The other day, someone remarked, “The air is the cleanest it has ever been, and here we are, forced to wear masks when we go out.”
It made me pause. This was irony at its best. I wondered, what else is turning upside down?
Well, for starters, a tiny, invisible virus has brought the entire world to its knees. Whatever the arsenal of weapons and nuclear power, however filled the treasury coffers, none of it matters in the slightest. Might is not right. Brute force is not winning. Money is not buying its way to anything. The virus does not care about the moral superiority of any group, it is oblivious to borders and the wars being fought for territorial lines, it couldn’t care less who is privileged and who is not. If there ever was an illustration of how a small, non-descript force can create the most tempestuous storm and change the course of history, this is it.
And I could see more.
The ignored are being saluted. Garbage collectors that are stepping out to keep the city clean, sanitation workers who are mopping up to minimise the virus’ spill, truck drivers that are ferrying food and essentials to restock grocery shops and pharmacies to keep us fed and healthy. These were the very people we didn’t think twice about until recently. Today, we are finally pulling our gaze away from ourselves to see them, really see them, for the service they do for us. Their labour, which has been derided and accordingly devalued as lowly and unskilled, is the very thing that is protecting humanity.
The tough job that teachers do is hitting home, literally, as parents struggle to keep their kids engaged and try to impart learning in the absence of a classroom. I have always wondered why we pay teachers as little as we do, and moreover, why we give them so little respect, preferring to look up to fancy financial whizzes who move virtual money around on computer terminals but can’t show anything tangible they’ve created. The profound contributions of a teacher are getting a new wind of appreciation.
Will this change things once the virus has exerted its wrath and gone away? I hope so. I hope we reconsider what we reward and who we admire. I hope we are able to continue showing gratitude for every person doing their job as honestly as they can, no matter what their station in life. I hope we continue looking people in the eye, to acknowledge their existence, to show a sense of camaraderie and community.
Perhaps the most upside down thing this virus has revealed is that we are all, indeed, one.
After the storm has passed, I sincerely hope we don’t go back to putting the furniture back straight. It was crooked all this time. The view from upside down is looking like the better one.