Transcending Differences

The first footprints of humankind were made a little over six million years ago, which marked the emergence of the considerably intelligent species following a series of evolutionary stages. This emergence occurred in the present-day African Continent.  It is no secret that we have come a long way since then.  Our intellect enabled us to dominate all the other species and establish a new world order. Over the years, the early humans migrated to other parts of the world, establishing tribes and clans which would later amalgamate to form vast kingdoms and even larger empires. Our history has witnessed periods that were dominated by different civilizations, such as the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Roman, and Indus Valley Civilization. This time frame also marked the emergence of various facets of culture. Various forms and types of art, mode of conduct in society, etc. began to transcend time and find their place in what many proudly refer to as traditions.

The era of exploration began in the 15th and 16th centuries, heralded by various European powers that widened man’s eyes to the vastness of the world. New continents were discovered which were occupied by “other kinds” of people. How what started as a trading relationship became an imperial power is history. The 20th century can perhaps be described as the most turbulent of all time. It was a period that witnessed extraordinary progress in the fields of literature, science, technology, politics, and various other forms of art and culture. This was the time that opened our eyes to many secrets of the universe. The discoveries of those ages propelled us to great heights.

It was the era that marked the end of the colonial rule by European Nations, thereby leading to the emergence of various independent sovereign nations. It was an era that witnessed the voice of the ordinary raised in the air. Various movements like the feminist movement, the communist movement, etc. were trademarks of the erstwhile century. However, man’s potential for destruction was widely marked by the series of wars that dominated that time. The previous century also witnessed the cooperation among various sovereign nations, which has established new world order. Our rise from a couple of naked people holding rocks and sticks to business people in suits, living in the state of the art condos, is remarkable.

However, today the world is facing one of the deadliest challenges it has faced in modern times. The coronavirus has claimed more than 0.4 million lives and has infected the lives of more than 7.2 million people worldwide. Domestic and global shutdowns and lockdowns have significantly crippled the economies and social lives of almost every person. Many would hate to admit, but the virus is making us sweat a lot. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle has stated in his book ‘Politics’ that “Man is a social animal. He is also a political animal. He who desires solitude must either be beast or god”. Aristotle perfectly captures the essence of what it means to be human. It is to engage in highly interactive social relations. The present times deprive humans of the chance of real physical interaction as they are confined to their homes and various other places.

The psychological effect that this has on an individual is profound. As everything we have known so far has witnessed a radical change, our mind struggles to cope with it. This, in turn, brings out the darker side of humans – the selfish side we try so hard to hide. This can manifest in a variety of ways. The quintessential scenario would be the week that followed The World Health Organisation’s declaration of the coronavirus as a global pandemic. Supermarkets and other shops were emptied within a few hours. Looting and ransacking were rampant on the streets.

The underlying reason behind such acts is quite simple to state but extremely difficult to understand. It is the desire for self –preservation which has to itself a variety of other faucets. Clinical depression has also increased at a record rate. The rise in other forms of psychological problems points irrevocably to the fragile state of the human mind in coping with a changing world order.

It is interesting to analyse the behaviour of nations in addressing the pandemic. The global community was committed and united in their cause when the deadly virus first originated in China. Pledges of medical help and equipment were graciously made. In the following months, the virus showed signs of knowing no borders. The global community became more reserved as each country encountered the virus on its front doormat.

The pandemic’s epicentre has been travelling through various continents, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. This where one observes that there is a degradation in the earlier spirit of unity as the matter of self – interest kicks into play. Together with the addendum of politics, the resulting mixture presents a paradox. The coronavirus strains relationships, but the defeat of the virus lies in the hands of unity. Moreover, the domestic governments cannot be blamed for prioritising domestic interests as it was the purpose of which they were elected.

The virus is not concerned with borders. But we are. Indian border issues with China and Nepal have almost managed to slide off the coronavirus news headlines into second place.  It is unequivocal that territorial integrity must be protected and respected. But the bigger picture that we are just forms of carbon on a speck of dust in the massive expansion of space combating an entity that has the potential to mean the end of our species must not go amiss. What good are borders when there are no people to be protected?

Another, what may be described as a positivistic approach attributed to the virus is that virus does not race, colour, religion, etc. In other words, the virus does not discriminate among its victims. George Floyd suggests otherwise for the people.  This shows how deep the sense of social division is embedded in the minds of people. This is a frightening thought. The thought of being human is unable to supersede being white, brown, black, or yellow. The colour of a stretch of carbon designed to protect our bodies, the form of spiritual deity we choose to honour and worship, etc. are only secondary aspects of existence. The first and foremost is the underlying factor of being human.

This year has been an unforgettable chapter in our story. It has taught us the value of being united and humane in our conduct.  It has brought down our sky-soaring egos back to Earth. We were soaring high riding on the wings of economic and technological success when this pandemic jolted us back to our reality of us being just mere atoms susceptible to Mother Natures’ vices. The decision to embrace those lessons must be taken on a personal level. This episode of our lives has dealt a significant blow to the dreams and aspirations of millions of people all across the globe. But like the phoenix from the ashes, we shall rise greater than ever before as we have always done.

Kevin Davis from National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi

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