As we loosen the lockdown and start taking steps back to “normal” life for the sake of the economy, do we have the courage to consciously choose a different path, one that portrays us as “keepers” of this planet rather than its “exploiters”?
Everyone has been affected in some way by this pandemic, which is unprecedented in recent history, and we have all had to deal with it, through social distancing, isolation, and much more.
The analogy with war, through terms like frontline, war, enemy, conquer and kill, have brought home the urgency and gravity of the situation, but at a cost.
The analogy with war is dangerous and divisive; it justifies actions outside established legal and democratic processes for expedience, it sanctions the use of draconian measures with unintended consequences, and it results in collateral damage, including many critical diagnostic tests and procedures being abandoned. The war rhetoric is also not conducive to trust, openness, respect or the realisation of human rights.
The call to arms has heightened fear and stress; it is taking a toll on mental health, as well as family and community health and wellbeing, and rates of abuse and antisocial behaviour are rising.
The language of war promotes anxiety and alarm, and it keeps us stuck in old patterns of fear, helplessness and anger that are the root of many of our current societal problems. It suggests an enemy outside of ourselves and keeps us looking to others for orders. It allows us to avoid responsibility for the part we have played in allowing and enabling the development and rapid spread of coronavirus, and our responsibility now to choose a wiser path.
Let’s not allow the over simplistic war analogy to distract from the bigger picture, and overlook what might be the greater danger to our health and wellbeing and that of the planet.
We have all played a role in creating the conditions that have allowed this coronavirus to spread. We must now turn our attention to the roots of this and the bigger challenges confronting us: climate change, species extinction, plastic pollution, ocean acidification, extreme inequality, poverty, and mass migration to escape the devastating effects of war and suffering.
The covid-19 pandemic is a symptom of the ills of how we live our lives, and it is a wakeup call giving us an opportunity not just to “resume” the previous “normal” but to “reboot”. We can choose to live a more humane life and to tread a better path for the whole planet both individually and collectively.
The first step is recognising that we are part of a very complex living system. If we “mess” with one part, it can and will have major ramifications elsewhere. Once we recognise that we are part of nature, part of planet earth and infinitely connected with it, we begin to see that when we hurt any part of the planet or it’s people, we hurt ourselves. What will it take for us to move from a “ruler” and “exploiter” of this planet to a co-inhabitant of this ecosystem?
The pandemic has changed the world, but it has also provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our state of being. Over the last few weeks, many of us have realised what really matters in life and the essential role of health and wellbeing. Let’s utilise this time to really look at how we got here, and let’s explore how we might make ourselves and our world whole again. We can begin by looking at what needs to heal and change in ourselves and in our world, and then ask how we can harness the insights and positive disruptive innovations covid-19 is catalysing.
The psychologist Carl Rogers said, “if the time comes when our culture tires of endless homicidal feuds, despairs of the use of force and war as a means of bringing peace, becomes discontent with the half-lives its members are living, only then will our culture seriously look for alternatives.” That time is now. Let us Reboot
Minesh Khashu is a consultant neonatologist and professor of perinatal health in the UK with interests beyond healthcare in large scale change, social movements and metaphysics.
Rashmir Balasubramaniam is a leadership coach and change and transformation consultant in the UK, who has worked for many years in global health and development.
Competing interests: None declared
- Rogers CR. A Way of Being, 1980.