Enough has probably been said about the inauspiciousness of the current year. But, since no respite from the constant barrage of misfortunes is in sight, with the discovery of another virus with the potential of inducing another pandemic in China, one can’t help but fall into a state of retrospection. In a numbing shock, you witness the film that your mind starts playing, the ever increasing list of disasters that 2020 imposed on the world. And then, you reach back to 2019, when you had joyously seen the rusted stiff collars of the world order being shaken up by the skateboard- loving, T-Shirt wearing students, be it in India or Hong Kong. A generation often denounced as one without a cause other than defining themselves with a new caption daily, had latched onto a cause so ferociously that their counterparts in the rest of the world could not remain untouched. Support had risen in the hallowed corridors of Oxford, the pulsating grounds of MIT, and so on. But, when COVID-19 struck, for a moment, it seemed that we had been reminded of the materialistic existence of our species, rather abruptly, and perhaps, of the gap between the essentials we were quickly reduced to and the lofty principles we had been trying to stand for. Suddenly, the ideas that we were proudly enshrining in verses, became mute. Or so it seemed. The gears had changed certainly, the direction had spiralled but only because the destination had become enlarged, so enlarged that it became inclusive.
COVID continues to be a fatalistic enemy to the entire human population, not to mention the utter chaos and pain into which it has turned the lives of the less privileged sections of our society. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before the news regarding the positive impacts of the pandemic or rather the lockdown, started trickling in. Air, water, animals- nature in all of its entirety, heaved a sigh of relief, breathed a little freer, stretched its spine and moved with lighter steps.
Looking at how quickly nature could be restored to its former glory if human activities could be regulated sensibly proved to be a wake-up call for all those people who till now, could afford to turn a blind eye towards the damaged ecology and the reality of climate change. The ease with which the effects of the lockdown could be perceived would have definitely tempted the millennials like Greta Thunberg and similar climate activists to shout ‘I told you so!’ To be able to enjoy cleaner air, views unhampered by smoke and a general connection with nature brought home quite effectively, what we all had been missing out on. However, this clarity did not remain limited to environmental concerns.
We were forced to have a break from our hectic lifestyles and eventually, many of us reassessed our own lives. Our heedless hedonistic drive to consume as much as possible obviously came under the scanner because when it came to living with ourselves, for ourselves, we found that we could manage without a lot of the junk that we collect for the benefit of others. And slowly, the issues that plagued our civilization at large, also came into focus.
One by one, the self-congratulatory layers of artifice and success, came to be undone, and we came face to face with the tatters that really clothe it. The plight of the common man, the insufficiency of our welfare systems which allowed and encouraged us to judge the value of every human being on account of his or her age or utility, left us gasping, not able to deny the cruelty that rings in the management of this pandemic. We have successfully maimed and looted the planet and for what? We could not even protect our own ultimately.
And just like that, what those idealistic university- going students were saying, made so much sense. When George Floyd left this world, screaming, ‘I can’t breathe,’ the last leg on which, the sham of our world was standing, got knocked down. And how! Floyd’s gross murder laid bare the veneer of respectability flaunted by the Western society, which till now, had been denying the extent to which white privilege ruins and sometimes, blatantly takes the lives of the minority communities. The absolute rage that spilled onto the streets of Minneapolis, and later on the entire country, exposed the helplessness of their victims. Numerous cases of innocent black people murdered by white policemen, like Breonna Taylor and Tamir Rice are being revisited because the unceasing protests made one thing clear- the status quo just wouldn’t continue anymore.
When a young white girl protesting for the cause, shielded a young black man from the police, it became apparent that the ideals of the next generation are not up for compromise. They are done with half hearted attempts of rectifying the situation temporarily, only to return to the same old prejudiced ways. A deep wound had been poked by the murder of Floyd and it has become all the more important to create an ‘after Corona’ world with no space for the entitled white privilege, often addressed humourously as Karen. Amy Cooper, the white woman who called the police because she was asked by a black man to follow the rules of the park they were in, is one manifestation of such Karen.
The tragedies that police brutality inflicts, not only in the US, but in India too, are truly heartbreaking, and it is another thing which had been swept under the rug hitherto. The protests against it have given a fresh life to the demands made by the younger generation. The verve with which they toppled and drowned the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, is proof enough of their commitment to change the world.
So maybe the Pandemic is a purge, calling out each and every arrogant, insensitive behaviour of our species, tearing apart our society’s facade, a facade we willingly believe. Maybe we can be cautiously hopeful for a different world, a more just world, a sustainable world. It’s heartwarming to see that the ideals which sparked the revolutionary zeal in the students of Hong Kong, had not been dimmed by COVID. It has rather been boiling under the surface in every young heart. It is not wise to underestimate them. This is the generation after all, that doesn’t think twice before writing eulogies for their favourite characters, in FanFictions. Making new stories from the old ones come naturally to them and they simply do not let good things DIE.