Fear factor
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - April 5, 2020 - 12:00am

Everyone’s just trying to wrestle with this insta-challenge called “quarantine” in his or her own way. Some are being incredibly inventive, what with couch yoga or impromptu concerts, and others are going out of their bloody minds. It all depends, I would guess, on how they view isolation and being unable to connect with other people.

It’s well acknowledged that humanity is a social animal. Unless, of course, we are talking about anti-social individuals (of which I’m sometimes guilty when I want to hibernate for short spells). But the largely prevalent mix-and-mingle nature, more pronounced in some than in others, is driving the sociable beast nuts inside confined quarters.

That nature may even account for the shift in public opinion that is slowly making its presence felt, although as of now, perhaps going unacknowledged.

Right when it was announced, the enhanced community quarantine, a.k.a. lockdown, that was dictated upon us was mostly accepted as a necessary evil. To save lives, it was necessary to sacrifice. We all felt empowered, with calls to action and defiant posts about stepping up and doing our part.

But boy, nobody really understood what sacrifice meant until now, three weeks into the quarantine and counting. That sacrifice actually meant giving up a host of “normal” activities, like flying on planes, dining in restaurants, watching movies, and the list goes on and on. And that’s just the fun part. The more essential element to this sacrifice was the inability of most breadwinners to earn for their families. To put food on the table. To sustain themselves for the here and the now.

Now that the enormity of the sacrifice has sunk in, other thoughts have started bubbling up: Is this all really necessary? Do we really have to go to this extent? That businesses are shuttered? That jobs aren’t bringing in the moolah? What is the cost of potentially saving lives, versus the cost of the masses going hungry?

Here comes the calculus. Watch how people will start to try to balance human lives saved, on one hand, against the economic costs, on the other. As the trillions in losses start piling up, the question in some people’s minds become: Is saving a hundred, a thousand, or even ten thousand lives worth more than the suffering of millions?

It depends on who we are talking to, I suppose. Trump is definitely on the “nay” side. He wanted to reopen America by Easter Sunday. But perhaps he has come to grips with the fact that America has had so many sick people arriving in its hospitals (a thousand dead daily!) that Easter wouldn’t be resurrection for a lot of Americans.

As for the Philippines, the economic ministers and the people in the know seem to be hinting that the lockdown is going to ease up a bit, what with the economy sputtering dangerously, and social unrest already visible on the horizon. So perhaps there will be a determination that the medical risks for a segment of the population isn’t as high as the economic risks for another segment of the population. That may spell the end of the quarantine, off to work we go.

I can already see the itch in some friends to enjoy the same liberties they were able to enjoy, pre-COVID-19. They’re going to be ecstatic with a lifting of social restrictions, uncaring about the risk this poses to the more vulnerable side of society. On the other hand, the high-risk subset, the older ones, the unhealthy or immune compromised friends, are going to be dreading that eventuality.

Which way will we go? Let us see. Will the finer, nobler side of our humanity prevail? Or will the boomer-removers, the callous and the ignorant ignore the principled stand?

All I know is, unless there is a vaccine, I will remain very afraid.

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