Covid-19: The transformation of everyday life into modern day myths.
As lockdowns gradually, yet reluctantly release their grip; society is being nudged back out into the open. I shudder at the possibility that my attempts to reconnect with the ‘what-was-before’ by playing my part as a cog in the global economic wheel, may be simultaneously saving and killing people — the ultimate catch-22.
Forced to validate the value of human lives, the pandemic has shoved a paradoxical mirror in the face of humanity. The cardinal notion that all human livelihood is equal, and should be prioritised above all, has been undermined by self-serving and callous decisions from both denizens of countries and their leaders. Where in principle, covid-19 should have cultivated global solidarity and unit; the reality is that it has triggered divisions across all sectors of life.
I’ve been contemplating on how to process my myriad thoughts and anxieties without producing a piece populated by many a coronavirus platitudes. I think it is important that amidst the proliferation of thought pieces full of inflection, at least some should attempt to inject some levity into the situation.
ENTER: THE THIRD MONTH OF CONFINEMENT.
My nomadic living situation — previously an assertion of freedom — became a source of instability. Cancelled flights, financial uncertainty, fear of infecting loved ones back home, and countless other factors meant that I needed to swiftly find an appropriate home base — thank you Lisbon, Portugal for being my home for the last 3 months.
A wholly domestic life meant that ‘catching up with friends’ or ‘running errands’ were no longer viable means of procrastination. Naturally, I found myself overwhelmed by a sense of obligation to be productive; use this time to up-skill professionally and accelerate personal growth. But rather, I looked to other ways of not getting things done: daily refinement of my domestic prowess. I decided it was important to make the conscious decision of pardoning myself from the bouts of self-induced guilt caused by the lack of will to ‘work’, and instead, applaud the small wins, such as obvious improvements in my culinary abilities. I can finally bake chocolate chip cookies within the recommended total time of 30min.
Recognising your own irrationality whilst engulfed in an overturned reality, is tantamount to trying to find Waldo…on a black and white printout. In a time where physical isolation is enforced by the law, the necessity to convince yourself that “You are not alone,” becomes an imperative — but with so many uncontrollable factors magnifying those lonely woes, it also becomes a gargantuan feat. Meaningful socialisation is known to be a foolproof antidote to foundering mental health, but here we are faced with a trade-off: physical health (of the individual and the group) at the expense of a healthy psyche.
Stifled by uncertainty, I developed an unhealthy habit that further exacerbated my “coronavirus stress syndrome,”. I tapped into as many news mediums as I could get my hands on — a barrage of demoralising news became an unwelcome addition to my morning routine.
‘China Virus,’ ‘Asian Virus’ — Really? How can it be, that an invisible biological assassin is attributed to a whole entire race. The tsunami of hatred, xenophobia and scare-mongering has cornered my Asian sisters, brothers and elders. Suddenly we find ourselves fighting a war on two fronts — so gaslit to believe that we need to prove that we are not synonymous to this deadly virus. From verbal harassment to more graver cases of racialized violence — such acts of bigotry opens our eyes to the ingrained feeling of foreignness in a nation we rightfully call ‘home’.
This is a wake-up call for us to increase the decibels of our collective cry for a louder conversation surrounding diversity — we need to mobilise and debunk the stereotype of Asians as the “silent minority,”. Mere acknowledgement is insufficient.
Diversity measures must transcend measures being enforced as solely ‘lip service’ — thorough education and active celebration of differences is necessary.
The scapegoating displayed by bigoted members of the public during the coronavirus pandemic is testament to the fact that humans are wired to be on a perpetual quest for reassurance. We are addicted to certainty; and adverse to helplessness or loss of control. It comes to no surprise that upon being forced to normalize ‘not knowing’, some lost their critical faculties, and succumbed to sensationalised conspiracy theories and misinformation.
The irony is in the undue insecurity of an ever-connected society suffering from information overload. Sensationalized claims such as the virus being a foreign bioweapon, or a maliciously manufactured means of population control, provide familiarity and constitute emotionally reassuring explanations for something so surreal. Indeed, the privilege of living in a digitally connected age is a double-edged sword: increased access to information also means increased access to misinformation.
We’ve seen the worst of the world’s most venal leaders, as they capitalize on this havoc by using it to their political advantage and conceal their patent incompetence. The sense of security and control provided by disseminating falsehoods is but temporary — the long-term backlash takes form in the deterioration of public trust, leading to an imminent ‘infodemic’. An epistemological nightmare.
Anyways, back to the goal of achieving some semblance of levity.
There is much talk about how we will emerge out of covid19. It seems only right to concentrate on the silver linings as we edge closer to normalcy. I however, have my reservations about the new norm post-covid19 era. I wonder about the future of remote work, if zoom calls will ever become less unbearable, whether I will have to recommence my handshake conditioning (for me to assert myself as a ‘strong and respectable professional woman’), whether the taboo on coughing or sneezing in public will ever subside and lastly, whether I will ever be accustomed to table service again.