Rahm Emanuel, an American politician, once famously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Coronavirus is undoubtedly a serious crisis that afflicted humankind. The pandemic unleashed gut-wrenching fear among people by its sheer magnitude and spread. But as Rahm Emanuel had rightly stated, the crisis provides us with an opportunity to do things that we could not do before.
The virus that originated in Wuhan city of China, spread rapidly to other parts of the world. It is wreaking havoc on the world economy pushing down the consumption and crashing the stock markets. There is panic buying of essential commodities and supermarkets are running low on things such as hand sanitizers, toilet paper, and masks. The dire need for maintaining social distance forced people to stay indoors. People are feeling frightened of those who cough and sneeze in public.
But coronavirus is one crisis that humanity should not let go waste. Because it allowed us to slow down for a while, stand and introspect. It actually gave us an opportunity to do a major course correction. Here are some ideas, if implemented, may bring about a sea change in the way we lead our lives.
Stop eating animals: The coronavirus pandemic has its origins in meat consumption and the unhygienic meat markets. Humans have this misconception that animals lack cognition, can’t feel love, and therefore are inferior creatures. Some scriptural literature even goes to the extent of saying that animals don’t have souls and God had created them to be subservient to humans. All these are utterly false, and animals, though they can’t be vocal about their thoughts, express their feelings in various ways. Moreover, if humans have souls, there is no reason to believe that animals don’t have them.
The meat consumption has brought about unmitigable suffering to both animals and humans. Most of the people who consume meat did not witness animal slaughter firsthand. The English singer and composer Paul McCartney famously said, “If slaughterhouses have glass walls everybody would be vegetarian.”
The farm animals meant for slaughter are kept in small enclosures and in a dreadfully pathetic condition. The milk cattle are not allowed to nurse their calves, and their calves are stolen from them, slaughtered, and sold as veal. Many wild animal species are going extinct due to rampant poaching. Therefore, the eagerness of humans to thrive by exterminating all other creatures will eventually spell doom for their very survival.
In this respect, Indian culture and civilization can offer a lot to humanity. We have a rich culture that treats animals as soulful creatures that are on par with humans. Our pantheon of Gods has different varieties of animals — aerial, aquatic, terrestrial and subterranean — such as rats, elephants, cows, monkeys, pigs, peacocks, eagles, snakes, turtles, and fish either as their incarnations or vehicles.
The coronavirus crisis is a great opportunity for us to rethink our relationship with mother nature and respect it in all its manifestations. This is also an opportunity to delve deep into the divinity all the fauna brings into our lives. There is a dire need to seriously reconsider our food habits in the interest of our society, planet, and our own personal health.
We must not ignore the fact that every steak on our plate has a bloody history and every glass of milk is stolen from a calf to which it is justly entitled to. These words may sound ridiculous for many, as our inclination towards speciesism doesn’t allow us to think in a different way.
Let’s hope that the coronavirus crisis will bring about a sea change in the way we perceive things and make people shun non-vegetarian food. Vegetarianism, in addition to combating viruses such as coronavirus, will also help people ward off other health problems such as high cholesterol, hypertension, uric acid, cancer, heart ailments, and diabetes. Rampant animal farming also leads to the emission of a lot of greenhouse gases such as methane that cause global warming.
Reduce Retail Therapy: In this century of stress and anxiety, everyone needs an avenue to destress themselves. But with vanishing public places and recreation centers, the only avenues left for people to socialize and destress are shopping malls. After the emergence of coronavirus, people are afraid to visit crowded places, especially shopping malls. They reduced their visits to them and spending more time at home. Maybe they can use the time for more productive activities such as reading, talking to their near and dear ones, exercising and silent contemplation, which may go a long way in bettering their physical and mental health. And, we can also reduce unnecessary travel especially foreign travel. The less we travel, the less toxic fumes our vehicles release thereby reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.
Now, you may ask how are we going to kickstart our economy if we reduce our consumption and stop traveling? The fact is, one day we will anyhow have to stop this mindless pursuit of material things and start adopting sustainable living practices. The king-sized lives of the rich and ultra-rich are putting an unbearable burden on mother earth and if this reckless consumption continues, we will not be able to leave our only planet in a habitable condition to our future generations.
Markets may crash, consumption may fall, and airlines may be grounded. All these may, however, make us think seriously about an alternative economic model that will provide us with more per capita happiness in addition to enabling us to lead sustainable lives. Because our gargantuan consumption is anyway not sustainable in the long run.
Pay More Attention to Personal Hygiene: The level of hygiene maintained by people differs significantly. Some are very particular about it and some others take it very casually. The coronavirus has alerted us to the fact that in this age of rampant pandemics we can neglect cleanliness at our own peril. At the same time, the ever-increasing scarcity of freshwater also poses many challenges, which may push humanity to carry out research on reusable hygiene products that keep our hygiene practices sustainable.
Social Distancing: Most of the societies value gregariousness and ascribe importance to people who are outgoing. However, the emergence of the highly pathogenic viruses such as Ebola and coronavirus are making social distancing popular. If the situation persists, we may have to forget the friendliness of a handshake and warmth of a hug. It will also make societies discard their negative opinion on people who like social isolation. The coronavirus made handshakes very unpopular. Normally our hands are the dirtiest parts in our bodies as they come in contact with various bodily secretions and along with them a wide range of bacteria. And all those spread through the handshakes. Even the state heads such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump are advocating doing a ‘Namaste’ instead of a handshake.
Consume home-cooked food: With the proliferation of restaurants serving gourmet food and the food delivery apps supplying it at our doorsteps, many people started indulging in mindless gastronomical adventures that are damaging their health. Outside food passes through multiple hands and there is every likelihood that it gets contaminated midway. Therefore, people must give up their penchant for restaurant food and start preparing it at home and eat it along with their family members, which may lead to better physical as well as mental health.
Reduce Social Media: The fear of coronavirus is spreading more through social media, especially in the form of rumors. These rumors cause a considerable amount of anxiety and may even lead to mental health problems. Therefore, opting for a social media detox is a great idea that will enable us to get over screen addiction and excessive texting, and utilize that time for more productive and enriching activities.
So, the coronavirus, though brought a major health crisis to the world and snuffed out scores of lives, can throw a great opportunity for all of us to introspect and make major course corrections in the way we perceive things and lead our lives. We all need to seriously contemplate the unpleasant side effects of our boundless ambitions and mindless indulgences and learn how to be gentle on nature and our fellow creatures that are sharing the mother earth.