Society Has Lost It: How A Pandemic Made Us Forget Our Humanity
It has been two whole years and somehow in those two years, it seems society has completely lost it. When the Covid-19 virus started to spread in late 2019, I was reading up on it and roughly understood what was happening. But I took for granted the understanding and trust I had in things like the Covid vaccine and masks, and health guidance provided by agencies like World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. So, when it came to people who were reluctant to believe the virus was real, I really just could not understand why. I found myself wondering, how did something so heavily found upon evidence and data like a virus, become such a controversial and politicized topic of discussion? Shouldn’t a crisis like this be where people come together in unity regardless of our differences? One would assume this situation would trigger the social obligation in individuals to do their part and protect fellow members of society.
Social obligation is the idea of working with individuals and organizations for the benefit of the greater community. But this pandemic proved this is definitely something we obviously are struggling with as a country. Some of us clearly didn’t feel we owed anyone anything or to consider other people’s situations at this time — clearly showing a lack of empathy.
Empathy is the foundation of social obligation, without it, social obligation isn’t “social” at all. Empathy allows you to feel a moral duty to help someone. I come to think of this saying by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:
“None of you has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
But I think many of us failed at this and I can now see how something as simple as empathy can make or break the success of a civilization. Lack of social obligation is causing huge moral failures from the individual level from people like you and me to the global stage of world governments and greedy pharmaceutical companies.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to show the true colors of individuals in our society. When the pandemic hit one also saw the indifference towards the poor in this pandemic and even before. In fact, the World Bank estimates some 88 million people or more went into extreme poverty due to the pandemic. Yet, billionaires doubled their wealth during this time
This has escalated to such a level that countries with lesser resources are missing out on receiving vaccines because some companies do not want to share their technology with them to do so. This has prevented countries from being able to use that technology to manufacture the vaccine safely in their own countries. Amnesty International stated that:
“In 2021, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna projected revenues of up to US $54 billion, yet supplied less than 2% of their vaccines to low-income countries.”
Rather than using their wealth to help humanity, pharmaceutical companies benefited greatly instead of helping poor nations to have access to vaccines as it wasn’t in their interests. In the end, it simply looks like their only goal was to make money out of a crisis.
And at an individual level, I know of people within my own network hosting large gatherings and events where guests were unmasked despite the various waves of variants. Living with my two grandparents and knowing of other vulnerable people in my family, it boggles my mind to see people playing with risk so carelessly.
TikTok was filled with videos of people staging protests to enter venues unmasked or without their vaccine card despite the local mandates, causing disruption for law enforcement, the other customers, and most importantly, the hard-working staff. Influencers and celebrities were called out for vacations, partying, and traveling in groups despite giving advice to stay home and be safe.
As we enter year three of this pandemic, it’s clearly shown that worrying about only yourself and your own interests holds everyone else back. We have not collectively worked together as we should have. We have not helped nor been as considerate as we should have. But perhaps this can be an opportunity to reset, be better and move forward — a chance to build our empathy, understand our social obligations, and that we all have a responsibility to take care of each other.