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Home » Covid-19: Life and death in the new abnormal – News

Covid-19: Life and death in the new abnormal – News

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I am inclined to term it the Coronavirus Syndrome, like the Stockholm Syndrome, when the hapless captive falls in love with the captor.

How casually we tend to dismiss the pandemic in numbers. Deflection is the ‘new normal’, when in reality we are grappling with a freakishly abnormal crisis. We have been under siege for most of the year, captive and held hostage by a pathogen. Gone is the anger and frustration as we have learnt to coexist with a dangerous virus.

I am inclined to term it the Coronavirus Syndrome, like the Stockholm Syndrome, when the hapless captive falls in love with the captor.

Fear has given way to acceptance, and the hope that a vaccine will speed up what is known as herd immunity with at least 60 per cent of the population developing antibodies against the coronavirus.

US President Donald Trump’s recent slip of the tongue at an event when he said ‘herd mentality’ makes sense as we join the new ‘normal chorus’. I wonder if we take our current state of despair seriously or is it just me being hyper emotional and paranoid with the coronavirus hounding my existence?

With over a million deaths, it seems like the end of days for many people. Grief has become a stray emotion that they Zoom in when the call comes. Tech has all the answers, we are told, even to help us mourn. The camera never lies.

For others, this normalising of a bleak situation has mutated into a habit with their morning cuppa. Life must go on. Pandemic habits are hard to kick. A friend from school, a doctor, waxed eloquent on Optimism Bias and sent me an article the other day. The ‘key’ to Optimism Bias is this: “We disregard the reality of an overall situation because we think we are excluded from the potential negative effects.”

With over a million lives felled by the virus, I don’t know where I stand or what to think. Perhaps we choose not to reflect on the brutal reality. The death count and rising number of cases have lost their humanity. One has to cope. But I can’t but help applaud the undefatigable human spirit that refuses to surrender and yield to the coronavirus that has swept through nations great and small.

The biggest health, social and economic disruption in modern history has honed our survival skills as we keep our distance from each other in virtual comfort zones. The pandemic is death personified, yet we look the other way and make light of our despair. Perhaps we have learnt to mask our hurt our despair well.

A friend I was talking to the other day said she was in a daze after staying indoors for most of the year. Another friend from college who is battling cancer, is waiting for some ‘bright days’ – some light that will lift the encircling gloom. Change and decay is all around us. My mom in Indian wonders when she’ll get to meet my family who stepped out of our apartment since March 24. “Why risk it when you can afford to stay indoors?” the missus reasons in all severity. I stay from an argument.

The million lives lost to Covid-19 have become just a number, a set of data – deaths, cases and recoveries. “Their lives will not be in vain,” screamed a foolish,headline that was lost on me the moment I set my eyes on it. Which reminded me of a quote purportedly by Josef Stalin. “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic,” the former Soviet Union leader is believed to have said. Fake news from another era when the Gulag in Siberia and the Holocaust were still fresh on people’s minds. Stalin was seen as a despot, a dictator in the West who unleashed a strain of authoritarianism in the former USSR. The Iron Curtain went up and good sense was thrown out the window back in the day.

Historians are divided on whether Stalin indeed said this. Some say the Soviet leader was quoting from a 1932 essay by Kurt Tucholsky, a German journalist and satirist. In the essay, a fictional French diplomat is speaking on the horrors of conflict and violence: “The war? I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!”

Back to those figures that hound me. World War I claimed 20 million lives when it ended in 1918; World War II killed 85 million in 1945. It is estimated that 50 million people died from the Spanish Flu in 1918. Numbers, numbers. Mumbo-jumbo. New normal. Flawed semantics. Abnormal. Just a statistic! Death has lost its sting.



Allan Jacob

A news junkie with an abiding interest in foreign affairs. I’m a keen follower and learner of the media and how it will pan out in the future when the common man and woman will themselves be journalists and not just sources of information. Lead a team of bright journalists who are driving the change and have their feet on the ground.

Click here to read more news from @khaleejtimes

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