Living during a pandemic. Who could think about this six months ago? We are facing a completely new and totally unexpected situation. Maybe for the first time after the Second World War the european societies are being forced to deal with such a critical and serious problem. Of course pandemics are not new, but a pandemic such as COVID-19 in 2020 is a big challenge for our societies. In western societies, where the freedom of movement, the luxury of low-cost travelling and the values of consumerism and individualism are so common and deep-rooted in our cultures, how can we adapt to this whole new reality? How can we leave behind our previous lifestyle, restrict our liberties and focus on the well-being of the whole society, and especially of the most vulnerable ones?
One of the main reasons that our societies, the western european societies, are being affected so hard by the COVID-19 is that, unfortunately, we are not used to put the common good before our personal desires and our so personalized and certain, in some ways, life style. I don’t want to argue that individualism is generally a negative thing, but there are some specific aspects of individualism, as mentioned above, that are more close to what we call egocentricity, a characteristic that, especially nowadays, can be proved extremely harmful for the societal well-being. So, at once, let’s stop thinking about ourselves. It doesn’t matter if the COVID-19 is not fatal for everyone, especially for young people, because for some people it is, for the elders, for people with heart deceases, asthma etc. For the first time in modern history we are facing a common threat and we must stand with each other. And, imagine for a second, that the sacrifices we are being told to make are actually way more insignificant than the sacrifices from the previous generations, from our grandmothers and grandfathers who had to live during war. We are just being told to stay at home and stay safe, for us and for the others. It sounds absurd but during this pandemic the best act of solidarity is to actually be separate from each other, at least in a physical form. It’s painful yes but it’s the only way to show to the others that we care for them during this crisis.
We have plenty of time to go out and have fun, to party, to drink, to travel all over the world. But now it’s just not the right time. And maybe during this new situation of essential home isolation we will have the opportunity to discover more things about ourselves and about the others, maybe we will start to appreciate the small things that we thought of them as given. Going out and enjoying the sun at a park with your friends, giving a hug and kissing your loved ones, all the small gatherings at our cozy living rooms, all the late night invitations to binge-watch our favorite tv-shows, the queue outside of the cinema waiting to finally watch this new film that you heard so much of. We didn’t think of all these moments before as valuable and important because it was so usual to have them. People now are rediscovering the meaning of friendship, the importance of talking to your friends and your loved ones. We facetime for hours sharing our daily routines, trying to encourage each other, trying to laugh and have fun. We are starting to appreciate the joy of watching a good film or reading a book. Or just lying on our beds and reflecting about ourselves, hearing our own thoughts, and even writing them down sometimes. The isolation and the social distancing rules won’t last for ever so insist of feeling unhappy and craving for the moment we will go back to our previous lifestyles we can take advantage of all of this time and reconsider- and revalue- the important things in our lives.
Last but not least, let’s rethink about the whole concept and meaning of solidarity. I red the previous days in a random post on Facebook that these days solidarity can take a lot of different forms. Sometimes solidarity is just when you go to the supermarket and cross with another person in the street and you have to keep your distances but you look at each other and you smile, like you both saying ”we are in the same situation”, ”we will get through this together”. Solidarity nowadays is thinking about our elder fellow citizens and trying to do the shopping for them. Solidarity means that you are thinking of your neighbor who is maybe alone amid all of these and you will cook one day for her/him too. Let’s think about all the ways we can show to each other that we care about them, now more than ever. No one should go through this alone. Each one of us can be the paradigm the the others. Let’s make solidarity more contagious than coronavirus!
Anthi Papamaditou is a volunteer from Greece in SolidAIR project 2020
This project is supported by European Solidarity Corps.