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Current Covid situation: Do we feel responsible?

It is a must to not disregard our collective social obligations

In a Covid afflicted world, this ranges from the bare minimums such as wearing a mask, avoiding contact with people, sanitising and verifying information to helping with relief measures and collaborating with authorities for a safer public sphere
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In a Covid afflicted world, this ranges from the bare minimums such as wearing a mask, avoiding contact with people, sanitising and verifying information to helping with relief measures and collaborating with authorities for a safer public sphere

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THE current scenario bristles with unpredictability and chaos. As the world takes on an intimidating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the blame game keeps finding new people to criticise for our collective plight— the government, the opposition, the doctors have all been critiqued by people in a shape-shifting public narrative. While authorities and responsible agents have to be held accountable, this heedless pattern keeps externalising responsibility when it comes to us. As we sit in the comfort of our homes and vocalise opinions about who is doing a terrible job, we need to urgently ask ourselves if we are making a difference. In the co-Covid world, where precarity and uncertainty haunt our everyday, none of us can be outside the ambit of responsible action to keep ourselves and the world safe.

It is impossible to ignore the violations of authority mandated restrictions around Covid-19 by people. Even if there has been administrative incompetence in some situations, it is well-known that advisories and rules have been flouted, whether out of carelessness, greed or a resistance to hard reality. The outcome has been severe with a deadly viral spread and as much as we can try passing the blame to administrators, we too share a fair bit of it. In fact, when we see frontline workers, delivery persons, suppliers of essentials do their job against the raging pandemic, we can admit that we make little difference by not taking guidelines seriously and endlessly criticising others. Where do we look to move away from this cycle?

Professor Thomas Maak, in an article for a publication based at the University of Melbourne, speaks of "self-leadership", or the responsibility we take over our own actions. He notes, "Just as leaders of organisations and governments have to manage other people, self-leadership is about managing ourselves." This is a crucial idea in reimagining responsibility in the co-Covid world, as we no longer depend on what is larger than us to determine our immediate circumstances but take the onus of doing our best to help the gigantic whole that we are part of. In a Covid afflicted world, this ranges from the bare minimums such as wearing a mask, avoiding contact with people, sanitising and verifying information to helping with relief measures and collaborating with authorities for a safer public sphere.

It is a must to not disregard our collective social obligations. For instance, even if I have the resources and the space to organise a gathering for recreation, I must be cognisant of the fact that I would be worsening the situation and endangering lives. It begins with imaginations as simple as this. The moment we start revising our comforts and freedoms from such lenses of responsibility, the world automatically becomes a safer and better place. In this example, by foregoing luxuries of collective recreation, we are making a difference by limiting any potential immediate spread of the virus. Such a scenario is infinitely better than partying irresponsibly and subsequently blaming the government for not having enacted sufficient rules or provided relief in time.

To this effect, Harpreet Kaur Baweja pointedly notes in an article for a leading daily, "fear of law can't become the governing principle of regulating human behaviour in a society. Ultimately, all civilised societies depend upon the awareness of the individual citizens and also on their ability to conduct themselves in a free, fair and yet responsible manner." This is indeed true in a scenario where a lot of transmissions could have been limited if people simply followed the issued advisories sincerely.

The other way to consequentially respond to the co-Covid world is to participate in the change you want to see. For example, most recently, a lot of individuals and members of the civil society helped people in need by ensuring the procurement of resources such as medical oxygen, essential medicines and beds as well as collating information for relief and necessities, an endeavour which was appreciated as "crucial" by a three-judge bench at the Supreme Court of India. We should endeavour to be part of such relief efforts, if we can, to help in collecting verified information, offer our space for packaging of ration kits, supporting fundraisers to help particular groups, disseminating necessary facts and combating fake news. Through such efforts, we certainly step closer to a kind of responsible citizenry that elevates the world. Summing up, to quote Patrick Ness, "To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility." We certainly have the choice to make a difference, to realise the changes we want to see— all we need is to self-lead and act in accordance with transformatory potentials we hold.

(The author is founder, Upsurge Global, and Senior Advisor, Telangana State Innovation Cell)

Viiveck Verma
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