A take on COVID-19, written in late march 2020
Full article - https://medium.com/@prateekrao/untiltomorrow-9c3187f1e7ba
Before we start, let me explain the picture above. It is the macro image of a leaf (courtesy — a good smartphone camera). Why is it there? Well, I found it fitting to represent the current realities we are living in. And by “we”, I mean the privileged, the educated, the comfortable — the Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z. We are saving the world, staying inside our houses — isolated, self-quarantined, proud. The COVID -19 virus has announced global domination and we, the homosapiens are leading The Resistance. The leaf represents the slow and dry nature of our current existence — staying home — counting days — much like the small squares/trapezoids formed by the veins of the leaves falling one after other. Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 ….. we count !
Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning chronicles his time in a Nazi Concentration Camp — suffering himself yet serving fellow men. As I compare the current scenario directly, it may not suffice but let us think for a moment, let us look keenly. Aren’t we facing unprecedented times? We are fearful every day — what if we catch the bug? What if our parents in our hometown catch it? Will this end on April 15th or we might be in a lockdown indefinitely ? I believe common citizens during the time of the wars (World War I and II) would’ve faced similar situations — a gradual restriction of everyday life and a gradual increment in everyday uncertainty. There were soldiers fighting each other on the contested borders, today our medics, soldiers and governments are fighting a common enemy — COVID-19 — approximately 0.125 micron (125 nanometers) in diameter. The image below shows the affected regions during both crises —
WW II — Deaths — 85000000
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The war definitely was more ghastly and took several more lives than COVID 19. Frankl describes the horrors of seeing men die everyday, yet waking up and summoning the courage to serve other men, when he didn't even know whether his family was alive or not. Being a doctor he was asked by the soldiers to treat ill patients — there came a point where he had to prioritize which patient to treat or whom to give the last piece of rationed bread — much like scenario in Italy right now. (Although — read this to gain more insight into the actual policy — Italy). The war brought out the best in every foot-on-the-ground — soldiers showing brotherhood, essential services working day in day out. There are many stories that have inspired generations. Now is our time !
Whats to learn from history is the need for realising the global impact of such an event and need for care, caution and most importantly action at this point of time, more so the need for sensitivity. And this war is different from the earlier ones!
How and Why?
Firstly, we are in a ubiquitously connected world — internet, globalization, capitalism, global trade — with Facebook being the largest country in the world with 2.5 billion citizens(active users). This causes information to spread fast, wide and almost real-time. Secondly, instead of killing each other, we are trying to save lives — one at a time. Thirdly, the wars took a gradual rise and then came to close slowly, COVID is rapid — the statistics are scary — it took 67 days for the virus to infect the first one lakh people, while the next one lakh were infected in the next 11 days. The number reached 3 lakh in another four days and 4 lakh figure was touched in the next three days. It took just 2.5 days for the deadly virus to touch the 5-lakh figure and just 48 hours to infect total 6 lakh people. Yes, that scary !
What are ‘we’ doing? Here is a list of activities that have come up with my general observations in the past month — (cannot provide links since close friends and family may be hurt)
Lazing around, underlying anxiety rendering one aimless, listless and fatigued
Hoarding food and essential supplies
Gluttonously consuming social media and food
Scourging news for scary updates and forwarding them — cause : Negativity Bias
Stocking up booze and cigarettes — both of which lower immunity
Supposedly engaging with others with pursuits like — social media challenges, posting home workouts, posting every new meal one makes (even a glass of water at times #waterismypoison), endless video calls with major purpose to post it again on Instagram to impress other followers of your “happening-quarantine” and #untiltomorrow pictures — the “inspiration” for this article.
Wake up! PLEASE WAKE UP!
This is not a vacation, although it may seem so to you. People are dying across the world by the thousands everyday. In India, currently we stand at below 1000 cases. Although the scenario seems quiet for now but there are studies that show that we may be headed for a mammoth battle — estimates of 1 Crore to 24 Crore cases (~20% of the population) in India are shocking. And don’t be fooled by less than 1000 cases currently — we might be severely under-testing — some insightful articles follow— 1,2,3.
We have all seen videos and pictures of the mass exodus, majorly of daily wage labourers, out of cities towards the villages where they feel more secure — people travelling hundreds of kilometers on one meal or one packet of biscuit (260 calories = what an average person can burn doing a moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes !).
There are the other set of invisibles — slum dwellers and local workers like watchmen, sabjiwallahs, delivery boy/girl and safai karamcharis.
These are grim visuals that we are becoming oblivious to given our “quarantine anxiety”, selfish pursuits and millennial lifestyle that has always mostly been comfortable. You must wake up to this ghastly war being fought everyday in the hidden parts of your/OUR country.
I will not bore our generation suffering from borderline ADHD with more scary facts or sad stories. It is just a matter of time before we find out that a loved one has caught COVID 19 or worse. Also, if we do not take care of the underprivileged right now, adding our efforts to the government’s, we might be inviting a wave of class-battles that may lead to ransacking of shops, malls and our homes (sometimes leaving the inhabitants grievously injured or dead) — all that hoarding for nothing!
I am just presenting a #covidwishlist that I would want my peers and fellow men and women to pursue: firstly for self preservation and secondly ‘the greater good’ since we are/must be responsible citizens —
1. Gain knowledge on the virus rather than consuming all news without filter — this will enable you to think deeply on concerning issues and future impact and possibly meaningfully contribute to this global battle (adding certain links below)
2. Find out how you can contribute virtually and locally (adding certain links below)
3. Explore Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the internet generally for people engaging in good work and get involved — get others involved too.
4. Think about what else you can do today — sitting at home or in your community. If your action today can save even one life — it will be worth it !
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Don’t be a silent observer, be a part of the history-in-the-making !