Disasters often bring out defining visuals that reinstate one’s faith in humanity back again. One such visual was of Italians singing folk songs from their balconies. While someone sang a neighbour in an opposite building gave accompanying music.
Although distanced due to Corona the desire to meet and socialise has brought the Italians together. Music was just a catalyst in this group craving to feel loved and wanted.
What happened was something more intrinsic. In a world increasingly ruled by technology the desire for a human interaction was craved for. Corona proposed distance while man disposed it.
‘Social distancing’ may have received global credence after Corona and President Trump’s twitter outburst. However, in post-smart phone age we had knowingly or unknowingly imbibed social distancing and almost converted it into a fine art.
While globally the social media had intended to bring humanity closer to each other what it ended up doing is it gave the individual a machine to vent.
It was a platform where a person could pretend, vent, seek catharsis and the likes received would be equivalent to soliciting compliments. The social media gave a sense of self-actualization which otherwise a meeting, visit to a relative or a friend would have offered to an individual.
The more specific social distancing that people indulged in was through societies that were made on the basis of caste, creed and religion. The forcible closure of non-vegetarian restaurants that happened a few years back at Malabar hill was another instance where personal choices led to social distancing from the meat eaters.
In order to garner mass bookings of a vegetarian populace often some developers sell their flats based on dietary preferences and indulge in exclusion.
Communal strife has meant increased ghettoization of houses and minds. Ghettoes were always there around us. But a more worrying development is the distancing of minds that happened over a period of time. This distancing was hardened by the hate diatribe that Whatsapp universities continued to circulate as gospel truth.
The jury on social distancing at work places is still divided. While the Corona compulsion has forced people to work from home it has also started a debate on what is a productive work culture. Working in solitude or working as a team.
New age companies have prided on the fact that how their approachable, friendly bean bag office spaces have contributed to a steady flow of ideas and hence a healthy work culture. However, there are also those who believe that clutter, noise and excessive socializing at work place can impact productivity.
A forced work from home could address that problem effectively. However, this will also mean looking at the problem from a purely productivity point of view bereft of the need for human interaction and socialization.
Corona in its current manifestation is a social experiment of mammoth proportions in loneliness. Theatres, schools, colleges, operas are all shut down.
In countries where the pandemic is a national disaster the curbs are even more higher and pronounced. The personal has already become the political.
Especially in a space where the geopolitics of the world was moving around distancing as a political practice. Our Prime Minister was identifying rioters basis the clothes they wore, Britain had decided to go with Brexit and distance from the Euro despite the economical consequences such move would bring to it.
US President Trump consistently through a prohibitive visa policy had impacted the number of people who could enter the US legitimately. This is besides his divisive comments on building a wall between Mexico and the US. The politics of the world was anything but that of mutual understanding and cohesion.
Often tyrants don’t witness the tyranny that they unleash through their naked eyes. This leads them to adopt a matter of factly approach to their grave blunders.
However, Corona has acted as a social equaliser. It has driven not just the singing Italians but all the world citizens to ponder collectively on the walls of social exclusion and prejudices that we build around us. It is a forced exercise in abstinence of all kinds.
People are straying away from exchanging physical greetings. They are also compelled to cut of from their immediate as well as distant neighbourhood.
It is a time of reflection. A reflection that will allow us to draw the realisation of how small differences are enough for us to distance ourselves from people, races and narratives.
The virus has undoubtedly unleashed death, havoc and fear across the world. However, it has not discriminated between rich and poor, American and Mexican, English and European, Indian and Pakistani and has forced the world and in turn the world leaders to come together to fight the menace.
However, the menace has exposed the small mindedness of humans. People are being quarantined now however, our collective minds have been since a while now. Once the impact of the virus fades the world ought to treat it like a ‘United Nations’ moment.
The threat of fascism and war compelled the league of nations to set up a multilateral agency. Similarly, the disaster should force global leadership (how much ever utopian it sounds) to look at the world with more empathy.
The medical fraternity has not yet substantiated Boris Johnson’s claims of herd immunity.
However, borrowing the term philosophically the world needs a herd immunity of a different kind. A herd of the global community immune against the danger of prejudice, bigotry, racism, war and hunger.
(Writer is a journalist and author. Views expressed are personal)