Nobody  wakes up one day and claims that they’re wholly prepared in dealing with a worldwide pandemic, and the surfacing of internalised xenophobia. Unfortunately, that is the current reality that the world is facing right now, and it is leaving many people agitated and alarmed. What started as an epidemic that was first seen in Wuhan, a city in China, is now affecting almost the entire world. A person’s health is not the only thing that is being compromised by this virus, but the virus has also turned into an outlet for people to express their distaste and blame a particular group for the rise of the virus.

But, is there really a group of people that we can rightfully blame? Or, is this the collective fault of everyone on the planet? Humans tend to always find a common group to direct their anger or hate towards because it is simply more convenient. What they are truly neglecting are the facts, theories and methods to truly prevent the virus from ruining the livelihoods of everyone that can potentially be affected.

We can all agree that during this pandemic — and with most of us being under a self-quarantine and a lockdown — confinement can somewhat drive you insane; with the natural routine of your daily lives being disrupted so suddenly. But what we failed to observe is the reason why we have reached a point where there are police officers placing road blocks, and government officials thoroughly emphasising through online press conferences to stay at home, is that the fault truly lies within an individual.

The one thing I can truly take away from this virus, after more than a week at home with ample amount of time to process my thoughts, is that we are all interconnected, even with people we don’t know at all. This can easily be proven without too much theory taken into consideration; especially if we look at how the virus started in a city in China and are now inflicting more than 400,000 cases worldwide and over 18,000 deaths.

When the virus was first discovered, many people all over the world took it lightly and blamed the mainland Chinese people for the spreading of this virus, and masked their fear with words of hate instead of systematically tackling the issue. People have decided that the world is simply too vast for the virus to reach them, but now our naivete  has its consequences.

We are extremely wrong to think that our words or actions will only affect one or two, or even a group of people that we know only. Looking beyond just this pandemic itself, this can extend into words of hate and discrimination directed towards a certain group, or words on the internet to bring someone down; all of our words and actions will affect someone, and a lot of people all over the world.

If from the very get go, people opted to be kind and offer help to those affected without stepping into a dangerous territory themselves; we may see a very different world right now. If people decided to not bulk buy things from the supermarket and fear-mongering others into thinking this pandemic is lethal, we may be able to approach this situation smartly rather than irrationally. If people decided to stay at home when they were instructed to, to prevent the risk of

exponentially spreading the virus, we may have seen shorter lockdown periods and be able to spend more time with our friends and family that are not staying with us.

If humans decided to be kind to one another rather than point out unimportant differences between each other, we may see a world that is more willing to collaborate with one another. If humans decided to be empathetic and think for others, we may see less people being displaced in society and rising up social ranks with the help from others. If humans decided to stand up for one another in a hate crime, we may see more survivors and people sharing their stories to others who need it the most.

This pandemic is more than just a health issue, but something that we need to question on a more intimate level. Why is it when this virus first arose, humans’ natural reaction was to blame someone for it rather than offer words of encouragement to fight this horrible fight? Why is it when governments took the step to declare a lockdown people still decide  to walk outside and attend mass gatherings instead of abiding by their rules to create a safe environment?

There are many unanswered questions that should seem intuitive to many. I hope that with the time spent at home, people will truly think about the weight of their actions on someone else’s life; even if you have no clue who that someone is.

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    Written by Siti Anastasia Norbasha

    30 March 2020