The Contrarian’s Take by Ashutosh Pandey
Lock-downs and Re-openings
One of the most noticeable, but barely commented upon, aspect of the last few weeks has been the way nature seems to be ‘reclaiming’ lost ground while humans fight the humble, barely understood, barely alive virus by staying locked in (+ knocked down = lockdown). It’s hardly a surprise though!
For we have always believed human beings are the center of the universe. Or, in other words, the burden thankful existence needs to cheerfully bear for the privilege of having us around.
This widespread, though mostly unexpressed belief by a species that is neither the most populous, powerful or sensible, perched precariously on a minor planet exposed to any number of interplanetary concussions, is nothing short of bizarre. Except that we have come to believe in the apparently unimaginable power of our 1300 gm, complicatedly wired brain!
Want to rule the world? Go marching out with it. Want to conquer yourself? Again, dive deep into it.
Gaining a sense of perspective is the greatest lesson one can learn in situations like the one we find ourselves in. While panicked humans crouch indoors, clearer skies, healthier air, cleaner seas and freer wild animals, have all demonstrated, admittedly under ‘laboratory’ conditions, the even handed alternative of a more orderly, just, and sustainable circle of life.
Only if we could penetrate the mist of self-obsession!
It’s a fair argument to make that we have gone beyond the point of no return, that any regression to a simpler mode of life is neither possible nor desirable, that this apparent reset is at odds with the ‘growth’ paradigm that rules our lives. One doesn’t need much imagination to conjure up images of crowded restaurants, criss-crossing airplanes, jammed up streets and unmasked, cheerful faces the day the vaccine is found (as will be soon, certainly).
This period, when lessons should have been learnt, will soon be buried as inconvenient, and perhaps inevitable interruption, in deep recesses of our all-powerful brain.
The past few decades have seen several demonstrations of the destructive, mutating and amplifying power of nature’s wrath even as the human and human-machine combination has delivered a spirited fightback. But make no mistake – humans are running out of ammunition. And tricks. If lock down is our best defense against the virus 100 years out, perhaps we are moving around in circles!
Favorable public opinion is often held out as the real kernel of any lasting change. Unfortunately, public opinion is frequently neither public, nor an opinion. It’s more a sentiment circumscribed by our 30-second attention span, whipped up by easy-to-understand, specious, arguments.
Which in turn crowds out genuine lessons!
So introspection on an industrial scale, led by purveyors of public opinion, is perhaps an impossible ask! Perhaps the human race is destined to learn lessons the hard way – through knock-downs and get-ups, war and peace, death and revival!
And yes, lock-downs and re-openings!