Coronavirus and the earthquake that wasn't

All of us in our personal lives went through difficult trials - moments in our lives which forced us to redefine who we are; to find new meaning in what we have and in those who are around us. For me, personally, one of those times (there was more than one) were the years living under military rule in the late 1970s. In those years I learned that whichever differences I might or might not have had with people around me, we were together in a situation that redefined who we were and our perspectives on life.

One would expect that the current COVID-19 crisis would have a similar effect on Humanity as a whole. After all, every one of us saw our lives turned upside down, and we all know that the world at the exit end of the crisis will be a different one. A quick survey of the Internet proves otherwise. The crisis is being used to invent new conspiracy theories blaming the pandemic on a favorite villain (Trump, Democrats, Jews, Bill Gates, etc) and/or sanctify or demonize their actions. Instead of the common threat of an invisible killer bringing us together, it seems that it is accelerating the trends that pull us apart. No amount of efforts by those who are trying to bring groups together nor any amount of hard facts seems to be able to stem the tide. Israel is developing a vaccine? reactions include: "After all the killing they have done it is time"; "Jews control the laboratory in Wuhan and created the virus to profit from the vaccine"; "Israel and the occupation are responsible for the pandemic in an attempt to exterminate the Palestinian people". Bill Gates donates billions to help countries fight the virus? "Well, after all he donated billions to the WHO, which is responsible for the pandemic". These and many other insanities like these circulating in the internet, which has become these days the virtual world in which we live.

Historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote in "Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind" the theory that the main reason Homo Sapiens prevailed over other Homo species (Neanderthal, Habilis, etc) is that Homo Sapiens developed a culture which allowed it to cooperate in groups much larger than those of its competitors. This means that as a species we developed some common assumptions and perceptions which allowed us to develop ties of cooperation with others. The current cultural trend (started before, but apparently accelerated by the COVID crisis) is the opposite. We seem to be stressing differences over commonalities; confrontation over cooperation; prejudice over facts. The current crisis still offers the opportunity to reverse the trend; to re-learn to agree to disagree and to accept differences as just that, without a judgement baggage. We can re-learn the fact that what we don't know is far more than what we do, and from that relearn the intellectual humility to understand that there is no absolute truth, that we "only know we know nothing", that we are but a spec of dust in the Cosmic scheme.

Some events in Human history became earth-shaking events that transformed Humankind. The discovery of how to make fire, the use of the wheel, the development of cities. Plagues over history also played pivotal roles in transforming Human history. The Black Plague preceded the Rennaisance...

So far, what will undoubtly go into history as the Coronavirus Pandemic, is not sparking any positive change - it is enhancing the negative pre-existing trends. What world do we want to see in the aftermath? one where we cooperate and establish world-wide systems to deal with incoming future health crises? or one in which each country, each group, is out only for themselves and tries to take advatnage of the situation to improve its own position even at the expense of others? We are Human - part of what defines us is the power of choice. May we be collectively wise enough to make the right choice...



Add Comment