The few months that turned the world upside down have made us look back and review all that we have done for centuries. The coronavirus pandemic has certainly taught us about many aspects of our lives, of which we may think differently now. It has at least shown us what we, humankind, have been doing all these years.
The first aspect that came to my mind was our lack of knowledge and focus. We don’t know how to protect our own people in the face of a health care disaster and economic shutdown. We haven’t thought about our social safety nets very seriously. What we tried to do in the name of social safety net was just an eyewash, so that the politicians could say they were doing a lot for the people they represent.
Our lacunae in the public health care system were unearthed so obviously that it made us awestruck. There’s not enough hospitals for sick people equipped with proper treatment facilities. What we run in the name of hospitals is a shame. We had to build makeshift hospitals when the virus attacked.
Side by side, with the lack of physicians, we also saw that many doctors didn’t know what to do even they wanted to help the patients. And many stayed away because they were afraid of the virus.
We have also observed how our knowledge about health care is shrouded by religious misconceptions; the so-called religious preachers with various kinds of false information have been preventing the people from seeking medical treatment. These false information-providers were seen to pass it off in the name of God. They have also been trying to popularize the false prophecies they were making.
The pandemic has taught us how uncaring we were towards nature, the environment that we live in, and how humans had been terrorizing the other beings that live on Earth. We saw the animals came out on the streets during the shutdown in the absence of humans, the birds started hovering over our beaches, and we also saw many sea species came up on the shores that were usually occupied by us, the humans.
Satellite pictures have shown the massive reduction of carbon emissions over the most polluting cities of the world. Maybe nature needed some time to heal itself, as we have been choking it for a long time now.
The globalization of business and economics is probably going to fall apart. Take the Bangladeshi expatriates, for example. The countries that have been using our cheap labour are no longer able to continue the practice. The evolved situation has also shown us that our ways of doing business may not be right at all. The hankering for more profit has backfired.
We have always talked about unequal distribution of wealth and jobs in our societies, but the pandemic has shown how dangerous the situation is. It has also taught us how the haves have been spending thoughtlessly and the have-nots have nothing to spend.
The consumerism that we have been practising has actually no meaning; we have been eating more than we need to survive; we have been buying a hundred products that we actually don’t need at all. The businesses and manufacturers have been alluring us to spend more and save less. The time is probably coming when the people would focus more on their savings; the buying-spree is likely to reduce.
The lockdown has reminded us that we are essentially social animals; we need friends, families, good company, people from the workplace; we cannot stay away from one another.
Ironically, at the same time, the pandemic has pointed out the discriminatory attitudes within us. We treated the Covid patients as outcasts; we boycotted the families in which we found any Covid patient. And this was the same us who were traveling to our villages in herds breaking all norms of social distancing. The paradox was so glaring.
Fear of death and insecurity have ruled the roost in the back of our minds during the pandemic; if we deny it, we would be lying.
To me, it was good for us to contemplate death; we usually don’t think of dying; we think we may live forever, and we lead our life accordingly. And by doing that, we make many mistakes. Thoughts of death could perhaps bring us back to the right path. In fact, death needs to be talked about; it is healthy to think about death — which most of us have been doing during this onslaught of the coronavirus.
The pandemic has struck at the root of our sense of traditional security. The weapons, missiles, atomic bombs, the fire power, and the fighter aircrafts that we created were of no use to save us from this insecurity.
In fact, Covid-19 has shown that we don’t need weapons for our security; the concept of security is not in fighting wars, but in taking care of ourselves. We have been taking care of ourselves in the wrong way. The coronavirus is perhaps telling us to spend more on health care rather than on wars.
This is an opportunity for review; review what we have been doing with the fellow people, with our sacred planet, and other species that are important for us to survive as a race. We must make the best use of this opportunity to rectify our actions that have led us to this helplessness.
We humans look miserably helpless in the face of this pandemic.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.