There’s a meme going around Facebook about how we thought 2020 was going to be the best year ever. Obviously meant to be ironic and funny, of course, because this hasn’t exactly been a stellar year so far.
From volcanic eruptions, to wildfires, and now a pandemic that has drastically altered our daily lives in just two months, 2020 has been rather… interesting. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced us to take a step back and rethink established behaviour — handshakes are out, elbow bumps are in; get-togethers are so last year, social distancing the new norm. At work, we’ve had to get used to video conferencing, and with community spread in many places, working from home. A few months ago, we’d be talking about the latest K-pop idol during lunch, now all everyone can talk about is the virus — who has it, where has it spread, which places have closed their borders.
It’s like nature took one look at how humanity has been behaving and sent us all to our rooms for a timeout. So now that we’re here, what then? The funny thing about humans is that we’re resilient; we adapt and survive. Anthropologically, this had meant survival of the fittest — we’re hardwired to think it’s every person for themselves, especially in crisis situations. But this virus has shown us that as a collective, fuelled by responsible individual actions, we are stronger and better.
Responsible actions by ordinary people can help mitigate the speed and scope of spread, so that we don’t overwhelm healthcare and medical systems, making it impossible for the truly sick to get help.
But we need to double down on being responsible now. We have to start thinking about how our compulsions, our habits, how our desire to continue to live normal lives can have consequences for others. This means limiting unnecessary travel and even movements, practising good hygiene, making sure you’re not spreading false information or even negative energy on social media. It also means making sure that those around us are safe and have access to the same precautions and privileges we have.
The majority of us view the “seriousness” of the virus within the context of our small circle of family and friends. And if no one is sick or affected within that group, then everything is fine, never mind what happens to the rest of the world. Time now to behave as if everyone is part of our circle. It’s the only way we’ll get through this.