“Change is as good as rest”, says an old English refrain. While some changes are wrought by predictable and intended occurrences, others are outside our human power and control. Nevertheless, every occurrence brings about change and new beginnings to many aspects of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic was neither intended nor predictable to the human family. Even though someone or a group of people may have had prior knowledge of the outbreak, no one would possibly have predicted the magnitude of its impact on the way we live here on earth.
A number of things have changed since the beginning of the year 2020 due to the spread of the virus. Covid-19 may not be the worst killer of all pandemics in the history of the world but it is unmatched on the scope of it spread. The previous outbreaks may have killed even more people but they were only limited to some pockets of the planet.
Another interesting thing that we have witnessed is how the pandemic has divided the people and even threatened to collapse the fabric that hold the nations together. The international organizations are showing vulnerability. Nations are losing trust in other nations. Everyone is looking ad intra for solutions after the international community failed to agree on major issues. A good example is the source for the vaccine for the Virus. The pandemic has hit different regions with varying magnitude. The response has been very much varying too. While some seem to exaggerate on the way they are handling it, others seem not to worry much about it.
The closure of international borders has also arose some cross border conflicts that were curing and opened fresh ones. The economies are ailing and no one seems to know what to do. The lockdowns have left people more miserable than ever before. The secondary effect of the pandemic are ravaging communities than the Virus itself.
Scheduled occasions and programmes have been postponed or cancelled completely. Schools have halted, religious ceremonies and rites have been suspended, and international events such as the Olympic Games have been postponed. The economic activities that implied travelling internationally and regionally have been stopped. This has affected negatively the livelihood of many.
Is it true that there is nothing that can be done to stop the pandemic? I say there is, we only need to change our attitude. The HIV virus ravaged the society in the 80s and 90s, until it was discovered that with a change in the individuals behaviour was key to curb the spread. Almost forty years down the history, we have learnt how to live with it in our society. Though it is still infecting and killing many people, it is no longer a big scare. The same with Covid-19, behaviour change will be key to curbing the spread before we can find a better way to manage it.
Lockdown is a short time solution for short time problem. Many thought that Covid-19 was like a straw fire that would last a few months. It has proven to be persistent and stubborn. Cross border conflicts cause by differing ways of handling the pandemic does not help anyone either. The world has become a global village and interdependence has made it difficult or even impossible to isolate oneself. The neighbour is not the enemy, but rather the pandemic is our common enemy.
The international organizations need to shift attitudes from dictating to their members what to do, to consulting and bringing everyone on board in finding a common solution. As long as there will be people reaping big from the pandemic, the solution will take time to come.
It is a very significant change in the world order that we are experiencing. The history of the world will be marked by the events of this year. We will need to change how we do things, our relationship with one another at individual level all the way to international relationship. The way we operate our businesses will have a different face. This will affect our culture largely. There will be a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ Covid-19. A lot of effort will be needed to transit from the old order to the new order.
The other thing that this pandemic has revealed is how dishonest we have been in our relationships and businesses. A lot has been hidden under the carpet, which is now surfacing. Many people and countries have used the opportunity to reveal their discontentment with the way they related to others. The excuse of the corona has been the last nail on the coffin to some wavering relationships. Bilateral and multilateral negotiations will be needed to establish a new relationship on new and revised terms.
The places of worship are also experiencing tough times. These are sustained largely by the offerings during the worship. With lockdown, the ministers in these places have experienced many challenges to sustain themselves. Going forward, many have to rethink new way of sustaining themselves. Donations from abroad have also dwindled for obvious reasons. Before world economies stabilize and the well-wishers get enough for themselves and for donating may take time. Vital programmes especially in the health sector have begun suffer and so are their beneficiaries. Going forward the strategy has to change. We will need to heed more the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, that “if you give a fish to someone, he or she will come to you every day for fish, but if you teach someone how to fish you will have provided him or her with livelihood even long after you have gone”.
In my opinion, this pandemic has taught us many things we did not know and called our attention to things that we have been taking for granted. An enemy we do not see now restricts us so much. Fear has engulfed us and we cannot help it. We are very exposed and vulnerable. Even the mighty and powerful ones are all suffering together with the poor and the lowly. I have decided to draw lessons from this disease. What about you?
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD