“I HAVE no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.” ~ The Plague (Albert Camus)
A pandemic, like the Covid-19, can make some of us imagine a dystopian society emerging from the pain and suffering that it brings on the population.
I think the image begins with how pandemics bring the word “disease” in the mind. We wonder, what does it mean?
Many of us would look at the dictionary and come to know that “a disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of all or part of an organism, and that is not due to any immediate external injury. Diseases are often known to be medical conditions that are associated with specific symptoms and signs.”
Unless you are studying medicine, that definition is still too technical. You try to make it more sensible with the Oxford Dictionary. You trace its roots, when it was first used, and where. You come to an understanding about how the word disease was created to communicate a state of “dis-ease,” its etymological origin from an old word for “ease,” for things being the way they are supposed to be, a life with no trouble. The word is used to indicate that human life has been disrupted and something has gone wrong, terribly wrong, like a plague that is now afflicting peoples, communities, nations.
As we are assaulted by the crisis of the coronavirus disease—Covid-19—how scientists have classified the epidemic—every human being everywhere is confronted with fears that we normally do not encounter or live with. We are imprisoned in our homes. We are told about social distancing when we go out and to wear masks. What is this disease? How can I get it? What happens if I do? What will this mean for my life—work, learning, among others?
At least, it is an informed fear we are dealing with now, unlike the plagues in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In those days, the news travel with the mode of transport that they use.
Today, we learn about the nature of the disease and the number of those affected daily through the internet. The death toll rises daily. Countries are closing their borders. Provinces and cities lockdowns are affecting the transport of people, goods, food, and medicines.
In the Philippines, we welcomed the enhanced community quarantine initiative of the government. The work-at-home and on-line was in itself work in progress. As the days unfolded, we realize this has taken us with our pants down. We are not ready for it. We are in shock, not really knowing what the next day will bring. We are confused, thrown-off our usual patterns of waking and working. We are bewildered and confused, we feel “dis-eased.”
The good thing is that we did not give in or surrender. Whatever we got, we fought and whatever our differences, we must fight as one. The key to a post-Covid-19 future is responsibility and love.
It was a heart-warming experience for local government officials to think and act out of the box by buying farm products directly from the farmers and deliver these as food supplies to people in need.
In government offices, service to constituents took on a deeper meaning above the filling up of forms, monitoring, consolidation, and writing accomplishment reports. Government plans to initiate and acts to solve problems.
When we talk about a post-Covid-19, it is indeed easy to paint a picture of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse riding on the horizon, in our time, all systems failing, governments falling, more diseases emerging, hunger escalating, climate change, drought, etc.
But it is not yet the time to engage such visions. It is time to look at the exciting opportunities to change what we do and how we do it. It is time to make space for purpose-led and responsible approaches to the challenges as we embark on a new beginning.
For instance, we must pursue mechanization to improve productivity and allow people to work at home. Meanwhile, we must equip our people with human skills that will truly make them work as human beings in a team. That means developing emotional intelligence, empathy, collaboration, on top of the technological skills. Technology and love skills can help us deal with current problems as we prepare for pandemics and apocalyptic problems in our time.