“Slaying the Beast from the East” and other bedtime stories for kids.
“An eerie silence permeates the cool breeze of early spring in an already tumultuous year” is how a journal entry about this subject matters should sound like given the severity of the situation. However as this is not the 19th century and I am not in the middle of a civil war writing to my beloved across the ocean, formality must give way to ease. And ease is precisely how I would describe the way the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak, and subsequent ongoing global quarantine, unfolded. If there was ever one constant apart from the virus itself, it was the general ease with which the world assumed this would be another seasonal fad, speaking from a western perspective, we were sure it would be history by the time the 2020 spring collections came in.
But that wasn’t the case and surely enough COVID-19, aptly named Coronavirus due to the protein growths on the body of the virus cell which give it the appearance of sporting a crown, spread throughout the world like marmite on warm buttered toast. But this virus is anything but regal so the author opted to appropriately call it “The Beast from the East”. Considerations were made to call it “Kung-Flu” but given the ever increasing list of do’s and don’ts in public discourse, this was swiftly abandoned.
Regardless of what we call it, the virus does not care for our names as it is not sentient and only exists to fulfill its biological imperative, which it to procreate via a suitable host and (hopefully soon) die off. It is ironic in this case that this faceless, non-sentient threat would be the catalyst that would bring to life the most animated of human emotions like fear and courage, cowardice and nerve and of course love and hate.
Currently most members of the global quarantine house party live in fear of not being the next person to be bit in the behind by the Beast from the East and, understandably, stay indoors. Some have transplanted their work to their homes and violated the sacred work/ life balance. Call it a Balkan sensibility but the author was always convinced that the two concepts are eternally divorced, alas no longer. But there are those who do not have that luxury, and even if they did their courage and sense of duty would not allow them to as they know full well that they are the foundations of the temple we call modern society. I’m speaking of course of doctors and medical staff, ambulance drivers, firefighters, police officers, street sweepers, public transport operators, truck drivers and supermarket employees. If one could close their eyes right now and imagine a world without them, one would probably not be faring well in that world. Truth is we always involuntarily live in that world, I mean when’s the last time somebody clapped for a supermarket worker on any other day? In the balance of fear and courage, I can only hope the world we enter after the quarantine is a world where we follow the example of the courageous few, not the fearful many.
This isolation came at the behest of our governments and politicians who yesterday we called incompetent buffoons, now are the quite literal manifestation of Moses guiding the Jews of Egypt through the Red Sea. If this does not give credence that in times of crisis the cowards become resolute and develop nerve, then we are underestimating the transformative capabilities of this virus, beyond the physical level.
If this global pandemic demonstrated anything is that even with common underlying cause, the duality of man will always manifest both interesting and, often, surprising results. An elected official who one day is a cowardly parliament floor dweller, becomes the leader of the community he was originally voted to be by his constituents with enough nerve and resolution to remove autonomy from his citizens and take their safety as his charge. Is this a normal instinctual reaction of primal instincts kicking in to protect one’s tribe, hence showing personal nerve? Or is it done out of the fear of repercussions if citizens are not protected adequately, thus performing duty out of cowardice? More often than not, it has been the latter and the author would second this opinion. Be it cowardice or nerve, this decisive response from our elected officials is a welcome respite from the usual buffoonery we see them engaging in, one can only hope it lasts longer than the pandemic.