DEEPIKA FAUGOO

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global humanitarian crisis that has bought the world to a screeching halt with frontiers closed, lockdowns, quarantines, closure of schools and higher educational institutions, joblessness, poverty and scarcity of food and basic essentials for some as well as closure of charities and NGO’s, working for the most vulnerable in society. It has also created an economic downturn such that many enterprises and businesses are closed with a looming threat of recession. The most intriguing question is ‘Who is to blame for this pandemic?’, with many political leaders indulging in the blame-game to gain political mileage and camouflaging their own weaknesses. However, researchers and environmentalists strongly advocate that the onus lies on human economic development with the human race relentlessly trying to get the best resources be it the use of land, water, forests, reservoirs and penetrating regions meant for animal species thereby disturbing the ecosystem that leads to animal related viruses infecting humans.

COVID-19, in a short span of time, has intertwined the fate of many countries with many sick, ill and dying, making the entire world stoop down in front of it. As different countries are trying to control the impact of this virus, the realization must have dawned that countries can no longer afford to be insular, but there needs to be a joint global commitment as to how  to cope with such a pandemic. The philosophical and ethical stance must be that COVID-19 is a dangerous virus that affects all, and all of us need to be equally concerned about the spread of the virus and its ability to take human lives. But the reality is that we live in a much divided world where divisions persists between the haves and the have-nots, affluent and underprivileged, enabled vs sidelined communities, the rich and the poor, the educated and illiterate, modern and retrograde as well as various other divisions that proliferate modern day societies.

Collectivism is the need of the hour

Such divisions lead countries to become adversaries to attain a bigger share of natural resources, capitalism and consumerism where people don’t think beyond the earn-acquire-consume-spend syndrome. All these fragmentations defeat the concept of the world as a global entity but this universal tragedy of COVID-19 may have obliged us to see the world with a new set of lenses.  Despite the individualistic manner in which the world operates, collectivism is the need of the hour, as we have to fight this pandemic unitedly and think of our collective interests, so we may be able to comprehend how we divide ourselves and rise against these divisions and strive to make the world a better place, free from such treacherous diseases. Maybe, in short, it is important to understand that the logic of market share, profit maximization and the economics of every situation should not dominate the spheres of human existence, as we currently allow it to. Possibly we can now view our problems as shared, and society as more than just a mass of individuals competing against each other for wealth and standing.

Humanity has faced many viruses and has managed to come out of every situation successfully but when we come out COVID-19, the world will not be the same again. This virus would have altered our mindsets and coping mechanisms would have changed. Social distancing, self-isolation, covering ourselves with masks, living in fear that there could be a resurgence of the disease, unable to travel, maybe unable to attend school and university, closure of businesses, remote working are situations that are not easily acceptable as humans inherently are social beings unused to living in this manner and this isolation is a disconnect with life as have known it for such a long time.

This experience should urge us to look at the past and we would need to question how we lived and understand this end of the world paraphernalia that we have bought on ourselves and this introspection needs to start with oneself. These are some crucial questions that we would need to reflect upon. What will the future be like?, or just like everything else will our memory be short-lived and we will conveniently forget about the COVID-19 crisis like a forgotten dream or nightmare and wait for something more dreadfull to happen  and wake up when it is too late. What kind of a world are we creating and what are we going to leave behind for the generations to come? What will our new normal look like? Will we continue to live with our stereotypical assumptions, our prejudices and hatreds, lack of creative solutions, old grievances and hidden resentments, will we be insular and remain indifferent to all humanitarian crisis prevalent in current times such as wars, refugee crisis, polarised fragmented societies, violence against women, absence of social policies, lack of properly funded research about the impact of such viruses and lack of leadership? Will we just exploit our environment such as our forests, rivers and mountains to suit our selfish needs or will we live in harmony and synchronization with our environment? It is important that these reflections lead to self realisation and awareness such that that we can embrace the future with an enlightenment of how this pandemic threatened to destroy the universe, and changed our lives forever. There are two main opposing sides to this debate: For the hopeful, the world will bounce back with fresh vigor, enthusiasm, good health and bouts of happiness and economic rebound to build a modern and healthier world for everybody. For the pessimists, it will be a despondent affair with joblessness, homelessness, with remote possibility of the economy recovering, accentuating our prevalent injustices and divisions and a poor quality of life. It all depends on the thinking process and the personal choices that we make, but we need to tread lightly and gently and think of a world free from all the dense encumbrance of the past and strive to create a much better world that would have changed forever for one and all, and be able to crusade for it. After all as humans our limited journey on planet earth comes with a return ticket and being privileged to be born as human species we need to give back and work in whatever capacity to make the world as it was intended to be, a perfect place, where there is opportunity for everybody to rise and reach horizons unimagined and live a better life as there is enough room for everybody on this planet. The aim should be to eradicate this deadly virus and alongside transform societies, businesses and relationships with family, friends and peers into something more humane and secure by keeping in view that we are all in this together and we should be able to join the dots and grab this once in a life-time opportunity to remake our society and build a better, healthier and meaningful future for the entire world.