One of the many things this devastating pandemic has proved is what Aristotle said in the Nicomachean Ethics, i.e. ‘Human beings are social animals”.
When governments, overwhelmed by skyrocketing confirmed cases of the virus, decided to lock down their cities, one of the many things people worried about was their isolation from the social interactions that make up a huge part of their day to day lives.
Because of the impossibility of having face-to-face interactions in a lockdown situation, people choose to move their life into the virtual world to be connected and socialise with others, instead of being isolated or experiencing limited human contacts. By learning new technologies, people expanded the realm of communication and socialising with others.
For many people, learning to use this new technology was an anxious process, and yet quickly people have begun to adapt and to learn to use this new technology just like so many others.
Our calendars have become busy again, as we fill our diaries with virtual meetings. We are becoming accustomed to having a virtual coffee meeting, virtual lunch gathering, virtual beer party, working from home, and having a meeting online (Yes, any imaginable form of VIRTUAL gatherings). Now, we know how we can sing and perform together without actual physical gathering. In chatrooms, we have learnt that we can converse for hours without making any sounds, and can be muted even if we are not making any noise. We have also become skilled at dealing with many challenging situations, such as abrupt internet disconnection, speaking while staring at a little camera lens, and skilfully disguising ourselves to make us look presentable to the people over the lens.
Our moving into the virtual world seems to be successful (but I should note that there are so many people who could not enjoy the virtual realities, because of the lack of accessibility to the internet and difficulties in learning new technologies). Entering the second week of the lockdown in the UK, it seems that many people are becoming accustomed to the situation.
This has become our new normal. Just as Aristotle said 2,500 years ago, people have successfully maintained their interactions with others. So, we seem to be OK, in this world full of new normalities.
However, can the increasing deaths from the virus be our new normal, OR should we be indifferent to the numbers of the deaths because we are experiencing a pandemic? I do not believe so.
As of today, Mar. 31, more than 38,000 people have died globally from COVID-19, and the death toll is increasing. Both medical and global health experts and the public talk about the daily death toll from the virus, wondering when the peak will come and wondering when they can return to their old normal lives.
Interestingly, people (maybe, including me) tend to view the numbers of the deaths, especially relating to the death toll, in a detached manner, in line with their efforts to adapt to this situation, this new normal.
However, I believe we need to view these numbers seriously and with sensitivity. Although we do not have to (and cannot) mourn every single death from the virus, we can show empathy with those who are suffering. I cannot even imagine how many people’s lives changed entirely over the past weeks and months because of the death of their loved one(s). It is hard for me to accept the fact that nearly 40,000 people (a sad truth is that although the number of deaths is about 38,000 today, it may be 40,000 by tomorrow), who existed and lived their lives somewhere on the planet, died over the last few months because of one microscopic virus.
We should not simply accept the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, increasing every day. Rather, we should be astonished by the numbers and keep our eyes open to find what we can change to cope with the next pandemic and save our vulnerable neighbours, who are all around us, whether we see them or not.