We’re in a new stage in our “relationship” with the pandemic. We recognize that it’ll stay with us for a long time, perhaps forever, and we’re frustrated. Everyone’s exhausted by the virus; nerves are stretched thin and can snap at any moment. This tension manifests differently in different people, but virtually always negatively—increased violence, depression, intolerance, political and religious extremism, and violent protests.
If matters continue to evolve in this direction, they can easily lead to civil unrest or even civil war. In a state where people see no future, when they are hopeless, they are capable of anything, including the most extreme violence just to break out of the dreary apathy that’s pulling them down. If we let ourselves go down that path, life will be hell on earth.
But there is another way. In such a dire state, under a clear threat to everyone’s lives, perhaps we will realize that our worst and only enemy is our own egoism. Not mine, or his, or hers alone, but of all of us as a collective. We, as a society, are very selfish and idolize selfish individuals who present themselves as happy thanks to their selfishness. When we admire selfish individuals, we are admiring selfishness and, even worse, make everyone else admire it.
By definition, a society is the opposite of selfishness. If we want to be individualistic, we should retire to some secluded place, live by ourselves, and whoever survives, survives. But if we want to live as a society, we have to behave as parts of it, namely not individualistically but socially. If we want to live in a society yet behave as though we’re by ourselves and only we matter, society will explode. This is what we’re doing to ourselves right now. If we agree that humans are social beings, we have to act the part. It is common sense.
A society is much stronger than an individual. It can provide us with everything we need and much more: security, sustenance, education, entertainment, leisure, fun and games, support when we are weak, and peace of mind about the future. What should we do in return for these benefits? We should do for others what they do for us. Reciprocity is the key to any successful relationship, and the same goes for our relationship with society.
If we realize that our egos have blinded us to this obvious truth, we will make our lives heaven on earth. This is where we can go, if we choose to do it together. The simple truth is that there is nothing more senseless and weakening than thinking of ourselves, and nothing smarter and more emboldening than thinking of each other.