Nothing can be more frightening than an unseen enemy that has no conscience.
As these lines are being written, someone somewhere is taking his last breath. Someone is saying goodbye to a father, a son, or a friend for the last time.
Our kind has been through many fights. We have fought against each other for land, for God, and even for sheer hatred of one’s race or color.
But this time we all have a common foe. If we could not be inspired or forced to face this challenge together, our ignorance could wipe out humanity.
This is a fight where courage must give way to patience and time. This is a war where the heroes are no longer just soldiers, but also dedicated men and women who care for the sick and the dying.
Around the world, more than 3 million have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 200,000 have already died. We must remember that we are all on the same boat when it comes to this invisible enemy. Everyone—rich or poor, the elderly and the young—is in danger.
These days, the patience of human beings is indeed a virtue. Let us accept that we cannot rush out and face the virus head-on without a cure or a vaccine.
Now that life in much of the world has changed, maybe we can start rethinking our priorities. Not too long ago, leaders of great nations would race to build weapons to take out thousands of lives with the push of a button. But this time, life has never been more precious when one’s own is on the line.
This pandemic knows no borders. Countries big and small in Asia and Europe, as well as major cities in America, have suffered deaths by the thousands. Even the leader of Great Britain was not spared from infection. This virus has humbled the human race.
But our experience may just be what this generation needs: a new perspective on our purpose in life. For so long, modern society has dictated the norms of happiness and set the standards for success. But when wealth and power become meaningless, people rediscover the utter joy of simply being alive.
We have seen during these times that life can go on with people having less and doing less. Now more than ever, we should foster this newfound sense of equality among human beings.
The power of choice in democracies must be exercised vigorously. Someone once said that “one of the easiest paths to change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” In the face of COVID-19, we have come to admire the leaders of nations. Unfortunately, some have acted recklessly with no regard for science in deciding the fate of millions. This should never happen in a pandemic. The leaders we choose must learn to listen and act with humility and, more so, accountability.
Businesses and industries, too, should reconsider their motives. The time has come for big multinational companies to spend more on corporate social responsibility and less on the exploration and exploitation of Third World countries and their natural resources.
Because of lockdowns in different parts of the world, the price of oil per barrel has, for a time, plunged to zero. Streets are free from traffic, and energy consumption worldwide has been reduced. Pollution levels are at their lowest in years. This may sound bad for many economies, but not all is lost because it is good for our planet.
There are other things brought about by this pandemic. Though less global in scale, they are nonetheless as significant. We cannot deny that when we are forced to stay inside for weeks, food becomes the most basic need. Many countries have grown to depend so much on importation that it will not be able to sustain its population if and when the movement of goods becomes impossible.
For years, people have dreamed of finding a career in the big cities. However, when a pandemic like COVID-19 strikes, the stock market will not put food on the table, while a lawyer could easily be the last person to save us from hunger. In spite of that, most of us seem to neglect the source of food that sustains us every day—agriculture. This is the moment to turn our attention back to the land and the farmers.
Let us keep in mind that this is not our first and only bout with a pandemic. So much is wasted by governments to build arms against each other. If we want to sustain the gains we have achieved, health care, education, and the environment, together with agriculture and food security, should be everyone’s priority. This will not only solve poverty, but also slowly bring equality closer to reality.
Inevitably, change is upon us. How we define “closer” as a species no longer applies, because “distance” between family and loved ones could mean our survival. Clearly, this new norm of living will continue and may even become our permanent way of life.
This virus has brought us fear, but knowing we might lose against it through our ignorance and neglect is even more terrifying.
In a world where we will all share the fate of our planet, understanding that we are all connected one way or another will ensure our survival. Let us find the strength to overcome. Let us find the inspiration to sustain this change for the better.
We may live life with more distance between us, but we should continue to love and care for each other nonetheless.
Lorenz R. Defensor is Representative of the Third District of Iloilo.
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