The world is not the same anymore. I know, I know. Who doesn’t! What’s the point in stating the obvious though?
Also, when has the world been the same anyway? Things have always been happening to it. Sometimes to shock, sometimes to restore a semblance of equilibrium, sometimes to shake us out of our delusions or stupor, sometimes just for the heck of it.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of those rare events that managed to do all of the aforementioned. It’s a shock, all right, and the biggest one so far in this century. It shook us out of our delusions too—the most unflinching megalomaniacs will agree. The virus has, after all, turned all of us into cowering creatures, however defiant a face we may put up in public. And last but not the least, the lockdowns in various cities across the world have done quite a fine job of healing a much-brutalised environment. As human beings and machines went into hibernation and the air cleared up and nature started to spring back to its natural state (see the irony here?), we started realising the debauchery in our earlier existence—careless in many ways, irresponsible, unhinged, unseeing, delusional, and so on. This newfound peace in our natural environment may even have put us in a peaceful place — nature and us creatures coexist after all, exchanging energies and destinies and the very air we breathe in and out.
So peace it was. For a while at least. As we started living with fewer needs and more reflections, we found a connection back to our selves. We started wondering if we could keep the peace. Some of us started to hope that we would be able to hold on to the gains we made during the downtime, not just with regard to the environment but also when it came to how we wanted to live, consume, travel, interact, react, etc.
Then the doubts start creeping in. How long until we feel the itch? Before long, we will again get used to rush-hour traffic, air and noise pollution, the screaming advertisements ordering us to buy more, the marketers exploiting people’s FOMO (fear of missing out, in case you are wondering), and whatnot.
Maybe it’s the scared cynic in me talking. Hopefully it’s the cynic only. Give or take a few politicians here and there. And maybe some corporations too? And others of their ilk.
Does peacetime suit anyone? The politicians in particular? And if it does not, whyever not? Only in peacetime can they deliver on the promises they make to us when pleading with us to vote for them. Isn’t it? Then why not fight for peace, instead of fighting for war and the spoils of war? Why fight for the oil and the coal and the sea? Let these be; instead look back at your promises.
You promised livelihoods, first and foremost. And yes, health too. And equal opportunities and dignified existence. And no discrimination at all. And happiness too? Maybe or maybe not.
But happiness is the subtext. When the other conditions of life are met, happiness becomes a matter of one’s state of mind, as against a state of how the state conducts itself in relation to us.
Can we redefine priorities as ‘equal opportunities for happiness’ to everyone’? Can our governments task themselves with this mission? Instead of trying to play god with their geopolitics and geoeconomics? Instead of in fact trying to pitch citizens against citizens on petty grounds — viz. class, religion, economic aspirations, genetics, and suchlike?
Can we be, instead of?