November 29, 2020
News Opinion

PAUL HOPKINS: Life in the time of coronavirus: A diary of self-imposed isolation

Covid-19 crisis has been coming for some time

You couldn’t make it up.

Well, in truth, you could. The award-winning movie Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Matt Damon. Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Gwyneth Palthrow, and which I watched for the first time at the weekend, tells of health and government officials and everyday folk finding themselves in the midst of a pandemic when an American woman returns from Hong Kong carrying a Covid-19-like, bat-incubated disease.

The thing is, this movie was made back in 2011! So, yes, you could make it up…

Depending on which news source you access, the picture can either seem fatal or just like a bad bout of Covid-19’s first cousin, the annual winter flu. The reality is there is a lot we don’t know about Covid-19.

Here’s what we do know, and the first is frightening (and, uncannily, set in the script of Contagion).

Academics at Harvard University and scientists in China and elsewhere have known for at least three years, probably much longer  — 2011? — of the possibility of a new super virus. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch has repeatedly predicted that a new coronavirus “will ultimately not be containable” and, within a year, will infect between 40% and 70%of  humanity.

Even Bill Gates  — and, no, that’s not funny that the Microsoft entrepreneur should know about viruses —  has been saying for years that the world will be found wanting in dealing with an “inevitable” pandemic.

The understandable panic caused by the coronavirus illustrates how easily interconnected the world has become, how fluidly people move from one location to another, yet how national infrastructure and policies are still so very different. Ironically, in this age of machines, and where social media dominates, markets are responding to the risk that humans will have even less physical interaction with each other and will enjoy less physical forms of consumption like travel, shopping and such.

The crisis  has shown that, initially and up to a week or so ago,  there has been little to no co-ordination between nations —  so much for globalisation — and alludes to a fractured world, and the initial paltry performance of the WHO reinforces the view that its, like globalisation’s, time has come.

Obviously, there is the hit to world trade, with hospitality and airlines the obvious ‘victims’, though I do believe that ‘elitist’ forms of travel and, indeed, surprise, surprise, healthcare will continue to thrive.

As for a vaccine, the Israelis are said to be close to one, with human trials already taking place in Seattle, Washington. There are also high hopes that an anti-malaria may prove beneficial.

Other than that, despite the warnings for years, we are a world caught off guard. Italy and Spain are living their worst  nightmare, a new world order of sorts. And the US, and indeed the UK.

The rising figures in Ireland and possible projected statistics for how many will be affected, and how many might die, are terrifying. But the current action by Leo, Simon, and the HSE and co (and I applaud them and all our front-line workers loudly) hopefully will Ireland get this awful matter under some kind o acceptable control.

Only time will tell, sadly, the catastrophic cost for the world at large being caught with its guard down …

Meanwhile, there are numerous life-changing incidents every day throughout the world that show human resilience at its best.  How can we account for the resilience of the human spirit?

We come into the world confronted by what philosopher William James — brother of author Henry — famously called “a blooming buzzing confusion” and we must somehow organise this chaos into a reasonably stable and meaningful personal world which includes a sense of a continuous, stable, yet dynamic, self. And, as Carl Jung so well understood, our ego must deal not only with external challenges but also challenges that come “from inside us”, demanding expression in our individual lives.

We humans are intrinsically tough and resilient. The unique evolutionary path we have taken as a species relies predominantly on learning, openness, flexibility, and adaptability.

We survive and even thrive in every conceivable environment on this planet. We have created a bewildering variety of social and cultural realities, where we endlessly experiment and reinvent ourselves.

Behind our locked doors and in hospital and science labs throughout the world, we humans are right now endlessly experimenting and reinventing ourselves.

Stay safe…

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