COVID-19 is Teaching Us What it Means to be Humans

Last Updated: April 2, 2020By
[glossary_exclude]Humans are social animals but what differentiates us from other animals is being “Humane.We have higher intelligence than other animals, we are compassionate, and, most importantly, can distinguish good from bad. Being good is to have empathy. Unfortunately, nowadays this trait is missing in our generation. We have become more self-centered. As an individual, I struggle to understand the original purpose for humanity when I observe the deeply stratified axis on which the human race is evolving – all in the name capitalism. The gory story of a modern society that sprouted on the grounds of love and now uprooting itself through the dominance of calculative and representational thinking of the haves and the have-nots, threatens the very essence of our existence. The competitive and self-preserving nature of humans today is so corrosive to the extent that humans have completely lost the sense of what we truly need – a sense of belongingness, love for all, forgiveness, mercy over judgment, and ‘us’ over ‘me.’ It almost feels like the coronavirus is a warning sign thrown at us by our future selves to remind us to go back to the fundamentals of being humane so that our future is not crumpled into a fragmented frame. And I am so amazed that this pandemic has caused a dramatic shift in human behavior across the globe – for once, we are all acting in unison to protect each other’s lives. If that is not revolutionary, then you tell me what it is. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that there would come a time where a viral infection could alter how we treat each other in the most profound ways:

  • People buying little so other families can have something to survive on,
  • Clinics giving out their supplies to hospitals so more lives can be saved,
  • Banks charging no penalties for defaulting loan repayments,
  • Airlines offering free flight cancellations and full refunds,
  • Competitive pharmaceutical brands coming together to find a way to contain and eradicate the virus,
  • Property owners writing off rent payments for businesses so they can pay their employees,
  • Homeowners waiving rent for tenants who cannot pay,
  • The government financially supporting families that cannot survive due to containment measures,
  • The homeless being provided shelter and feeding,
  • Governments halting many economic activities so everyone would be safe,
  • Parents staying home to ensure the safety of the entire family.

For once, we care about the safety and health of everyone, not just our individual selves. Before, the reverse of these instances was our reality. Children now have the full complement of their parents’ time at home, families are bonding more, and society has gone back to the basics – love. This is a true testament to how challenges can change us. We are going to continue to evolve in unforeseen ways as we stand as one people in pursuit of life. The world is full of complexities and unpredictabilities that have yet to completely surface. Life’s unpredictability will draw the human in us out, and what defines us would now be our will to live and love.

If we can treat disasters the same way we treat each other – with urgency and with all the available resources regardless of the state of the economy or budget, then the country and the world at large would be such a beautiful place for us. Mahatma Gandhi said that “The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.” We are therefore healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane. We can all pray to whatever or whomever we have faith in, but just as Abhijit Naskar admonishes, we must keep in mind that: “No god is coming to save you – no messiah is coming to save you – all the gods and all the messiahs that can save our world are already here – they are us – each one of us.” Let us live in love and as one, for none of us is strong enough to face the forces of nature.

So, in concluding, I would like to borrow the words of Coach Boone in the movie “Remember the Titans” and say: “You listen, and you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other. And maybe…I don’t know, maybe we’ll learn to play this game…”[/glossary_exclude]

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About the Author: Isaac Issah Armstrong

Isaac Issah Armstrong is a Document Management System Specialist at Genentech and may be reached at [email protected].