Somewhere, in a parallel universe, people were respectful of animal lives, the wild was left wild and the viruses stayed in the wild.
Somewhere, in another parallel universe, people protected and provided for the vulnerable. No old person on their own, no kid without food, no homeless, coughing in the cold streets.
And in another parallel universe people were kind and made sure to only buy the amount of toilet roll they needed.
In this universe animals were taken from their wild homes, the vulnerable were exposed to dangers they couldn’t cope with, and the toilet roll run out, taking all basic supermarket interactions with fellow humans to an unprecedented level of idiocy.
It is ok. I am sure that all those parallel universes were going for ‘business as usual’ until an absolutely monstrous elephant turd landed upon them and they had to reevaluate politics, finance, morals and toilet roll stock.
We have been given an incredibly tough challenge. A virus with high transmission levels that has already killed over 12,000 people * and is highly ageist. The challenge is to get through this together, change our ways and keep each other safe.
But we have also been given a chance. This is our universe’s very own elephant turd moment.
If we act wisely, remain kind and stay together, things could be very different as we all find our way out of the dung. We have a chance to get through this together, change our ways and keep each other safe.
Perhaps COVID-19 is not the virus that is going to change everything and wipe out half of the planet’s population. But it is the virus that is already showing us where humanity is in 2020. The virus that has exposed two very different kinds of people from the two opposite ways of responding to a crisis. We have seen people sing over balconies and people fight over toilet roll. This is our time to choose sides, if there ever was a time. It is a time for questions.
Will I sing with my fellow humans, get groceries to older and vulnerable people and really think how my choices might have paved the way for this absolute shitstorm?
How has my consumer demand shaped markets and factories in developing countries?
How incredibly weird it is that sometimes I loose it over the shallowest of first world problems, like when the supermarket runs out of the hummus flavour I wanted.
Isolation, self-imposed or otherwise, clears up space in our daily routine and makes time for these thoughts. How incredible that, at the other end of this, we might all see the world in a different light. Appreciate our lives, however challenging they may be. Assess our problems (first world ones or not) and not let them stop us from being happy – there are, after all, plenty of other hummus flavours and they are all pretty great. Maybe we will shift to fighting for equality in our society as much as we are now striving for balance in ourpersonal lives. Care a bit more. Love a bit more freely. Create the circumstances for a society that lives in joy and health.
The virus is here to do what viruses do: They enter a cell, re-program it to act as a virus production factory and then release those evil babies into the void, to infect more cells. We have dealt with much worse viruses before and we will deal with much worse viruses in the future, I am sure. But the way we decide to act is what makes this so significant. Right now the whole world is tuned into this one single issue. All eyes on the tiny virus cells. Terrified. Just as we were all getting comfortable with the idea that we really must be supreme lords of our universe…
We are all now looking outside our windows and we see a world that has changed. The atmosphere full of tension, like we the eerie feeling in movies when the music stops just before Godzilla puts a foot through a bus.
And, god forbid you sneeze or cough. All eyes will be on you, people will be sanitising every place you – and your shadow – touched and everyone who saw you in the last few days will start calling their favourite people to tell them they love them. We are learning to be careful and we don\’t know how to respond to it just yet. What is good practice and what is too much. The virus spread so quickly, we have gone from thinking it was someone else\’s problem, to toilet roll hoarding within a week. And this perhaps will be our greatest lesson.
We often rested in knowing that unacceptable things, when they didn\’t directly affect us, were to be taken off our list of worries. Someone else\’s problem.
How very uncomfortable it all suddenly got when we saw that we cannot ignore a virus the same way we ignored poverty and climate crisis. Masses of people, resting in our good good lives, pretending that the world will one day also be better for the people that make our clothes and manufacture our smart TVs.
To clarify: masses, but not everyone. Changes have been made, scientists and climate crisis activists have made their predictions and issued their warnings and people have started changing the way they live their lives. The change that is down to individual people making conscious, individual decisions, has started. But society as a whole and the way we act in crisis has, I think, plenty of room for improvement.
So, as we sit here, anticipating the inevitable flu, it may be time to get angry at society, rethink what we love about it and what we really could do without, and anticipate the inevitable change instead!
One shouldn\’t stop checking with their elderly neighbours if they need a delivery of groceries when the virus outbreak is over. One can be a bit more loyal to local businesses, not just when they beg for support. One can remember that the money they make, if possible, could be used to give others a good life too. There is, after all, no difference in the type of paper – money or toilet roll. It is all paper that needs to be available to everyone.
We are, and should always remain, in this together.
Look after one another the way you can and keep yourself busy with the hope that this virus triggers a change bigger than any human could have ever ignited.