It is easy and perhaps natural to blame COVID-19 for our present ills, including lockdowns, masking fatigue, immobility, vaccine dilemma and stress. However, it was not unexpected. COVID-19, like all outbreaks, warned us in detail well in advance before it showed up. And when it did on a smaller scale, we allowed it to fester on from the local level to a global pandemic. It has changed many lives, taken many lives and disrupted every life.
Looking at the grand scheme of things, the situation is not as bad as our lamentations and murmurs seem to suggest. The scope and conditions are nothing like the 1918 Spanish flu. Except for the lost lives and those that are currently being affected, corona has brought some reformation to human relations and our connection with nature. It has also shed light on the only constant we know but have impertinently ignored – change.
Something good out of the distress
We are still here, and if we live sustainably, we will be better than we were before as we begin to appreciate the little things. For many, the lockdowns served as an opportunity to reflect on the important things in life, e.g. family, friends, fresh air, good health and our purpose here on earth. Corona got people to consider the fact that they are not as special as their illusions seem to reassure them.
COVID-19 has brought relief to those maltreated or bullied at some workplaces and schools while the self-worth of mobs who spend their lives scheming, judging, spying, and belittling others has fabulously evaporated. It turns out the latter’s self-importance and statuses have all been trampled down in the global democratic republic of Corona.
Overconsumption has declined. A general downward trend has been registered in household spending, and that is good for the environment. Sustainable consumption and production, the agenda number 12 of Sustainable Development Goals, seems to show a positive trend.
Alas, COVID-19 has also exposed ‘some BS jobs’ for their worthlessness. The emphasis is now on the essential. Respect for the health/sanitation workers, teachers, farm labourers, delivery personnel, researchers, etc. has increased substantially.
The exclusive clubs are closed, or at least the members must act like all ordinary people on line. Suddenly but expectedly, everyone is a nobody. The pretty faces must as well put on masks. Nature decides the equal vulnerability of all.
COVID-19 also brought unfortunate experiences to some privileged “first worlders” who are being pushed back at borders for the first time. Life is fair, sometimes. Or at least that is what grand Corona’s chastisement seems to suggest – it’s a “great equalizer”.
The belated epiphany
Despite all the above extraordinary achievements of COVID-19, I have been wondering why there is a one-sided view of the outbreak. Many complain about loneliness, but rarely have they sympathized with the elderly and immigrants in our society. Many people want to get back to work ASAP because they feel lonely and bored. Did we ever realize that loneliness is part and parcel of e.g. many immigrants’ and many senior’s package of everyday life? Why are we suddenly talking about this?
This is old news. But congratulations on the late epiphany—for realizing that this too, is a problem. It did not matter when it happens to the others. They were too sensitive or immature, playing the victim card or being overly reactive and seeking pity. Now that the in-groups are affected it suddenly matters. That’s ok, better late than never.
Happier working from home?
COVID-19 has forced many to work from home, but for others, it doesn’t make any difference because they were alone in the crowd, anyway. They are both physically alienated and intellectually pushed aside since they refuse to bend over backwards in order to be superficially accepted. Should people lose their uniqueness in favour of membership in a purposeless clique that welcomes you as long as you become a disciple of a godless religion with folks who don’t value your humanity but consider you as just a number and a colour to their monotony?
Live concerts and actual classrooms with human-to-human interaction are clearly different from Zoom, Youtube and WhatsApp. People’s eyes aren’t made for endlessly staring at screens. People need a normal life again and no reset can change that—but not when such environments are dreadfully depressing. Not everyone yearns for a quick return to some workplaces of high intensity of animosity. We know that such a situation seriously undermines productivity. Some want to go back because they miss the gossip and the clique upon which their lives depend. Some aren’t trying to get back because this is a period of respite from a mental anguish. Their mental health has improved and they don’t have to deal with anyone’s bunch of baloney.
The way forward: Lessons learned or a return to formalized stupidity?
I guess COVID-19 has many messages besides telling us off about our arrogance, hypocrisy and obsession with superficiality. Above all, the pandemic shows that the illusion of certainty of superiority is a pandemic that affects many even at the cellular level (mental health issues, somatic diseases). Kudos to the many empathetic people who refuse to look away when they see toxic behaviors at workplaces and schools. For example, there is a new Finnish Initiative by the Finnish Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs to tackle the issue of diversity and it is a welcome change #workinglife #diversityandinclusion #workinginfinland #sdg10 #sdg8 #sdg16.
Soon, the world will be healed, the economy will bounce back, and human dignity will be restored. We shall be happy again, but I am afraid some folks will return to their follies and formalized stupidity. A post-COVID-19 return to the workplaces and campuses must bring out the best of our humanity towards others and the environment before the next outbreak.