The Brighter Side · By Ishika Mukherjee
From the Australian bushfires, the refugees stuck between the borders of Greece and Turkey, to a global pandemic, the new decade doesn’t seem off to a very great start. If you turn on the news – any news, it seems pretty convincing that the world is coming to a collapse. And yet every “things you can do at home” listicle will let you to be optimistic and look at the brighter side. So let’s take a look, shall we – at the bright and the faux bright?
There is much talk of how COVID 19 is going to fast track us out of our industrialisation-era ways of working and education. And on one hand it stands true – several of the world’s businesses have been able to work remotely, employees being able to dictate their own routines and establish their own structure. However, typically this privilege has only been bestowed upon the higher paid employment, whereas various other front-end operations like hospitality, brick &mortar retail and so on have either been forced to chose their work before their health, or been made redundant. So while on one hand, we’re learning that we might in fact be able to shift to more flexible working hours with more opportunity to work remotely, the same doesn’t hold true for everyone. Yet.
Nonetheless, if not work, education has taken the turn for the better. This time of social distancing and self quarantining has brought to light that we could be able to study from our own home, making education far more accessible, especially in less affluent countries that lack the resources to build schools and hire quality teachers.
The pandemic has also seen many people shift focus to a more family and loved-ones first way of living. People from all over the world have flown back home to their families to be together, to support and care for each other. There could be a chance that our world could move towards being centred around people’s life-lives over their work-lives.
We’ve also seen the government reach out to help and provide. In these times of significant economic and mental distress – several governments across the globe have extended care to those suffering. Has it been 100% efficient? No. Self-employed people in the UK are having to wait until June to avail IPSE’s support. Most governments still have not figured out a means to protect their medical staff. But all majorly infected countries moving into lockdown to protect their citizens, a majority of governments covering a fair amount of financial support, governments globally have upped their game more than ever.
Our overall health – mental and physical, has taken centre stage as well. We’ve had to prioritise our health over our economy. We’ve been forced out of our ‘me, my job and I mind-sets’, into being more conscious of our health and it’s impact on our community – and on our medicare staff. Numerous organisations have asked and advised us on looking after our mental health.
People have found innovative ways to be kind, from making and distributing hand sanitiser, to distributing food to the medicare staff and dressing up as Disney princesses to cheer up the young ones. Celebrities in less socialist and less affluent countries have made donations big enough provide free medicare for those in need. And we’ve generally upped our innovation and DIY game – seeing the lack of plumbers, gyms, restaurants – and in my case, home decor stores.
Pollution and harmful gas emissions like Nitrogen dioxide have decreased massively worldwide, coal use has fallen in affected countries like China. Our air is getting cleaner, our forests richer. This is our highest chance at turning things around for the environment, a chance that depends completely on how resilient these changes stay post the COVID 19 emergency.
With the abundance of time we’re spending at home, many of us in our own companies, a beautiful aspiration would be Kitty O'Meara's poem 'And People Stayed Home.’
Is Coronavirus a message from nature? In the past, the most trying of times have created the most drastic of changes. World War I and industrialisation. World War II and the rise of women as independent entities who worked, voted and lived their own lives without a man. World War II and the presumed end of colonialism. World War II and the beginning of United Nations Organisation. Maybe this pandemic will lead to us becoming more…human, less machinesque. More kind, less drudge, more community-centred, less me-centred. Maybe countries will be valued more by the health and happiness of their citizens and less on the money they pull in. Maybe we’ll be treasured for being and not doing.
But then again, historically, once the men retired from the wars they expected the world to go back to pre-war times and women to go back to the kitchen. The women had to restart the fight to get where they are today. Countries under the colonial rule had to fight all over again, after the war in order to decolonise themselves. None of the changes were consequences. Trying times didn’t birth drastic changes, they just instigated them – we then had to do all the work. So maybe post pandemic, our lives will return to ‘normal’. Or maybe the pandemic will instigate the fight for a happier world.
But here’s the brighter side – we now have the opportunity to choose.