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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

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