Covid-19: The catalyst for change ©

Covid-19 has changed our lives; has it ever.  We must change ourselves on a personal level to meet this moment.  Unless we change how we think and behave, no amount of testing or hand sanitising will have a lasting effect.

Crises bring out the best–and the worst–in people. How do you wish to be remembered?  Anyone can get through life when things are easy.  Our mettle is tested in hard times. We all now can rise to the occasion and live a life that makes a statement, not an apology–not because someone’s watching or telling us we have to, but because we want a clear conscience and in the circumstances, because we know deep down it could save a life. 

Look at how companies have changed what they produce to deliver what is needed, how people try to adapt to changing working conditions, how religious observances have changed into solo performances to keep people safe, how we’re wearing masks along with our other accessories.  Look at the individuals taking pay cuts and donating money to various funds and the healthcare workers in South Africa risking their lives going door-to-door testing the population.  Look at what was changed so we could enjoy an exquisite performance in (and in front of) a mesmerising cathedral in Italy to boost our spirits.  But what will happen after lockdown restrictions have been lifted?

Already people across all socio-economic strata blatantly disregard lockdown regulations.  What’s that about?  If these people want to risk arrest or a fine or illness or death, they’re welcome to it, but they cannot be reckless and potentially hand a life sentence to someone else. How can we think we can carry on as before with just a few tweaks as if we are absolved of responsibilities, and we can flout rules, however minor the transgressions, believing things do not apply to us? 

I now follow the news a little more than usual but not obsessively because I want to protect my mental health. I shriek at the know-nothing, unchanged, ego-based leadership in other parts of the world squabbling about who can urinate the farthest or highest while the world is disintegrating.  Sad, small mortals playing God with people’s lives and rationalising their misguided, ignorant actions.  They have not changed despite the changing world.  But we lesser gods must be the example, and we must change.  We are all in this together.  What one person does affects everyone else, now more than ever. 

This deadly virus that shows no favouritism is challenging us to become our best selves, to become more principled, to show our fellow man respect and consideration, to be responsible, to sacrifice small pleasures now for a chance at greater pleasures later.  We’ve been given an opportunity to focus on the present, to let go of past hurts and injustices, to follow the rules not make a mockery of them, to be patient, calm and appreciative, to do no harm, and not to be fearful or neurotic.  What we do today will affect what happens tomorrow, not only to us and our insular worlds but to all of us. 

The impact of this virus is a pain in the neck; it is inconvenient and frustrating, and it keeps us shackled, yet the things we have to do now have to be done, end of the story.  Why do we whinge about our freedoms being curtailed and our lack of access to alcohol in South Africa when the world is burning around us?  So much about our lives has changed, for all of us, and we have to go with the flow, not always knowing if this will save us from devastation, but we have to try at least. This is our wake-up call to grow up, to forego instant gratification, to accept we have to do things differently, to re-assess priorities, and to become mature, accountable citizens of the world. 

We in South Africa seem to be on a privileged path. I do not mean in terms of where we can shop and which schools our children attend.  I mean we are privileged to be ahead of the curve of this deadly virus; we are privileged to be led through this crisis by thinking individuals who listen to experts and who are doing the best they can in harsh and multi-pronged circumstances to control the impact of this virus.  We owe them our respect and our support by doing our part.  We owe it to ourselves. I say all this knowing that lives have been devastated, livelihoods have been wrecked, people are suffering, and countless are doing without–all the more reason why we have to change what we used to do and do what we need to do, so we can hopefully survive this crisis, perhaps be on call to help others– but either way hold our heads up high. 

We need to keep our dignity, our integrity and our humanity and change for the better as required.  We have to change our outlook, understanding and compassion.  We have to change our behaviours and our actions, and how we treat people and what we do to them. We’ve got to stop beating up on others and improve ourselves.  We have to do this not because we fear being caught but because we know it is the right thing to do.  Our character is under the spotlight in a crisis.  Do we want to be the one who ignored what needed to be done because no-one would know? 

© Dr Beba (X M) Papakyriakou asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.  The idea and concept of this work are original and the intellectual property rights vest in the author and may not be utilised by anyone without the author’s written consent. This material is for information and entertainment purposes only.  

About the Author

Dr Beba Papakyriakou is a freelance writer, editor, and researcher in psychology working from home in South Africa.  She loves to travel, is an avid reader with a well-stocked personal library, and she has been involved in volunteer work with child abuse organisations in South Africa since the mid-1990s. She obtained her four psychology degrees through part-time study, and she has an extensive writing and editing portfolio dating to the mid-1980s (available on request).  She has presented papers related to the topics of her Master’s degree and her PhD at various conferences and congresses. When she is not working, studying, writing, taking care of family, or travelling, she enjoys playing Rummikub with her friends, going to the theatre, and eating out.