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Fragments on Fragments #25: Being Human in a Pandemic

Fragments on Fragments #25: Being Human in a Pandemic

25 The sea is both pure and polluted: a happy home for fish, for us undrinkable and deadly

 Or as the old English proverb goes (with its traditional gendered language), ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’.

As I’m writing, in several European countries cases of coronavirus are rising again, apparently led by a sharp increase among young people. The suspicion going around is that many young people have firstly, got completely fed up with having their social life curtailed and secondly, realised that the risks to people of their age group from COVID-19 are pretty low – and so they are taking less and less care about the precautions against spreading the virus.

Whatever may be really happening, it’s become clear that COVID-19 is far more dangerous for those who are in any case more vulnerable, through age or illness – even more so than one might have expected. So there is a question about how those who are least likely to be affected, and those most at risk, live together in one society.

It’s not possible for society to remain in lockdown indefinitely, either economically or psychologically, even if that might be the perfect solution for protecting the most vulnerable. But neither is it in the least OK to write off those who will be most at risk for the benefit of the economy and those who want to get back to normal and take the risk. It’s an unenviable task for governments and those who have to take the decisions, because there’s not a solution which will work for everyone. But I’m thinking more about how we as individuals shape our behaviour and our thinking around a wider perspective than our own interests.

Maintaining social coherence and mutuality in a pandemic has to involve sacrifice for everyone, if it is to be perceived as fair by everyone (or at least by most). For ourselves as individuals, that involves living with the question, ‘What am I prepared to sacrifice?’ alongside the other question, ‘What do I need?’

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