By Graeme Gordon, Executive Director of Praxity
When respect becomes a matter of life and death
In these days of social distancing and self-isolation, or “cocooning” as my wife and I prefer to call it, I’ve witnessed the amazing spirit of people all over the world in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic counterbalanced with outright selfishness.
In unprecedented times such as this, it’s worth looking back at key events and words in history to provide the perfect antidote to selfish behaviour.
Remember: those who do not learn from history will repeat it.
While cocooning, I’ve had time to read biographies on former leaders who had the capacity to unite people behind a common cause. Abraham Lincoln, for example, harked back to the US Declaration of Independence and “all men are created equal” with his magnificent opening lines of the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago”. Thus, reminding his listeners of the founding message of their historical past and what they were fighting for.
Luxury of knowledge
If we go back “five score years”, the Spanish Flu pandemic was an even greater battle for survival. It is said to have infected over a quarter the world’s then population, some 500 million people, and killed over 50 million. But we survived. And we did so with limited medical knowledge and procedures, and without the mass media that we have today.
In the current pandemic, we have the luxury of medical progress and information about how to limit our chances of infection, and unless we want to repeat the Spanish Flu numbers, we need to each do our bit.
So, when I see that Sydney’s Bondi Beach, London’s Richmond Park and various National Parks and monuments worldwide had to be closed to stop people gathering in great numbers, it makes me sad.
Even if individuals who ignore social distancing guidelines think themselves invulnerable, or immune if they believe they have already had the virus, they are still excellent carriers. Thus, they could infect others, which may result in death. Why do they not listen? Why do they not care?
People who flout the rules say they are exercising their freedom but to quote another great former leader, Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Respect and enhance
I wonder if they have any self-respect, let alone respect for others.
Whether you live in a so-called liberal democracy or in a one-party state, or something in-between, respect for others and the well-being of others, is essential for society to be maintained.
Maybe the French and others have got it right and the only way to stop selfish social distancing rule breakers, is to fine and prosecute them.
However, as an optimist, I hope that shaming, fining or other such methods will not be needed for everyone to do their bit. I hope you are an optimist too, because as Helen Keller said: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”
We will come through this, and we will be better for it in time. Just remember to help others where you can, whilst ensuring the social distancing rules.
Wishing you all good health and a long life.
For a little pick me up please see our latest article in HUB Lite here