What the pandemic, and all its variants, have revealed about our species
It came out of nowhere and shook up the world in the oddest of ways. In early 2019, if a time traveler from the not-too-distant future had told the world a global crisis would kill millions and wreak havoc on the global economy, starting in about a year, those in 2019 would probably guess it would be either from a nuclear catastrophe (calm down Kim!) or that global warming would abruptly shift into another gear (neither of which is still out of the question).
Instead, our global civilization was hijacked by something much smaller than a hair follicle, which traveled the world and reproduced itself with freakish efficiency.
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed numerous truths about humanity, from our weakness when confronted with isolation, to the destabilizing power social media can have on society. On that same front, we have learned that much of what we call civilization is extremely susceptible to the deceptive power of misinformation.
This is nothing new.
But the pandemic, along with the influx of information, misinformation and disinformation brought about by modern technologies, have fueled the already growing polarization manifested in most nations today. Much of the world is no longer just divided between liberals and conservatives, now it’s also vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers (which, depending on where in the world you live, can lean either more liberal or more conservative).
To top it off, relationships have ended, and families have broken up over simple arguments over the origin of the virus. Beliefs about how this thing started are held with such conviction it seems entirely new religions have spawned into existence. Loyal adherents of Lableakism are constantly clashing with fundamentalist Wetmarketistians, and a bizarre kind of origin war looms on the horizon.
In all seriousness, these behaviors show how many of us are unable to deal with uncertainty, either because our egos are too big to accept the many mysteries involving the pandemic’s beginnings, or because not knowing can be extremely frustrating. Regardless of what we believe, as of late December 2021, there are no official answers to the true origin of the pandemic, and there may never be, no matter how many YouTubers passionately attest to knowing all the facts.
Uncertainty is an unfortunate but undeniable part of reality, but, as I have written about in previous articles, our brains, which likely have not changed much over the last 45,000 years or so, are having trouble processing all the complexities of modern-day realities.
How the pandemic has affected democracy
The problem with this increasing polarization is that it erodes the necessary cohesion needed for societies to function as a whole, especially democracies, many of which appear to be weakening by the day, as fewer and fewer citizens find themselves able to agree on just about anything. The pandemic obviously isn’t the only driver of the recent disunity of society, but it may very well be an important factor.
It doesn’t help that today there is a YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram page, TikTok, etc., for just about anything you want to believe, no matter how unreasonable. Thanks to the information storm brought about by social media and the virus, some traditional anti-science movements have converged with more modern ones. Flat-earthers and Covid deniers have united as one, and many climate change deniers find they have a lot in common with the neo-antivaxxer movement, a relationship that might go a long way if given the right circumstances (a bottle of wine often does the trick).
Living in a bubble
The power of social media, coupled with pandemic fuelled isolation, means we spend more time in our ideologically driven social bubbles. As a result, dogma has trumped reason for too many people, and democratic nations with an extremely polarized, confused, and misinformed electorate cannot function properly, especially when the fundamental need to reach consensus becomes virtually impossible.
Perhaps the concept of democracy (which became especially popularized well over 200 years ago, though under very different circumstances than those of today) is outdated. Perhaps a new form of decision-making, one that does not include the average citizen -who now seems far more disconnected from reality than in the recent past-, is necessary.
Regardless, Covid-19 has been more like a mirror than a pandemic, revealing more about ourselves than we dare to accept.
Speaking of mirrors, if you like what you just read, you might enjoy my fiction novel The Shadow in the Mirror, where you can find out what’s actually going on with Harold Hopkins, and what he is actually seeing in the mirror.
Harold’s only wish is to lead a normal life. Yet for reasons he can’t comprehend, he is shunned by all living things. No matter how hard he tries, he is unable to garner attention from the woman he loves, nor can he foster genuine friendships or find a decent job. Meanwhile, since childhood, he has been haunted by his own reflection in the mirror, which frequently acts as a window to another world. The person on the other side is everything Harold wishes he could be, like a clone of himself leading the fruitful life he was destined to lead. He finally sets off in search of answers, where he learns about the unearthly events that took place when he was born, and discovers the tantalizing truth about his own existence…
Available on Amazon both in paperback and Kindle here.