I love disaster movies. The end-of-the-world type, where one or a handful of protagonists heroically save the day, but just barely. What we’re seeing now, with a global pandemic sweeping across each continent, people fighting over toilet paper and hijacking truckloads of hand sanitisers, is just a bit surreal to me. It’s like I just walked into one of those movies, and I don’t know where to find that one hero who is supposed to save the day.
Maybe that’s because this is not a movie, this is real. And in the real world, we don’t need one hero – we need many. The crisis that we see unfolding in front of us today is at such a scale, and with such dramatic consequences for all of us, that it’s too late to say “let someone else deal with it”. We’re all affected. We all must deal with it.
For someone like me, who is neither a health care worker or an expert, that simply means staying at home, or, at the very least, staying away from people.
I have never really enjoyed large crowds of people. As an introvert, albeit a social one, I like my space. As such, the whole “social distancing” thing doesn’t really bother me much. Stay at home? You don’t need to tell me twice.
For the longest time, I’ve had this sense that the world is moving too fast for me. No matter how fast I run, I cannot seem to catch up, or, even if I do, there’s no time for a break. The endless cycle of news and updates, social calls and invitations, deadlines and expectations, it always keeps spinning. Until now. Now, for the first time, I feel like the world has finally stopped spinning. And I can breathe.
The earth, it seems, feels much the same. While our global economy is plunging, the reduced travel and consumption of goods has led to dramatically improved air quality in many cities. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air shows that Covid-19 has reduced China’s CO2 emissions by 25 percent or more. For a country like China, that is a lot of CO2. Greta and her followers must be ecstatic. As a true lover of nature, I must admit that I too rejoice over this.
All that being said, I am, of course, not unaware of how devastating the consequences of this virus is and will be, directly and indirectly, for many people around the world. I am an immigrant, and my family and loved ones are spread over many continents. Now there is more than physical distance between us. Several countries have closed their borders, and we couldn’t visit them even if we wanted to. We hope and pray that this doesn’t last too long. For now, at least, we’ll have to put up with FaceTime, WhatsApp and other online tools as a means of fellowship and community. And despite the physical distance, in some ways I feel closer to everyone, simply because we are all going through the same thing.
The last time we saw a global crisis at such a scale was during the Second World War. And, although this is bad, I can’t help but think that it could be worse. While some people are at high risk, and many have died, most of us will be fine – especially if we all follow the advice of the experts and the authorities where we live. People reveal a lot about themselves in times like these. When put under pressure, what will come out? Is it anger, anxiety, and blaming others? Or is it generosity, kindness and humility?
If all we have to do to show solidarity is to stay calm and stay at home, I think we can manage. I think we can also manage to put back on the shelf one of the two packages of whatever we grabbed impulsively. If it gets too hard for you, try to imagine that it’s your mother or grandfather who is next in line.
Only time will tell who the real heroes of today are. I hope and believe there will be many.