COVID pandemic: A cleansing
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - August 18, 2020 - 12:00am

The COVID pandemic is now on its eighth month and it cannot be denied that it has changed the lives and lifestyles of people all over the world. A recent SWS survey in the Philippines showed that 79% of the Filipinos admitted that their lives have worsened in the last seven months, 12% said their lives were unchanged, and 9% said it had gotten better. The survey emphasized the immediate economic effects and, as expected, the economic recession negatively affected a large majority.

But beyond the economic/financial impact, there are broader intermediate and long-term effects to all, in the areas of family, society and humanity. The re-evaluation of family and moral values, the re-ranking of social, political, and environmental priorities, and the emergence/strengthening of religious faith and practices have preoccupied all in this time of quarantines and lockdowns.

The newspapers, radio and television that have been covering the pandemic, both in health and economic areas, have reported the caring and sacrificing actions of the frontliners in the hospitals, the government offices, and in the essential services sectors. The kindness and sharing attitude of families toward the less fortunate and the support from civic organizations and civil society volunteers were equally significant. The contributions of the business community to the public health initiatives and to their workers are also commendable. These are also all reflected in the more pervasive social media, which shows all the charitable works of people from all sectors and social classes.

There is also an overdose of prayers, sagacious pieces of advice and platitudes on how to live a more useful/purposeful life and to concentrate on actions and things that really matter on Viber, Messenger, Facebook, Twitter and emails. It seems like the digital world has discovered all the noble and moral stories and are posting them. If all these have touched our hearts and minds, then we have become a more caring, sharing and prayerful people in the last eight months.

For health reasons, the social distancing protocols have greatly diminished the places and occasions for vices. Pleasure sites like bars, nightclubs, sex places, drug dens and even smoking places have closed or become unviable businesses. To the satisfaction of many religion and the religious, the pandemic restrictions are forcing a moral revival willingly or unwillingly. The physical restrictions have actually brought down the crime rate by 50% in the past few months in all the crime categories. Moreover, despite the of lack of access to the physical churches, more people are praying and going to virtual churches from their homes. Partly due to fear and insecurity, we are becoming more prayerful and religious.

The effects of this pandemic on the environment have been extraordinary and beyond the wildest dreams of environmentalists. Air pollution and carbon emission have greatly reduced that the air and atmosphere worldwide have been cleaner, making it more conducive for the birds, insects and for humans. Mount Everest is now visible from the cities of India and Pakistan, and so is a clearer Mount Fuji and Mayon Volcano from nearby cities. The diminished demand for fuel, power and water transport have also reduced water pollution and restocked the sea and inland waters with the fishes and vegetation. And the lesser volume of material things (except for medical waste) due to lower production and consumption of clothes, shoes and other household items has actually reduced physical garbage.

In the political world, which is also now in crisis, this pandemic is highlighting the excesses and incompetence of political leaders and politicians. The good leaders will shine and get the continued support of their people and the unworthy ones will not last. This health and economic crisis will last long enough to show the leaders who serve and deserve to continue to govern. This pandemic is really the most efficient way of cleansing the people, the society, the environment, the politics and the world of their excesses, and only God could do it.

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