Tales from the ivory tower
I wish I didn’t know much about the crisis but since I do, let me share a few thoughts.
Yesterday I read an article writing about the fact that in big cities people are more lonely and the family connections are weaker so they might feel more isolated and protective, therefore more focused on themselves and in this particular situation we are facing, having less concern for the collective good. And I personally think that this is one of the reasons why some regions are doing worse than others in this pandemic. Another reason is that countries like Portugal haven't faced this type of crisis (a big natural catastrophe or war) in the past few centuries, making them unable to collectively respond to the situation and mobilize resources. Nothing bad with that, actually kudos to all countries who have been successfully avoiding wars and building peace! But this is one of the reasons that Portugal still didn't find the right strategy to fight the pandemic.
On the other hand that is not quite true for the country I came from — historically called Yugoslavia, today Serbia. Living through two wars by the age of 15, I have the first-hand experience on how important is to be united and use collective strength to fight the “enemy”. In the first war that never had battlefields in the territory where I lived, but was 70km away from it, as a 7-year-old girl together with my classmates I went through evacuation drills every week in case the city was attacked. I don't remember much of it, but sticking together and holding hands was something important to know, as none of us would be able to survive on our own.
Later on, in 1999 Yugoslavia was attacked with an airstrike for 78 consecutive days. My town was the target of attacks a couple of times, and few bombs fall not even a kilometre away from my house. It was scary, to say the least. Together with all my friends, I never finished primary school and had the longest school break ever (and when I say the longest I don't mean in days).
At some point during these three months, apart from military targets, NATO started bombing civilian structures, bridges, factories and TV stations, crippling every niche of society. Bombs that fall on the building of national television killed 16 people and left ruins that you can see even today when you visit Belgrade.
Without many thoughts and very spontaneously people decided that the only way to protect those important civilian landmarks was with our own bodies because we felt that they didn't want to repeat the human rights violation that happened with TV station (by courtesy of war). And so we started going out gathering at the main squares and wearing targets on our chests, playing music and dancing all day. I remember my mom would go to work every day even though the car factory she worked at was not functioning but she and her colleagues would all be there trusting that this way they´ll protect each other and their work. Every night, hundreds of thousands of people would gather on a few bridges that were not destroyed shielding it by simply staying there holding hands.
We knew that only together we can protect each other, we risked our lives to protect our lives!
Today 20 years after I don't tremble any more when I hear the plane, I rarely remember the day that bombing started, and although human lives can not be replaced, we recovered and moved on (not far, but we moved on).
What I do remember is that every right we have brings with it a duty, civilian duty to protect whats collective, to protect human lives. And that every time someone or something threatens to destroy it, we must stand up (or for what is worth today — stay in). And that is why when I am told to stay at home, I f***ing do so, and if I know that my individual behaviour can harm someone unintentionally I will make sure to prevent it.
One good thing, if there is any good thing about war, is that we have learned that each life matters, that we are more than just individuals, we are part of communities and as they take care of us, we must also take care of them. We learned to react fast in the situation of crisis and to mobilize resources very effectively.
I still speak from my ivory tower a lot of us have built for protection, but let´s not forget that while we might live alone, only together we can exist.
“No man is an island… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John Donne