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Coronavirus isn’t the beginning of our problems of public health and overall governance and social and economic inequity, nor the end. But we shouldn’t let fear incapacitate us.
I have stopped watching the infection numbers except maybe once a day or once in two days. It’s not like I decide policy or have to prep hospitals or manufacture PPE. For what I need to do, I don’t need a constant flow of fearful news. Not do I need false assurances and Pavlovian endorphin surges.
I need to know how to help myself. And those in even greater need. I have volunteered with some community initiatives. It keeps me busy and helpful and real.
Fear and anxiety can become chronic in us and rarely converts into constructive action. So also with fake cheer and false assurances and cheery actions disconnected from facts.
So. Let’s watch our thoughts. Let’s watch the information we consume and share. Lets watch our responses to events, to our own thoughts, to mind-control propaganda.
Let’s go beyond obsessive compulsive enmeshment with the coronavirus alone. Do what is useful. Help those who face joblessness, homelessness and hunger because of the lockdown. Volunteer in your neighbourhood. Teach something online. Learn something new. Clean. Sort. Your mind. Your space. Exercise. Stay healthy and curious and kind.
Yes, this too shall pass. But the bad habits of our mind and heart will stay, and cause greater harm. Even the new virus perhaps would not have harmed as much if we had better checks, better infrastructure and better policy.
Why are poor migrants stranded between their native place and their workplace, both places refusing to shelter them? Why did no one anticipate this before ordering everything to shut down? Or was it factored in as collateral damage? To what end was it counted as a worthy sacrifice? What about their social distancing and sanitation? Does it matter or not? Why are there different rules for different folks?
Aren’t villages to be in lockdown too? Then why are the migrants not being kept sheltered in the place where they work instead of being forced to trudge to their village where they might be carriers of havoc?
How will the food supply continue if workers are beat up, farm labour pulled out and Mandis shut? What happens to the imminent harvest? The planting of the next crop?
Rationality with empathy is the best tool to tackle a big new crisis. A lockdown may be required. While it is in place, let us maintain it. But also let’s not forget that this is a lopsided lockdown that hadn’t been thought through and is letting down many instead of protecting them.
Do all that needs done. But keep perspective too. It is all too easy to find one thing – the virus – to rail against in this moment. But that is not enough if we want to truly get through this with good lessons learnt and better systems in place.
Is it enough that I and my family are safe? Is it enough that I can go to a posh private hospital and corner scarce health care resources?
Online lessons for my children, and work from home for white collar knowledge workers is great, but what about those who don’t get any part of this?
Coronavirus isn’t the beginning of our problems of public health and overall governance and social and economic inequity, nor the end.
Let these few weeks of sheltering in place make us ask better questions, imagine better answers. Then let us be better citizens and use all our rights and laws and privilege and power to create a better nation.
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