When the world we knew is no longer there

In the current stay-at-home way of life, it is unavoidable to reflect on the situation. As a society, we always relied on a number of conventions to relate and interact with each other; those conventions are called laws, but also customs and social mores and culture. Without those conventions, there is no commerce, no industry, no professions, no society.

The current state of affairs is challenging all those conventions in ways that few, if any prior world events, ever did. Even during the World Wars, people still ate in restaurants or attended plays (unless, of course, your were among the unlucky ones in concentration camps). Today, the streets of major metropolitan areas are relatively empty, and people choose to stay at home unless they definitely need to go out for food, or medicine, or medical care. And people fear. Fear that they might get sick, fear their loved ones might get sick. and fear the morning after because nobody knows at this point what it will look like. And Fear is a powerful motivator.

Thucydides was an Athenian General and Historian in the 5th century BCE, who wrote about the Peloponesian War and how it affected his home city of Athens. He is considered, rightly so, the father of political realism. In his opinion, the fear of death trumps all othe remotions, including other types of fear. In writing about the plague in Athens during the second year of the Peloponesian War, he said: "The catastrophe was so overwhelming that men, not knowing what could happen next to them, became indifferent to every rule of religion or law". As in the 5th century BCE in Athens, so it is in the 21st Century in Planet Earth. Even in our country, always a stronghold of respect for the law and for social mores, we hear of fights in supermarkets over bathroom tissue and hand sanitizers, We see empty shelves because people horded supplies in fear of tomorrow. It is Human nature, that Human nature that still lives under the thin veneer of civilization.

What this crisis unveiled is the fact that under all the rules, the laws, the norms of social behavior, the main beam supporting it all is the predictability of the future; knowing that tomorrow may be different but in many ways it will be the same. COVID-19 upended that assumption. Tomorrow will NOT be the same. The morning after (and we are still at least two months away of it) will look like a battle field: large number of dead, a destroyed economy, and high unemployment. While the recent package passed by the Trump Administration will be of great help, it will not be enough. The economy and the society will have to be rebuilt after the war on the virus. The longer it takes the war, the more difficult will be the rebuilding.

And yet it is in these circumstances that the true value of a Human being shows itself. We can give in to the despair, we can look inwards and ignore what happens around us - or we can reach out in any way we can to those around us to preserve our social nature. After all is over, the road to ecovery will be long and possibly hard; we can walk it as wolves or as Human beings. It is our choice.



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