Thinking in the Times of Corona

By Soham Mukherjee

This is when it is beginning to get difficult. Everything is at a standstill. There are a few rebels who are being quashed with force, humiliation and placation – not in that order, and probably justly. I am beginning to feel like the very blood in my body is beginning to slow down. The warm summer wind is giving me a slight headache as the confused cries of crows make me think of empty beaches and cremation grounds. This is war.

Due to the nature of what I do, I am technically never not working. Thinking is my profession. It has no tangible effect on society. My thoughts don’t build bridges, repair roads or cause technological advancements. Then again, neither do the people entrusted with those jobs; not well, anyway. But I shall go against my natural instincts and try not to complain. Thinking does no good, not unless it is backed up by action – or so I have been told.

However, there will come no better time than this when we can leave everything as it is and think. But what shall we think about, you may ask, and you bloody well should. You have every right to. Now think about that for a second. We are exposed to so much information, a flood, a tsunami of information, yet we have nothing to think about. Why is that? Are we becoming immune to information? Or are we collectively suffering from a disease that is much more undetectably contagious than COVID-19?

Hypocrisy, yes; it is plastered all over social media, in WhatsApp groups, Instagram stories, Facebook walls, you name it. There is no anti-vaccine for it; except maybe knowledge, or information, but there is so much of it, that we don’t know what’s what. Yet, this may be the best time to build herd immunity (a phrase I learnt only a week ago, just like you). Think, think about the incredible power of nature, think about the people who have died and those who are currently sick, think about the medical professionals who do not have a ‘work from home’ option, think about the people who had no choice but to try and walk home (and die trying), think about where you are, think about the cool air of your AC, think about your high-speed internet and, finally, think about what a privilege it is to be you.

Life’s not easy. Everybody has their own problems/disasters/heartbreaks to deal with. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t think about your privilege. At the same time, there is no need to vilify those who don’t. There is no need to engage in call out culture at this time. Everybody is struggling now. The fact is most of us are helpless. But some of us have the privilege of still being able to live dignified and safe lives. That’s what we need to think about.

Yes, it is heartbreaking that so many people are stranded on the roads in the Indian summer. It is a failure and, arguably, a betrayal of enormous proportions. But it is not to be sorted by posting on social media newspaper headline or photo showing the plight of the migrant workers followed by a post of your iss-pecial homemade biryani. Nor by donating money to random charities/groups/funds who claim to be working to help these poor people and washing your hands of the issue – no amount of alcohol-based sanitizer will get rid of that guilt of privilege.

But, if you want to donate, by all means, donate. There are people who really are helping and want to help but are currently restricted in terms of finance and/or locomotion. Make sure your money is being put to good use. Help in any way you can.

However, that shouldn’t be the end of it. Think about it. After you see the green tick of the successful transaction, think about what just happened. You, who have worked to earn your money, just gave a tiny percentage of what you have to help someone who probably works multiple times harder than you to earn just enough to eat for a day. Your social responsibility doesn’t end with simply donating money, calling people out on social media or even actually going out and helping (kudos to those who actually do it out of the goodness of their hearts).

I am not disparaging anyone. What I am trying to say is just doing these things is treating the symptoms, not the disease. Think about the power, the privilege, the position that you have and others don’t. Teach yourself to think about this. Teach your children. Teach them to teach their children. Teach them that while doing something good is always appreciable, thinking about the ability to do good is likely to change the world. So that next time, and there will be a next time, in ten, fifteen, twenty or, even, a hundred years, the world will be a better, more equal place.

Soham Mukherjee is an amateur writer who loves football more than most things. His first book, a collection of short stories, was published last year. 

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