Are we living in the world of 1984?
Covid19 cases are spiralling out of control. Hospital beds are full. Frontline workers are exhausted and under supported. Lockdowns are getting underway. Travel bans are being instated. Politics appears to be playing with lives.
But we’ve been here before, right? Is it April 2021, or April 2020?
For many, a ‘been there, done that’ vibe is slowly, but strongly, taking hold. This creeping sense of nothing new — with the awareness that nothing is actually repeating — is known as déjà vécu. French for “already lived,” the term describes a sense of life events repeating themselves in a sort of time loop. It’s a cousin of the eerie mistaken memories of déjà vu, and some experts describe déjà vécu as a sort of constant state of déjà vu — a “remembering the present,” as a New York Times article once described the phenomenon. But whereas déjà vu is characterized by a startling or confusing familiarity, déjà vécu is so wearisome in its effect that it’s almost banal. After all — you’ve experienced it all before. What would startle you?
Déjà vécu in the current milieu is understandable — the sheer volume of similarities between this time this year and this time last year is making it difficult to comprehend time has passed. Covid19-related news headlines, for instance, are oddly familiar — some even verbatim to a year ago — making it hard to discern the differences between then and now.
The voluntary (and now enforced) social distancing in the time between now and then has limited our ability to have new experiences and create new memories that might serve as a foil to déjà vécu; it doesn’t help that the near future also looks bleak in its potential for variety. The question is, what does living in a chronic state of sameness and replay do to us?