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March 26, 2020

Four things the Corona Virus can teach us.

With more and more eye-bending graphs circulating online, we can clearly see that the Corona Virus is spreading at a more and more curvy rate and so is the panic. But everything is a life-lesson, so what can we learn from this whole thing?

  1. We are all connected

Mentally, we know that the world is one web of interrelation. Many of us use and consume products from all over the globe. If we have the money, we can fly anywhere in the world in a day or two. Better still, we can connect with others on cyber-space in a matter of seconds. Some places, like South Korea, have such fast internet connections that your message will practically arrive before you send it.

But now we feel this interconnection in an even more visceral way. Many of us in disparate parts of the globe are experiencing the same sense of panic, are worried about our own health and the health of our loved ones and local economy. And indeed, who knows? The worldwide economic repercussions may cement our connection even further.

The Corona Virus, as well as the accompanying concern, is spreading everywhere. And this time, it’s not just the developing world that is bearing the brunt. The virus is spreading everywhere, even the places where it is less visible due to lack of testing. We built the highways that connect us all, but the virus is now using them. And it’s still mutating. It went from bat to human. Who knows? It may mutate again – this time from human to cyberspace!

  1. There’s a difference between caution and panic

From very early on the World Health Organization was warning of a pandemic if countries did not take drastic measures to thwart the spread of the Corona Virus. This called for caution and vigilance, but in many cases resulted in either panic or negligence.

In places like Australia, where I live, the panic erupted in the parts of the populace before the government took any drastic measures to mitigate its spread. People began buying all the toilet paper, rice and pasta on the supermarket shelves in preparation for what to them was an impending societal collapse, a belief which itself birthed some reality.

On the flip side, even after the government did warn Australians about the seriousness of this virus and urged social distancing, thousands of people flocked to the beach ignoring all of the warnings. These people are not fazed by the virus. They see all the Corona talk as mere hype that has been blown out of proportion. Clearly, different people have different reactions.

But between these two extremes is the happy medium: calm caution. It is possible to be vigilant in executing strict measures to quell the spread of the virus without being overrun by panic. People can self-isolate, without caving into friends’ requests to get to together for dinner, and still remain calm. Caution doesn’t necessitate panic or paranoia. We can remain cautious while maintaining our perspective on both the direst outcome and the ideal scenario we want to manifest.

The common approach to dissipating panic is denial. Don’t “freak out,” we tell ourselves, “there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. It’s all blown out of proportion. The experts don’t know what they’re talking about!” Sound familiar? This is exactly what we do with the climate crisis. We deny the warnings of experts because we don’t like the uncomfortable feeling of facing a dire situation.

But we have to learn to face the truth while remaining positive. Overcoming life’s problems doesn’t mean sweeping them under the carpet, ignoring that they exist. They will resurface and we won’t be ready for them. To live proactively, we need to recognise where the pitfalls lie, and consciously find ways around them, without losing our cool.

  1. We are all mortal

Probably a huge part of the panic is the pressing need to face our mortality. In parts of the world that are safe and secure, there is the impression of living a life beyond harm. But while this might be the case for some, on the other side of the world, or even the other side of the river or even fence, life might be quite different. Poverty and disease plague many people’s lives. The frailty of their mortality is clear and present always.

The Corona pandemic is making this more apparent to many. It brings to the surface what we all know deep down: each and every day could be our last. Many of us are not used to thinking about this. We’re used to life with the appearance of permanency and predictability. We are used to the assurance of life expectancy stats that tell us we are guaranteed a certain number of years on this earth.

But this virus is waking us up a little, telling the older generation that their time here is tenuous, and the younger generation that they might lose a loved one. In fact, statistically this is always the case. We just don’t like to think of it day-to-day. As morbid as it sounds, death is always at our doorstep; we just don’t want to peep through the door. But it doesn’t have to carry all the darkness we paint over it. Death is just a dimension of life, an inevitable life event for us all, whether we see it is an ending or a new beginning. The Corona Virus is helping many of us see this more vividly.

  1. There are different ways of showing affection

Love is a noble quality: loving our family, friends, the world at large and also ourselves. But love not expressed is just an abstract idea, an idealistic notion. For love to be real, we can’t just feel it – we need to express it.

When we think of expressing our love for others, one of the clearest methods comes to mind: touch them. Hug them, kiss them, shake their hands, pat them on the back. In whatever socially appropriate way, let your love be expressed from body-to-body so that the love you feel is no longer a private thing – it is transferred to another person and has been set free into the world.

But the notion of affection being synonymous with touching is not a universal thing. Rules around touching and personal space in general differ drastically from culture to culture. At one end of the spectrum, we have countries like Brazil where people hug and kiss all the time. And on the other end, we have the Japanese who remain a respectable distance, choosing instead to bow. For a Brazilian travelling to Japan, this way of relating might seem cold and distant. But to the Japanese, the Brazilian way could be seen as too abrupt and abrasive.

Obviously, we all have certain rules around touching in whatever country and culture we inhabit. At times, these rules can seem stifling and may limit the way we want to express our love to others. But in many parts of the world, the reverse is now the case. We currently need to social distance ourselves from others or even self-isolate ourselves within the walls of our homes. This might seem cold-hearted to those of us who really want to get out there and help the world. But funnily enough, the best thing we can do for others is to stay away from them.

And what might seem like a purely selfish thing is not just an act of self-preservation; it is an act of protecting others. Just as we may be infected by others if we go out and socialise, they too may be infected by us, thus showing the intricate synthesis of self-care and altruism.

There are other ways to show our love. We can call or video call our loved ones, chat with people online, send a good old-fashioned email – one not bound by the puny dimensions of an online message box, or order them some food and toilet paper online.

These are just four things we can learn from this world-changing experience we are all going through. No doubt there are many other lessons lying in wait for us to discover. Let’s hope that 2020 will be remembered not as the year that so many people died but more as the year that so many woke up.

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