A new paradigm, contrary to what has so far been espoused, of human bonding is being promoted. The planet's inhabitants must keep them segregated as much as possible from each other to stay safe. If segregation sounds strong because it reminds of apartheid, the next term is isolation. Even this term's connotation is fraught with a sense of unpleasantness. In its place the coined phrase 'social distancing' has been accepted perhaps as a compromise to euphemistically temper its offensiveness with a mellowed veneer. But has this been successful?
Social distancing in the sub-continental context is treating someone as a pariah and even maintaining social distance smacks of snobbishness. Although by alienation no offence is meant, this word too is pernicious as it signals a psychological problem for a person. The inability to connect with fellow human beings has been viewed as a disease of modern civilization. And now for many, physical distance or isolation for an indefinite period can lead to mental morbidity.
What a u-turn for mankind! So long the mantra was 'united we stand, divided we fall'. Now the opposite to this togetherness has been the lifeline of civilization to survive. Small birds and fish seek safety in their numbers. Millions of sterlings, dunlins and blackbirds fly, sway, veer together at a breath-taking speed often at 40 km an hour in an amazing synchronisation to save them from predatory falcons or hawks. Shoals of sardines or herrings in the sea adopt the same strategy of rolling in unison this way or that without running into another for survival. Well, these fish are not as successful as the birds but at least the manoeuvres save them from getting entirely decimated.
In prehistoric time, the hunter-gatherers could survive following the same tactic. Even they could win against a mammoth by attacking it together in a group. The same principle has successfully worked in sustaining the evolutionary process. Behind the origin of families, communities, tribes, races and nations the theory of assemblage has been active. Rarely has this strength in mass formation been challenged anytime in human history. But now a submicroscopic virus -coronavirus to be precise -- has challenged this long proven and practised survival recipe.
As if the virus has announced, 'stay away from one another, or I'll kill you all'. In Italy and Spain and lately in France, its tolls are rising so frighteningly that people everywhere have started to believe in the theory of isolation. Whoever could think of a regimentation of home confinement for the majority of the planet's seven billion population! Even the minimum social courtesy of handshaking or embracing the near and dear ones after long separation -an outpouring of the warmth of heart - has been strictly forbidden. People have been compelled to unlearn many practices social traditions have taught them over centuries and millennia.
In the fight against this virus humanity has till now proved helpless. It has forced on civilization no-work culture and many social behaviours anathema to human society. What is most frustrating is that it has hit where humanity is at its strongest -its unity. People have formed associations to help common causes and collectively contributed to advance civilization notwithstanding the fact that the progress has been uneven. Can it be that coronavirus pandemic has given policymakers and global players a real cause for introspection? Misplaced priority has wasted resources on destructive arsenals of unimaginable firepower -so destructive that those can destroy the world many times over.
Had the trillions of dollars not been spent on armament and instead been used for rational distribution in order to alleviate poverty, improve life and living, the outrageous socio-economic and cultural discrimination would have long been a thing of the past. Will the corona-imposed contrary paradigm allow the world leaders the pause to redefine human prosperity where unity of man once again will triumph over isolation?
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