication and connection between people who are self-isolating and we hope that many of you will take part in that (see below). You can also find a topic page dedicated to Areo writers and friends here on Letter.
Stay safe and well, everyone!
Helen and Iona
From Our Partners at Letter
Seattle/London, 24 March 2020
Over these past few weeks, many of you have probably found your lives turned upside down. We know that some of you are either at high risk of serious and even life-threatening symptoms if you catch COVID-19 and others live with vulnerable relatives. Some have chronic medical conditions that require regular treatment from health services that could become overburdened and unable to provide normal care. Some of you are front-line workers—doctors, nurses, hospital janitors, elder care providers, utility workers, delivery drivers, supermarket cashiers, warehouse shelf-stockers and others—and have to go out to your jobs, exposing yourselves to personal risk, to look after our sick and keep the rest of us healthy, safe and fed. You are our heroes. Many—perhaps most—of us are on lockdown or in quarantine. For some, this has meant relatively little disruption to our normal lives. But others are unable to earn a livelihood, have been fired from their jobs, are anxious about meeting rent or paying bills. Some are separated from loved ones, alone and isolated. We are all facing tremendous uncertainty about the future and many of us feel helpless. But there are ways in which we can help each other get through this and this platform, we hope, will provide one.
There have been many pandemics in the past, but we have at least one advantage over all our predecessors. While we may be physically separated, we can communicate with people all over the globe in an instant. We cannot talk to each other face to face: we can’t gather together and exchange warm hugs, as many of us would do in any other crisis. But we can write to each other and we believe we should: for three reasons.
First, writing is a comfort. Taking the time to sit down, unravel your tangled thoughts and lay them out on the virtual page, one by one, can make them more manageable. It’s not self-indulgent to describe your experiences: it is helpful to others, who may see similarities with their own situation and therefore feel less alone. By writing to each other, we can offer each other moral support and the knowledge that someone else understands. Paradoxically, it’s in the things that feel most deeply personal—in our most profound sorrows, in the private anxieties that wake us in the early hours—that we are most alike. The pandemic has shown how inextricably we are all connected: we depend on each other for our lives—few of us can be healthy if too many of us are ill—and we depend on each other for our livelihoods—few of us can flourish if too many of us are poor. We are connected, also, in our need to make our voices heard.
Second, we need resources that people can turn to for advice on managing the challenges that come with this unprecedented situation. Yes, we have the official advice from doctors, epidemiologists and governments. Everyone in public health is already doing what they can, in other venues. But some of us could use a little help with more seemingly mundane concerns because we want to keep our spirits up, use our time productively and stay healthy and sane. We need ideas on how to homeschool our kids; on how to manage our time and remain focused at home with dogs and toddlers and a thousand distractions; on how to cook healthy, appetizing meals; on home workouts we can do before our muscles atrophy. Many of us would also welcome some psychological advice on staying calm and positive. Do you have expertise in any of these areas? Or good ideas to share? We’re appealing to people who are willing to receive letters on this platform and to reply to any they feel are of public interest or that simply appeal.
Third, this is a unique moment in history and we should not let it go undocumented. A public record of the personal experiences of people around the world could provide a trove of invaluable testimony. Crises are clarifying. They stress test our beliefs and values, forcing us to define what is most important. We need to come through this knowing what we must defend and what we can discard as pointless and superficial and we need to think and write about this now, while it is fresh in our minds, lest we fail to learn from this experience.
We encourage you all to use this Open Letters page as a public journal of your experiences. And we’re also here to help you connect with others across the globe and find like-minded correspondents. Every letter you write can be replied to directly here. And we will also try to match those who need specific advice and help with others who can offer it.
While we’re separated physically, let’s connect digitally. Let’s write to each other and to the world.
Helen Pluckrose is an exile from the humanities with research interests in late medieval/early modern religious writing by and about women. She is editor-in-chief of Areo. Helen took part in the “grievance studies” probe and her upcoming book with James Lindsay, Cynical Theories, looks at the evolution of postmodern thought in scholarship and activism.
Write to Helen at: https://letter.wiki/HELENPLUCKROSE/conversations
Iona Italia, PhD, is a former academic who now works as a writer, editor and general wordsmith. She is Areo’s subeditor, host of the podcast Two for Tea and part of the team at Letter.Wiki. A Parsi of mixed Scottish and Indian ancestry, she has lived in five countries and speaks four languages. Iona is based in London. Her most recent book is “Our Tango World,” published by Milonga Press UK and available on Amazon.
Write to me at https://letter.wiki/IonaItalia/conversations.