Pandemic 2020

How many things should I worry about today? 

The Pandemic, the lockdown, the virus – they have eaten away our calm, if we ever had any. In our angst, we are ready to bite.

Pre- Pandemic, frenetic was glamorous, yet some of us learnt to slow down. It was cool to be unavailable, for how could we not be too busy, too engaged, too involved in our own passion, too driven by purpose – building the next big thing for the world. We were ready for the big fight.

Let’s not kid ourselves, world dominance was still our goal, even if we wanted to dominate it as the best holiday maker ever. Witness the emergence of Instagram, the grandest self advertising platform. Witness YouTubing as a commercially viable option for those who did dominate. Attention was the currency, domination over your mind was still the goal. We were running, even if the rat race was not just down the lab maze. We were primed for winning, we made our own wars.

Till we were felled, stopped in our tracks, by a tiny virus that traveled on minuscule droplets. We learnt to worry more, now about the smallest things. Scrubbing our hands, our doors, our floors, our connects. 

All our frenzy, now wound up – into a tight ball waiting to be unrolled – but not quite yet. The world was spinning out of control and it was time to hunker down. We could not go out and solve the big problems of the world. All field research was on hold, our charities could only work locally, commercial supply chains broke down. It was too big to handle, so we turned inwards.

Let us solve ourselves, let us keep it small, and work on what we can control. Our own locus, oh so small, and so insignificant in the big fast world we used to stride through, now suddenly came into focus. A bit like Alice in Wonderland, we looked around at everything with new eyes. 

We cooked, oh how we cooked. No bread was left unbaked, least of all the one made with rotting bananas. We cleaned. We did up our homes. Some of us got our hands dirty with soil – and gardened our balconies to profusion – or not, depending upon our skills. We discovered hobbies – music, dance, painting.

We went deep within, to ask ourselves the big questions that we did not have the time for before. We went without – to see what livelihoods still existed. We danced between these poles, spinning, lost and afraid, for all it would take is one droplet to fell us forever. We lived in the shadow of death, denying it, not giving in to it, for that would be paranoia, would it not? We had plenty of issues popping up unexpectedly to handle this one too. Surely not. 

Slowly we grew used to it. The routines of the self, and work, and even housework for the pampered came back to heel. We looked to ourselves and left the others to reel with the shocks they were being dealt. We settled down into this smaller world. And then, we looked around to see what had happened while we were away.

Not much had changed, only it was worse. Education had suffered, the learning loss even worse than ever. Inequity was made worse, because we had designed the world to feed the rich. Sexism was still doing quite well. Fascism had progressed, as had extremism. We were still over sensitive to any perceived slights to our tribes, and our insecurities over income, reach, self and our loved ones had made us more fragile – we were ready to fight to the death to protect our own now – some of us seemed to need a fight to survive. Politics was dire, and the pandemic had only brought forth ugly truths.

Raising our heads above the parapet did not bring sunshine into our world any more, because we were forced to realise that the sun did not shine for us. We did not matter, and indeed, the world was so much better if humans just shut up, shut themselves up and stayed away. 

But then, what of us and our existential angst. Our societies and our structures. Grand Infrastructure, lying waste. Grand Technology, either not usable, or not good enough yet. We matter, we cry! We are smart, and primed to win, we whine. As more little bits of the old world crumbles around us. We look at the pieces of freedom that fall on to our laps, and brush it away, carelessly, not knowing that it was ours to save.

We sit in our little boxes, and worry, because we know it is going to come and get us sooner or later. If not violence, it will be inequity. If not that, then some form of tribalism – religion, region or race, or caste. Something will trigger the next thing, and one day it will be our turn.

We will raise ourselves, climb relentlessly, try to run to safety – but what safety can one find in a world where any human can hurt another one, and then declare that they have won?