Soon after the country entered the fourth phase of the lockdown, Vice President Venkiah Naidu underlined the need to adopt new ways of living in times of the Coronavirus crisis. Taking to Facebook, the Vice President highlighted a 12-point framework for a new normal for life after Corona. Naidu suggested that adopting a new normal is the only way to deal with the virus if it is going to stay with us for longer than expected.
The Vice President highlighted several pandemics witnessed by the world till day and remarked that every upheaval leaves its mark and so is COVID-19. He also spoke about the difference between life before and after the Coronavirus outbreak. Naidu's 12-point framework for a 'new normal' comprised of awareness, refraining from impulsive response, rational analysis, adaption, change in old habits and more.
Here is the full article penned by the Indian Vice President:
Sporadic, epidemic and pandemic diseases are not new to humanity. They struck regularly leaving behind a huge trail of death. Some of them turned to be endemic forcing the people to learn to deal with them over a long period of time. What if the present corona virus is going to stay with us for longer than expected as is being suggested by some experts and senior officials of the World Health Organisation ? Adopting a new normal is the answer. HIV virus has been around for a long time without a vaccine and the people are coping with it by changing the habits.
Besides impacting social structures, epidemics have influenced history in some cases. The French great Napolean Bonaparte’s grand design for North America was halted as his armada had to eat a humble pie at the hands of the African slaves in Haiti in the early years of 19th century. It was because the slave rebels had immunity to the Yellow Fever while the Napolean’s army sent to restore slavery did not and died in scores every day. His defeat led to the emergence of the State of Haiti, free of slavery under an ex-slave Toussaint L’Ouverture. Prior to that, the British had to retreat from Haiti in 1778 for the same reason. It looks to be a case of herd immunity being talked about now. The deadly Bubonic Plague believed to have killed about 60% of Europeans in the middle of the 14th century sparked downslide in interest rates stretching all the way to Enlightenment. It was because people realized that life is short and took to over consumption. This plague is also said to have influenced the coming of industrial revolution. Spanish Flu of 1918 had it’s own impact.
Every upheaval leaves it’s marks and so is COVID-19 which has been spreading it’s tentacles far and wide sparing none; rich or poor, black or white, young or old, a policeman or a Prime Minister and irrespective of boundaries. An invisible non-living pathogen, SARS CoV-2 virus has raised deep philosophical, religious and moral issues. When the Black Death broke out, the question of relationship between man and the god was raised with some saying if god were to be there, how could such a trail of death be possible? These big questions are again haunting the humanity now. What is the purpose and meaning of life? What should be the nature of our relationship with fellow humans? An invisible organism is teaching humanity how to live in a humane way, by being mindful of the well being of fellow humans by underlining the inevitable interconnectedness of our lives.
Life Before Corona
Stacked with better tools to fight the epidemics than when the pestilence stuck humanity earlier and empowered with gene editing, Artificial Intelligence, big data etc, man was seeking to play God. Life was in full play in all it’s manifestations. Pursuit of material advancement, success and happiness as each one understood it was having a free run. In this quest, everyone was running his own race as if he can live by himself independent of fellow beings. He emerged as a loner. Humanity has come to spend more time out of home. The society and the family were turning out to be mere adjuncts for many. Human and economic activities were at frenetic pace. Everything was being taken for granted. Man made built-in environment has come to seriously challenge the natural one. The relentless pursuit of development escalated inequalities raising serious moral issues. But everyone in the race thought he was happy the way he lived despite being unaware of the destiny.
Life After Corona
Then came the virus towards the end of last year shaking the fundamentals of this misplaced confidence and even arrogance. The invisible microbe once again proved that life can change very quick. It brought into full play the uncertainty that can co-sail with life. The virus brought everything to a screeching halt across the globe. No buses, no cars, no trains, no metros, no planes, no malls, no cinema halls, no schools and colleges, no sounds of machines at manufacturing sites. Everything came to a naught. Is it the end of life? No.
Within a few hours of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call on the night of 24th March, 130 crore Indians shut themselves inside homes to keep the virus out. It is the same in varying degree across the globe. They did so just out of one urge, that is to live longer. It is a craving for security and self-renewal. Working from home, social distancing, hygiene, remote learning etc are the new lexicon. The virtues of a shelter and a home have dawned. The virus has highlighted the consequences of economic fault lines in societies created by development pathways in terms of the impacts. Uncertainty continues to haunt the people. Uncertainty is the known source of anxiety which can lead to psychological issues. How to deal with this problem? To stay calm and be confident and adopt a new normal of life.
COVID: A Civilizational Concern
The ongoing global battle against corona virus is not about individual lives. It is a larger concern for modern civilization. Civilization is defined as an advanced form of organization of social, cultural, economical and ethical systems at a given point of time. Several civilization like Mesopotamian, Indus Valley, Aztec, Mayan, Roman and Ancient Egyptian flourished at different points of time and with the passage of time and human interactions, made way to the present modern global one. Every civilization had it’s own set of norms, ethos and morals. The goal of civilization is said to be to increase the likelihood of survival. How are we going to further this goal being challenged by the corona virus? What should be the new norms of present civilisation?
Professor of History of Medicine Frank M.Snowden of the Yale University says; “Epidemics like the corona virus are a mirror for humanity, reflecting the moral relationships that people have towards one other. They hold mirror to human beings as to who we really are”. Epidemics force upon us deep internal reflection.
Need for a New Normal
For the last over four months, number crunching has become a pastime while people were stay put at homes living in anxiety. It has been about the rising number of the infected and the dead by the day and of the slide in GDP numbers besides the number of people walking along highways eager to return home. After three lockdowns, as expected and required, restrictions have been relaxed a great deal. It is because humans can’t live just for the sake of it and confined for long. Life is all about actions including for livelihoods. We value a certain degree of liberty. Liberty is never unrestrained failing which chaos is the outcome. Reasonable restrictions are always in order and are accordingly sanctioned. So, how should we live from now on with the limitations imposed by corona virus?
I suggest the following for living with a new normal even after all the corona induced restrictions are lifted :
1.Be aware that life is precious and to be lived meaningfully in harmony with the nature and fellow beings;
2. Know that what affects one person anywhere affects everyone everywhere, be it the disease or economy. Realize that your life depends on that of the other and vice versa and that the lives are inter-connected;
3.Rationally analyse the impact on the spread of virus before undertaking every movement or action;
4. Know that every challenge has a solution and it would come as soon as possible given the global efforts that are on;
5. Don’t respond impulsively to the uncertainty and be guided by rationality keeping faith in science and technology;
6. Adapt to the situation with confidence instead of panicking;
7. Stay put with behavioural changes ushered in during the lock down so far by wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and ensuring hygiene;
8. Change old habits of thinking and working by acquiring new ones to meet the demands of time besides thinking positively and exercising regularly along with Yoga and Meditation;
9. Prevent stigmatisation so that the infected volunteer for treatment;
10.Check disinformation and prejudices against fellow citizens labelling them as carriers of the virus;
11. All forms of media should disseminate correct and scientific information instead of presenting the disease as a catastrophe; and
12.Let the sense of collective helplessness be replaced by the spirit of the virtue of living interconnected with the attendant shared destiny.
Famous poet Rumi said; “The wound is the place where the light enters you”. Let us illuminate ourselves with the experience of and lessons from the current pain. Studies in the area of post-trauma situations revealed that it is through the most trying situations that we experience bursts of growth that change our relationship with life. Let our civilization win this current battle and hopefully, at the earliest. Let our lives follow a new normal. Live differently and live safe.