Why pandemic as an opportunity to rethink one’s life priorities

By Atanu Roy*

The COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging our planet since 2019, almost for twenty months.

It has triggered a social crisis that has evoked traumatic feelings as fear, anxiety, and a lack of existential security is threatening us, every day, every hour.

In our lives, we have never witnessed this sort of crisis of humanity. The distress stories of death and human misery are reaching us every day thru print, news and social medias.

When the news hits you, on of the deaths of your friends and relatives, its not just a discreet news, it’s much more than that, it’s like a disaster, causing utmost pain and agony, it’s a tale of human tragedy of worst kind, ever faced.

The second wave of the pandemic, originating in India, has proved to be devastating, with countless families losing their loved ones to the Delta variant. Months of April and May, we witnessed the peak of the onslaught. It shattered big cities and made inroads to the rural areas.

We Indians are in safe hand in Singapore, but, the daily dose of tragic news from India, is  impacting our daily lives and mental conditions, we are shocked with the bad news pouring in without a break. Either its about a near relative, or a friend or a friend’s friend. They were fine yesterday, next day, suddenly their oxygen level dropping, near ones ‘struggling’ to get a hospital bed or simply an oxygen cylinder, and most cannot make it, and they just perish without medical help.   

We cannot do anything from Singapore beside a bit of monetary help, or making some frantic calls here and there. Cannot reach India, there is no commercial flight, being helpless just wait for the ‘worst’ news and count the numbers.

We live so near to India, just 3-4 hours flight, but we live so far now.

Death is the only truth – watching India’s funeral pyres burn. Funeral pyres have blazed in city carparks and scores of bodies have washed up on the banks of the Ganges River, apparently immersed by relatives whose villages were stripped bare of the wood needed for cremations.

India’s middle class had already been severely weakened by the recession that followed last year’s lockdown.

The Pew Research Centre has found that 32 million people fell out of India’s middle class – defined as those earning between US$10 (S$13) and US$20 a day – last year.

Now, let’s look at the other side of this tragic story.

Human civilization has faced may catastrophes, wars, famines, natural calamities, but finally nothing could wash out civilization. In last thousand of years, we have won, have survived, and re-initiated our lives, trek a new journey, in a new road, in a new way.

As Stephen King told “Get busy living or get busy dying”.

Most of us opt for the first, we are busy in living, and do not want to get into the ‘Valley of death’

Let’s fight back with a resurgence spirit, lets look at the positive aspects. 

 How individuals survive the calamities and disasters.

They look for the positive aspects of stark events and processes, expecting that the changes we are experiencing will have positive outcomes. Thinking optimistically on what is about to happen, seem to be universal human tendencies, it fulfills an adaptive role, this is how we survive every time, all the time.

This is the dialectics, we face more disasters, we are more positive, that is he survival skill. 

It is worth noting that within the culture of individualism, pessimism is a sort of stigma, and being optimistic is a commitment, and is considered as a virtue.

Kuper-Smith’s study (2020) got feedback from participants, on how they look at covid-19 impacting their lives. The participants rated the chance of getting infected with COVID-19 lower for themselves than for other people similar to them regarding socio-demographic characteristics.

This is the positivism, emerged from the study result.

 Having a positive outlook enhances an individual’s resilience during crises, especially if it refers to family well-being . The inclination to look for the positive aspects of crises has so far been primarily studied by psychologists and treated as an element of individual strategies for coping with various emergencies, the only way to survive and overcome calamities.

Below are some positive aspects, how people have started looking at covid-19:

 1. The pandemic as an opportunity to rethink one’s life priorities. People appreciate the freedom, a new perspective on work, career, social relations, and lifestyle.

2. Slowing down the pace of life, less rush; more free time; possibility to engage in self-fulfilling activities. Many have discovered their hidden talents in story writing, music, indoor games.

3. Promising habits have come into place- optimization of paid work, less waste of food, thoughtful shopping, a new division of household chores; new rules of collective hygiene.

4. Strengthening social capital. Greater kindness and empathy, gestures of solidarity, becoming aware of mutual dependence. We have witnessed unparallel NGO and individual initiatives for helping the covid patients with oxygen, medicines and other essential supports. We are starting to mobilize ourselves as a society to help others, the weaker ones. Social solidarity is increasing.

 5. A chance for systemic change. Emphasizing the weakness of the contemporary state and government institutions, global institutions, capitalist system, drawing attention to previously underrated professions and dimensions of local communities; better imagination of alternative paths of development.

 6. Environmental benefits. Restoring biodiversity; improving water and air quality; less noise pollution; slowing down resource consumption.

7. We imagine, that the world will start almost from zero again. The world will slow down and we will use this time to think together what future we want to build.

We will have time to think everything from a different perspective. How the discoveries from ancient time like fire and wheel, are as precious as computer, internet and emerging technologies of today. New thinking will usher in a new world.

 Impact on family dynamics

Initial findings from a study carried out by Leeds Trinity University suggest that the lockdown can have positive impacts on family dynamics and well being.

The researchers found encouraging findings which suggest that lockdown has been beneficial for some families with positive changes reported. 

Dr Carmen Clayton, Principal Investigator and Reader in Family and Cultural Dynamics at Leeds Trinity University, said: “We have found that some families are doing well and many are having positive experiences, particularly in terms of strengthening family bonds”

Findings have revealed that for many parents, the chance to spend more time at home with their children, the ability to work from home, less commuting and a sense of a slower pace of life in general, has led to a reassessment of work and career priorities.

Parents have a renewed shift of focus towards the family and personal relationships, with many reporting the desire to reach a better balance between work and family life post lockdown, with some parents actively looking for new employment or more flexible working patterns.

Children benefited from one-on-one learning at home, leading to progression in reading, writing and language skills. At the same time, many parents prioritised their child’s wellbeing above educational attainment during this time, leading to reports of positive child wellbeing and outcomes.

Many are working from home, staying with their parents and siblings again. The erstwhile joint family, along with their day to day ‘ups and downs” is now a reality.

Clear sky, clear roads, less road accidents

With covid-19 shutting down economic activity in most parts of the world and people staying closer to home, street crimes like assault and robbery are down significantly, though domestic violence has increased a bit.

Traffic has plummeted as well. As a result, NASA satellites have documented significant reductions in air pollution—20- 30% in many cases—in major cities around the world.

Based on those declines, Marshall Burke, an environmental economist at Stanford University, predicted in a blog post that two months’ worth of improved air quality in China alone might save the lives of 4000 children under the age of 5 and 73 000 adults over the age of 70

 “A pandemic is a terrible way to improve environmental health,” he emphasised. It may, however, provide an unexpected vantage to help understand how environmental health can be altered. It may help bring into focus the effect of business as usual on health outcomes that we care about,”

A report co-authored by Fraser Shilling, director of the Road Ecology Center at the University of California at Davis, found that highway accidents—including those involving an injury or fatality—fell by half.

We must win over Covid, we have to win, we follow the rules, help others to recover and survive. Let’s win this, and mankind will see covid free bright universe.

We will overcome, that’s the humble pledge at this moment.

*Based in Singapore

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