Late February last year, one of my colleagues asked me if I was worried about the Coronavirus and how its spread is engulfing the world. I said no. In my view, we were making too much out of it. After all, we have all the statistics in hand. A contact ratio of 2.5 and fatality rate of 2%, Coronavirus was indeed a pandemic but in recent history, we have seen worse outbreaks that came and went. Besides we are healthy and young. So we had nothing to be worried about. Except that that nonchalance only lasted a week. By then the death toll in Italy had multiplied many folds, Europe was in lockdown and many countries imposed flight bans. “How difficult is social distancing?” Was our next question. It was hard to believe some of the people how they went on defying the instructions issued by the government and the medical community. But of course, we are all experts now. And we couldn’t have been more wrong than underplaying the true extent of the Coronavirus pandemic. In the UK, schools were shut, people started working from home or put on furlough leave, and supermarket shelves suddenly looked eerily empty. Suddenly essential commodities like toilet roll and bread became like gold dust, as did the long-life milk and printer papers. We were preparing for an Armageddon, the apocalypse is finally here. With the newfound powers, the police are sending drones to caution lone travellers or the other extreme, beating people to death.
A quick dash to the pharmacy to pick up medicines and the streets were empty. If it was typical spring weather in the UK, overcast, windy and rainy, you wouldn’t notice it much. But when the temperature soared to near 16 and it’s so bright outside that you close your eyes, the emptiness of the streets and even on the parade of shops is unnerving. As if all living souls have been ducked out of the houses, streets and cars and what’s left is the emptiness. On the bright spring afternoon, looking at the empty streets you suddenly remember that there is a deadly virus around and it’s waiting for the next prey.
A large shout-out for XR
Less than a year ago, we have seen the upsurge on the extinction rebellion (XR) activism across the world. Yet, nothing good came out of it apart from raising awareness of some people who didn’t know or didn’t believe that global warming existed! Then towards the end of last year came Labour’s election pledge in the UK putting a green industrial revolution at the forefront of their agenda. Labour lost, but that was a turning point in British political landscape where a mainstream political party pledged to put the environment on top of its agenda. From that aspect, the collateral benefits during the lockdown period cannot be ignored. The air pollution across the world is lowest over many years, the river/water pollution-reducing as well due to less effluent from factories, noise pollution almost nonexistent apart from the hospitals. You still find memes regarding pollution levels going back to centuries-old figures, and the wildlife returning to the city, but the changes are undeniable. A definite boost for the XR followers now that they will have data on how much less pollution there are. Two-three weeks are not long enough I guess to assess the impact on global warming, but an improvement on the contributing factors will be quite evident. Many of us have seen the video about what happens of every human suddenly disappeared from the world. We are having a demo run at it. Some say that it’s nature’s way of getting back to us. It probably is but this is not sustainable and it’s the wrong cause. At some point in future when the lockdown and social distancing will be a thing of the past, we’ll rapidly go back to our old suicidal ways. Kudos to Greta that she showed us the perils of it, but ultimately we won’t destroy the planet. We’ll destroy ourselves. We might just bring the next ice age a few million years closer. If we survive that long, that is. When the lockdowns come to an end, it will be immensely interesting to gather information on the reduction in pollution levels and analysing them.
To the socialists, socialism is common sense. The grade and scale are debatable but even market-driven socialism relies on the fact that you give back to the society to help it prosper. By giving back, it’s not just buying things, but improving holistically the quality of life of your community and on a wider basis, your town, state, country and the world. Capitalists see this as freebies to the people worse of. Western Europe mostly functions as part of a capitalist system, so, willingly or unwillingly we have all become means to sustain that system. The Covid-19 pandemic brought back the qualities that we have long lost — being humble, being able to see that money has a limit up to which it can keep you comfortable, reaching out for the less privileged, people acknowledging the contributions made to our daily life by the frontline workers who otherwise go unappreciated. Governments across the globe reached out for their most deprived to make sure that they stay healthy. Not only that, even the countries collaborating with each other for medicines, food, other essential supplies. Agreed that the economies are suffering and there will be a massive crunch looming, but the situation also showed that it doesn’t take a lot for the people who can afford it, to contribute to the wellbeing of many people who can’t. It also showed us to appreciate that no work is less important or less honourable. It showed that another solution is possible that generally media and our system is so hell-bent on proving that it doesn’t. Sadly it took a loss of so many lives and a global lockdown of such phenomenal scale for people to realise this.
All religion are same
Perhaps to those who practice religion, it has a spiritual side. Beyond that, religion is our panacea, as if it will take away all our worries and suffering. The belief in God as the supreme healer and subsequently a race to religious supremacy led to many bloodsheds in the history of human civilisation. The closed doors of the places of worship for all religion bore the proof that God is not omnipotent, it can’t protect its followers and it will be interesting to find out how the preachers gain back the credence of their followers. I’m sure they will, but at least during these days of quarantine, good went on sabbatical from their lives and their existence was sustained by the scientists, doctors, to the corner store staff. During this period, all religions were equal — equally useless.
As part of a capitalist system, we sustain the consumerist tendencies. We buy more than we need to live with, and we waste things without a second thought. This behaviour is evident in all classes from the working class upwards. Consumerism harbours our greed which is the fuel for a capitalist society, although greed is seen as individual excellence. During the lockdown, we learned to live with much less than we are used to, and we survived. We reduced waste and which could become learning for all as to how we can sustain with less. We learned to recycle and upcycle, reuse items that we would have otherwise wasted to make something else. If we learn to cut down the waste, that itself will give a massive boost to the weather goals.
Yes, we all remember the initial drought of toilet papers, hand sanitisers and flour due to panic buying by some customers, but overall empathy in the general shop goers have been exemplary. We reduced hoarding items and this, in turn, helped reduce waste. We have not been reliant on the supermarkets and helped the local shops as they helped us survive. In many cases, by shopping at local shops who were in turn helped by local suppliers – farmers, butchers and alike – we have, willingly or unwillingly, helped these businesses survive the storm as well. Going forward to a Coronavirus free future, these learnings and experiences may change our shopping habits and people may be more inclined to shop local, support local businesses.
This has been trying times for many, especially in struggling families losing their means for income. The lives of key workers were equally stressful if not more, and for their family members, it has always been a worry regarding their wellbeing. Despite such worries and anxieties, we, the general public who are not classed as key workers, have spent more time with their families. For the working members of the families, this was a period to see their children for longer hours, be a part of their education, spend more time with their partner and in general, going off-track from the fast-paced life we are a part of, where we have less and less time for our family and friends. Personally, this has been the biggest gain from the quarantine period and I am trying to make the most of it while there is the opportunity, as we will soon be back on track becoming robots.
Reflect on life
I don’t know what group of the population we belong in, being between the baby boomers and gen X, but growing up in the 80s, I clearly remember when life wasn’t so complicated. We didn’t have a lot of things we have now, but thinking of a time that was fun always takes us back to those days. I know part of this is nostalgia, and despite all those warm feelings, we probably don’t want to live like we used to, but our ordeal through the lockdown did allow us to reflect on life, especially the realisation that we are not invincible and that we need to relearn our lessons on humility.
On a lighter note…
- I’ve learnt to batter fry everything from noodles to roast chicken
- Children chased us to start working
- Everybody suddenly wanted to walk the dog, more than once a day
- We learned how not to use more than two toilet sheets a time
- Supermarkets look scary with all shelves empty
- It’s a must to have a hair clipper
- It’s ok to drive 250 miles to test your lenses
- Not wearing underwear is blissful