Aristotle Onassis counselled,
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
So, even as we, along with millions of our fellow citizens, observe the
curfew while under a lockdown, this hiatus offers a rare opportunity to
reflect and take the long view.
The way human society behaves
after a crisis can vary significantly.
Germany’s abiding obsession
with fiscal discipline and aversion to inflation, even today, can be
traced to lessons learned during the 1920s, when that country experienced
The 9/11 attacks, and India’s
own tragedy of 26/11, fundamentally altered our perspectives on safety in
public spaces, and we have come to accept intrusive security checks as a
price we must pay.
COVID-19 pandemic change the way we behave?
If there can be any enduring
takeaway from the social and economic cost imposed by COVID-19, it must be
that our much-vaunted modern and technologically sophisticated society can
be humbled by nature operating at its most microscopic scale.
At this scale, the speed of
replication and proliferation is astounding and, within a few weeks from
its first manifestation, the virus has brought a globally connected
economy to a standstill, and endangered the lives of total strangers
across all continents.
At the same time, almost
silently, at the other end of the scale, a slow but perceptible escalation
of climate calamities, including more severe storms, more destructive
forest fires and faster melting of glaciers, indicate a
carbon-emissions-triggered crisis where nature in reacting on a macro
The sobering conclusion is
that our armoury is inadequate to deal with either end of nature’s scale
we, as a society do?
To start with, it would help
to shed some of the chutzpah that we have allowed ourselves to adopt
through the 20th century — that we can develop technologies to overcome
nature and re-shape our environment.
There is no doubt progress in
science and technology has served humanity well over centuries and they
will continue to be called upon to serve society for centuries to come.
What we will need, however,
is an outlook that seeks to harness our knowledge of science to work in
harmony with nature, rather than attempt to bulldoze it.
In all of this, nature seems
to expect of us a certain economy of consumption and gentleness of impact.
A human society that is
sympathetic to and in harmony with our environment, and where human beings
listen to and nurture their selves, may be an enduring recipe for a safer
India has a long heritage of
nurturing one’s inner self — yoga and meditation have been adopted
globally as secular exercises for a more robust constitution.
India also has a long
tradition of dealing with frugality as a virtue and can easily relate to
what in ancient Greece was revered as gaia — dealing with the earth as our mother.
These can be timeless lessons
as human society seeks closer harmony with nature, to take us on to a
safer trajectory in a post COVID-19 world.