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Commentary

Goodbye, old world

As the lockdown eases, people will once again venture out from whatever domicile they got stuck in over the last two-plus months, going three. It will not be as it was pre-lockdown. The COVID-19 virus is still very much around and awaits a second chance to be passed on much faster from one person to another, and cause sickness, misery, and more deaths. The lockdown only hoped to break the spread chain, not congest the health care system, and deprive the virus of hosts to hopefully fizzle out. Without vaccines and anti-gens, such is wishful thinking. Viral spread can reignite when people reencounter.

Against this risk is the challenge to break the continuing disruption the lockdown has triggered on gainful enterprise by most people. Mass hunger can set in. Economic recovery may drag longer. The choice is stark, indeed. The horizon is dark. A different world will greet people as the lockdown eases. The threat of viral death remains.

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Fear of death is not the issue. This inevitable reality is confronted day by day. The issue is protecting life. COVID-19 is causing death that must be prevented. It is everyone’s responsibility to take up this challenge: Do not risk dying from COVID-19, for yourself and for others. This context puts beyond admirable the role of essential workers who provide services and goods necessary to keep and care for life under the lockdown, and to find a breakthrough in putting the virus under control. Words are inadequate to express the gratitude people must extend to them.

Will this spirit of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the common good survive the lockdown easing and the virus hopefully exiting? The impact of COVID-19 on the global status quo is still unraveling. People are talking of a “new normal.” Is it really a “new world” that people will venture out to when the pandemic dust settles down?

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After being given all the time to reflect on what this pandemic is saying to the world, what is the takeaway?

The “old world” is a dynamic perspective. There have been many “old worlds” ushering in the “new.” The original migration wave from Europe to the Americas was literally referred to as opening up a “New World.” There was the societal shift due to the industrial revolution; the new order after two World Wars; and, more recently, the information and technology revolution ushering in the cyberworld. The basic foundation of society gets shaken, and a new world order evolves.

COVID-19 is shaking the world’s basic foundation in this third decade of the 21st century. Generations, from Boomers to Generation X, millennials and Generation Z, are for the first time witnessing a global experience causing death and suffering across borders. The experience is likely to continue and not allow people to go back to the regimen they were used to for some time to come.

The debate on how best to transition to reopening business and employment can miss the point of the COVID-19 message. There are many who have died and are still dying. And many of these are caregivers, medical and health professionals and workers, first responders, health protocol enforcers—those who willingly risk their lives in order that others may live. They are not just statistics. They are people who are loved, and have loved ones. In the context of this pandemic, they are martyrs who must shake the mindset of indifference in the “old world” toward how people in the margins of society exist.

Those who offered their lives in the world wars are bestowed monuments in order that their grateful countrymen would not forget that lives were sacrificed for the freedom that is enjoyed generations later. The sense of gratitude must always accompany the living under the new order. Yet many still forget. The deaths from COVID-19 will go for naught if the world will not learn that the global village is, indeed, one world.

There will have to be caring for one another across borders. The wealth generated over time by entrepreneurs is with them under stewardship. There are higher purposes for these resources. The real need to uplift the many pinned down under lockdown is great. The invisible virus of COVID-19 is telling us all to reflect, and to have the wisdom and courage to say goodbye to a self-centered “old world.”

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Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and now a business consultant.

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