Skip to main content

Feeling of 'insecurity' amidst pandemic and 21st century version of being deserted

By Moin Qazi*
“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness to reach a higher moral ground; a time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.” -- Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai 
The COVID-19 pandemic is a human tragedy of potentially biblical proportions and has convulsed societies like never before. Even as the world remains gripped in the fright of an invisible threat, Mother Nature has sent countries into a dystopia. Coronavirus has forced millions of people into internal exile, many of whom have plunged in a deep sense of loneliness.
The pandemic has made our understanding of solitude more acute. While the outbreak has opened up our minds to the benignity of isolation, uncertainties have instilled a deep sense of fear and nightmare among the populace.
A crisis has a way of sharpening our focus. When we suffer a loss or become ill we take stock of what’s important. We appreciate the parts of our lives that maybe we took for granted. We revisit our values and our relationships and we think about how we might honor them if we had another chance; if we had more time. Crises force us to reflect.
The events surrounding the pandemic have forced all of us to reflect on what matters most. They have revealed what was already frayed in our social fabric. They have spurred all of us to take action, in ways large and small, to move beyond the world as it is and create the world as it should be.
Part of the reason why the pandemic is so frightening is because it sets off the fear of not just being in quarantine but also of people being abandoned altogether. Trepidation is profoundly affecting the psyche of an individual and world view, too. Those who have been infected with the virus have no visitors; no shared meals and no one to hold their hands. They are cut off from their closed ones, trapped inside the walls of the private space/hospital – this is the 21st century’s version of being deserted.
Social distancing -- sometimes self-quarantine -- is one of the most crucial protective gears to counter the spread of Coronavirus. But that, too, isn’t easy when it comes to practising being socially distanced from each other. One of the fixed costs is social isolation and loneliness. More people live alone now than at any other time in history. The weird gift of solitude is that it grounds us in our shared humanity. And the entire world is in the same boat.
However, as much frightened we may feel, we have never been less alone. On the positive side, the pandemic has led to an increased sense of consciousness about belonging to one family. It has shown us that only when we take care of one another -- as well as the planet on which the entire humanity remains dependent -- can we hope for a better future. It has shown how helpless individuals are despite being blessed with the best in this world.
In particular, the pandemic has revealed one shocking aspect of our societies and economies: Nations have been operating on a thin margin. The edifice seems so shiny: A world of silver jets stitching together gleaming cities and a globe of soaring markets and industrial empires. 
Our systems and society seem to be very fragile. All of this has exploded the many myths about a robust and resilient order
But a couple of months into the pandemic and economies were tottering -- the jets were grounded, the cities remained silent, and one after the other, industries moved towards bankruptcy. However shiny our world may have appeared, it wasn’t sturdy. Our systems and society seem to be very fragile. All of this has exploded the many myths about a robust and resilient order.
Loneliness is the nightmare of the social animal. It is a taboo in our social world. It may not be completely accurate under ordinary circumstances or even under quarantine, but there are other ways in which seclusion causes pain -- it leads to tangible physiological and behavioural effects on our brains and bodies. The need for connection is so central to our being that to experience its lack plunges our body into a state of minor emergency.
Isaac Newton
Covid-19 has been the most extreme form of social isolation experienced by us in recent memory. Bereft of any choice but to live in solitariness for the greater good, it has been hard not to wonder what we will desire once we exercise individual autonomy. Such experiences give us a renewed appreciation for human contact.
The pandemic has taught us many lessons. Much of the sad condition of our planet is on account of mindlessness and heartless consumerism. At the root of human suffering is our excessive self-centredness; a fixation on our own needs rather than the greater good.
The feeling of insecurity is directly a result of self-interest rather than selflessness. As the pandemic overturned everything, we thought we knew about our future- it has taught us that we all must embrace a life free of expectations. The crisis has revealed that we have little control over our environment and the challenges that come our way. 
It’s time to reframe the system because we have had a mechanism that put profit at the centre. And what we need to do is to put humanity at the centre stage. This understanding will help us prepare better for a world order that will follow the eventual subsidence of the pandemic. The most important learning is that more than a technological revolution, we need a moral revolution. This can be driven by moral imagination and courage.
We should take solace in the fact that resilient people have used such isolation for human advancement. There is no limit to human endurance, imagination and achievement, except the limits that we put on our minds. We owe our modern understanding of light and colour to the multifaceted genius of Isaac Newton.
England saw its last major outbreak of bubonic plague in 1665-66. As a precautionary measure, the students at Cambridge University, including young Newton, were sent home. He spent his enforced vacation working on ideas underlying his spectacular accomplishments: gravitation, laws of motion, calculus, and optics. Newton not only survived the plague, but succeeded in using the time and isolation to achieve four important breakthroughs that laid the foundations of modern science. 
Those who have been resilient enough to cope with the pandemic times can endorse Rudyard Kipling’s words:
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And -- which is more -- you’ll be a Man, my son!" 

---
*Development expert

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Amit Shah accused of inciting communal passion: Demand to postpone Gujarat polls

Counterview Desk  In an email representation to the Election Commission of India (ECI), Dr EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, has objected to the statement reported to have been made by Union home minister Amit Shah, who allegedly justified the 2002 Gujarat riots stating that certain sections of people “taught a lesson” to the rioters. Noting that the statement, if correct, “in effect implies those other than the law enforcement authorities had taken law into their hands”, Sarma says, “Shah's statement needs to be viewed by the ECI in conjunction with the reported fact that it was the Union Home Ministry that cleared the release of the eleven rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, directly related to the infamous Godhra incidents in 2002, which triggered the shameful sequence of events that shook the nation's conscience.” According to Sarma, if the statement is true, “I am constrained to draw the inevitable inference that it would have already impacted th