The government’s belated response to the coronavirus has been to force everyone they can to stay indoors—sometimes at gunpoint. In addition to the economic impact, many people are getting a serious case of cabin fever. People stuck at home need something to do before they start weaving baskets. But as usual, voluntary efforts take over when the state fails, and private entities are combating government enforced boredom. There are too many people helping to count, but here is a quick rundown of some highlights of the efforts being made.
In addition to donating millions of dollars to medical coronavirus relief efforts, Amazon has made much of its family-friendly movies and TV shows available for free, including classics like Arthur and Reading Rainbow. They have also altered their Audible audiobook streaming service to make hundreds of titles in multiple languages available to listeners for free—even such apropos titles as “Brave New World” and “Atlas Shrugged.”
Amazon is far from the only player in the digital media industry. Not to be outdone, Apple has added a limited-time “Free Books” section to its Apple Books app. Nonprofits are not being left behind. The non-profit online library Internet Archive has created a National Emergency Library where books can be read without the main site’s lending restrictions.
Pokemon Go is a game beloved by millions across the world. Unfortunately one of the main mechanisms in the game is walking around outside—a great form of exercise that, in some areas, the government will arrest you for nowadays. But the creator of Pokemon Go have altered the game’s mechanics temporarily to make it possible to catch Pokemon easily from your home and making it easier to interact with other players—even giving away free in-game items.
Individual creatives are also acting to meet the mental and emotional needs of people imprisoned in their own homes by the government. Award-winning children’s artist Mo Willems is holding virtual “lunch doodle” sessions from his home. Using the hashtag #OperationStoryTime, authors of children’s books are using social media to provide free readings of their books for families. You can even find Julie Borowski reading her modern classic “Nobody Knows How To Make A Pizza,” and Connor Boyack reading “The Creature from Jekyll Island” from his Tuttle Twins series.
Neither are the finer aspects of entertainment being left out. World-renowned actor Sir Patrick Stewart is tweeting out daily readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets. “When I was a child in the 1940s, my mother would cut up slices of fruit for me (there wasn’t much)”, Stewart said, “and as she put it in front of me she would say, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ How about, ‘A sonnet a day keeps the doctor away’?”
The Metropolitan Opera was forced to cancel its live presentations, but is re-airing its Live in HD series for free. “We’d like to provide some grand opera solace to opera lovers in these extraordinarily difficult times,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb. “Every night, we’ll be offering a different complete operatic gem from our collection of HD presentations from the past 14 years.”
Headlines all over the world have focused on the medical impacts of the coronavirus, and the financial impact of the government’s actions. Often overlooked has been the emotional an psychological impacts on individuals and families. But as we can see, private entities are combating government enforced boredom, demonstrating again that people will voluntarily help each other—and that help is always better than what the government offers.