Covid19! The pandemic is sweeping across our planet, forcing governments to scramble & put measures into place. What becomes evident is the predominant feeling of being overwhelmed.
It is clear to see that while containing the spread is being made priority; it is a luxury that a few can afford. While social distancing seems to be the way to go, the real question is how many can genuinely adhere. My thoughts in the last few days have primarily centred around this population, which make up the majority of mankind. My partner just shared an article that he read. It states that if as a family, your earning was 30K in Bangalore, the city I grew up in; you are the richest 5% in this city. To put that into perspective, that’s 375 euros a month.
The very act of contemplating this stems from a position of privilege, and of this, I am acutely aware. Like always, my thoughts in the recent past have revolved around children. What does a pandemic such as this mean for them? I know that the worst isn’t the missing of lessons/school, i.e., if one considers learning a natural process, it’s the social isolation that really impacts them. Humans need humans!
On the flip side, the very act of this forced slowing down is much required, and if screens became sparse, then our very privileged children will have the opportunity to experience just being…..by themselves and with their families. For many, this may mean encountering boredom for the first time and figuring out a way to keep themselves occupied in the absence of a schedule. Most of all, it’s a time for the entire unit to learn how to coexist together peacefully. After all, the family is the most basic unit of any society. When I say “peacefully” I do not mean the absence of any conflict or disagreements. It is the act of knowing how to navigate these situations.
While I sit here listening to my daughter on a Skype lesson with her teacher despite being homebound, I’m thinking of all the less fortunate children. The ones that live in abusive homes, where time in school is the only respite. What will this mean for children who only eat if they go to school? How children might suffer the loss of one or both parents simply because their parents will make it their priority, to be providers. This innately human tendency to care for our young & key to our survival as a species will leave many vulnerable. The questions rage on in my head….. What of children who are forced into labour and those that are trafficked? In addition to being robbed of their most basic human rights, they now are left utterly exposed to one more thing. It is this that makes me want to be out there now more than ever, in any capacity and yet that instinct of being a provider myself motivates me most to stay put. It is also a testament to how selflessly health care workers toil around the globe day after day. Each one of them; an unsung hero.
While those who can, will stockpile, the rest will have to rely on daily trips to the corner grocery store or the vegetable vendor who is equally dependent on this footfall. While countries clamber to close off their borders to safeguard their individual populations, they still have to deal with these realities on a ground level. The solution then is to provide for these masses, the ones that can’t afford this luxury of self-preservation. We are speaking of the basics here, and once this is done then, a request social isolation might be fair. Failing this, all efforts will be futile.
What this virus has done for us is incredible, it is beyond what any human has achieved this far. It has provided us with the opportunity to look beyond our selves and simultaneously begin the process of healing our home and ourselves. Now more than ever, we require to embrace a sense of distributive justice. Its what is essential to cope with what’s unfolding before our eyes; but also what is to come. So while some countries are in the unique position of bailing their citizens out, I wonder what will become of the others?
What covid19 is daring us to do is to put aside all else and redefine how we choose to group our selves. Will it be race, ethnicity, nationality, beliefs or just human.
Observing children in various settings shows you how “just” they can be. I remember the time when someone broke into our Montessori school and found little in terms of what they considered valuable. The things that went missing were a music system and some copper and brass bowls that were on the shelf. On taking a closer look, we noticed that the thief had played with some of the material, helped themselves to the cookies, milk and sugar from the kitchen and went on their merry way.
The discussion that followed with some of the children would put many a grown-up to shame. While some that had just discovered Tin Tin or Nancy Drew’s were all about finding clues, others shared how they thought the thief liked our school because they used the materials. Some said it’s not their fault; it seems like they were hungry. What the children seemed to have realised on a very elemental level was that the people responsible for this act were a product of their circumstances. They all agreed that stealing was not ok but understood. This is empathy in action and our children embody this.
The solution to the covid19 pandemic is simple in the world of a ten-year-old and is something to think about.
” What if governments decide to put all their financial resources together, keep what they need and then share it with the others who don’t have much and really need it?”
While this may seem to many an idea that stems from childish ignorance, it is one that only the bravest can embrace.
We have no choice but to confront ourselves as individuals at this time. Are we individuals that indulge in flight or fight? I can’t help but categorise stockpiling as a flight instinct which is required at the moment given efforts to contain the spread. But the very act also leaves so many others vulnerable. So if you have the resources and means to stockpile, how about extending help to your neighbours that may not have the resources. What if we were willing to make that trip for an elderly or sick neighbour? What if you could do a week’s groceries for a person that has to work to feed themselves? What if you told your neighbours to unhesitantly call if they needed something? How about carrying a bag with some basics when you are out on a walk or keeping it in your car, ready to leave it when you see its needed? How about setting up a bank of sorts around town and stocking it with things that you know will make a difference? There will always be wants. Now we need to focus on needs and not just ours. This shift will then collectively move us from flight to fight.
We are not really at war with covid19 but with a society that has become sick. One where money and resources are no longer seen as a means to an end. One that places personal wellbeing above all else. While we fight to contain this pandemic, I hope that all of us can heal and resurface into a world that cares.
While dolphins resurface in the canals of Italy, pollution levels are dropping. The only victims here are the perpetrators as far as she goes. The writing on the wall is plain to see…if we do not stop; we will be stopped. We have after all taken on nature, and she is a force to be reckoned with.