I had been following the outbreak of Covid-19 since late January when it first started to appear in China. My initial reactions were of curiosity and bewilderment witnessing the unprecedented measures that were being taken in Wuhan, I was curious because something dramatic was unfolding over there, and bewildered because I could not understand why such a powerful nation like China was finding it difficult to tackle the situation while the whole world was mocking it for its weakness. Even though I somehow managed to estimate the true gravity of this situation very early by keeping myself updated on the lockdown news from Wuhan, I still find it very odd that during all of my exercise I always firmly believed that at the end of the day we will remain unaffected from whatever was happening in China at that moment. This error in my judgment came out of the false perception I held regarding the connectedness of our world; I believe. The world is way too disconnected in our minds than it is on the ground reality today.
Technology, Sports, Cinema, and Arts do bring this feeling of proximity between us once a while, but for the most part of our lives, we continue living in the confined cultural spaces build around the physical world that we directly interact with. We often tend to draw an indifferent look on our faces for the crises we see developing in other nations; the war in Afghanistan, the genocide in Burma, the instability in Syria, the wildfires in Australia and the rising sea level in the Maldives has nothing to do with us, and the list goes on and on. This pandemic brought a stiff realization in me that we are not disconnected in consequence no matter in what part of the world we live in. No matter what culture, religion, race or ethnicity we belong to if there is injustice happening at one place we must all be concerned if there is discrimination against one group we must all be concerned if there is hunger and a harsh battle for survival for one community we must all be concerned for our own survival. The Covid-19 pandemic is the first instance where I could see all of the humanity being affected by one issue together, the normalcy of life getting disturbed everywhere, even though we can still argue that the hardships related to it are distributed disproportionally across the divisions of class, color, and gender. Personally, I feel that I have found the transition to the new normal quite easy because of the privilege my class and social position rests upon me. My life has gotten only more comfortable due to this uncertain situation none the less.. No matter what amount of guilt or self-loathing I try to stir up in my being or to what extreme form of charity I resort to in settling down this feeling, I cannot be free. Privilege is unforgivable but it is something that is not easy to relinquish either.
On the other side, this experience has taught me the true value of many things, one of them is the social system that feeds me. For a major part of my life, the meaning of life seemed to lie outside the social world to me. I felt a strange kind of friction between my individuality and how it was being shaped up by the collective organization of society. Now, when I see the threat of disintegration to this system, I cannot fail to notice that life outside this beautiful system has no meaning. Simple acts of going to school or going to watch a movie or participating in a boring wedding seem overwhelmingly meaningful to me. No matter how absurd we may think the ways we interact are, they are beautiful at the end of the day! The system that we criticize for its inefficiencies, corrupt nature, unfairness, and oppression is, in fact, the essence which provides sustenance and meaning to our life. Yes, we can improve our health care system or education system or the justice system but reaching to this level where we have institutions taking care of individual needs, it seems like a great feat of humanity to me. The threat this pandemic poses is not to human existence because undoubtedly we are going to survive out of this. However, the challenge it poses is to the great system we have built over centuries, does it crumble down under the weight of this problem and create disorder or it comes out victorious bringer ever more peace and harmony to human life.
BS student in Quaid e Azam University Islamabad