Exactly a year ago I was in quarantine for roughly three months. I experienced a life of complete and total isolation where I worked from home online and lived by myself alone in an apartment. My life alternated between work, exercise, cooking, cleaning and praying. It was a unique experience for me to experience Ramadan in complete isolation. I wasn’t allowed to go outside so I decided to walk on my roof in order to get some sunlight. A year later, this month of Ramadan, I recall some of the hard challenges I faced then and still face now. Many of you might be able to identify with these challenges and perhaps some of the solutions also.
Working away from home and knowing that you will be stuck in a foreign country for an indefinite time isn’t very comforting to anyone- to say the least. Being stuck in an apartment for what seems like an eternity was only slightly uncomfortable. The thoughts that haunted me most was what happens when we no longer have jobs? What happens if I can never get back to my family? What happens when the world after the pandemic is not one we know how to navigate? My way of dealing with problems is to always go back to the basics. What do we really need to survive? Do I really need a job?
Believe it or not, there was a time most people didn’t have jobs. Before multinational and national corporations, most people were self employed. They traded their own services to people. There was a thriving middle class and a lot less anxiety in the world. People lived closer to the source and could carve out a living not having to entirely rely on a developed infrastructure. In our world today, at least in developed nations, we are so reliant on the infrastructure of the state that we aren’t able to survive outside the constructs of how goods and services are delivered. What happens if, despite all your money, the shops are empty and you cannot buy food?
Don’t wait for that day to come where you are going to be held captive by your inability to acquire food. What I recommend is that everyone should start learning how to grow their own food. Not as a replacement for the food you buy at the shop, but as a supplement. At least harness the skills you need to produce some food for yourself and your family. In the world we live in today, we simply cannot trust a wealthy elite to not destroy the entire planet. We can however, learn to gain some semblance of independence by not buying into their narrative. What is their narrative you ask? It’s the part where a happy life requires all their gadgets and the standard of living they promote on their media outlets. Frankly, we don’t actually need much to survive. Relative poverty never killed or harmed anyone. As long as I have what I need to survive, I am doing fine. Are you?
One of the trends that we are experiencing rapidly is the increase in antisocial behavior. People have developed an unnatural inability to interact with other people because interpersonal skills have been traded for social media. Dependence on technology and the dopamine hits people have become accustomed to when artificially given a pat on the back has and still will create many psychological disorders. Validation no longer has much to do with building up social capital within the same locality. The result is that we are seeing a significant breakdown in physical communities as each person wanders-off to talk to people online who live on the other side of the world. Social cohesion has broken down and societies are becoming increasingly fragmented as people are not conversant with the things that affect and or benefit their common interests. Long before the pandemic, people have already gone into isolation- albeit mentally. This unfortunate situation creates a dangerous platform for dissent, violence and hatred. Can we avoid it?
One way in which to mitigate the problems accompanied by using social media is simply to use it wisely. Social media could be a good tool to help organize local communities around common themes and where regular social events can be arranged. In other words, try to localize your use of social media.Use it as an accompaniment to actual physical interaction you have with people around you. Have friends on social media that you actually know. Use social media to help you foster real relationships with people. Also, limit your use of social media to set times so that your virtual life isn’t more prominent than your actual life. People are so hooked on social media that they aren’t able to live without having their mobile phones at hand so that they can see who all ‘liked’ their posts. What we need is a mass detox from all these artificial forms of stimulus so that we can again appreciate a simple walk in the sun.
If anything, this pandemic taught me to appreciate touch. There have been times in my life when I’ve not touched a single person for months at a time. Affection, hugs, and company are all important things for mental health. We are social creatures and we function best as part of a community and family. Connectedness and engagement with other humans is part of social integration. Without these important bonds we lose sight of how connected we really are, and the fact that in our world we cannot really survive without the help of others. In our individual pursuits we have forgotten just how fragile we are as a species and how close we are to being totally annihilated, if not by a microscopic creature, then by the inability to simply get a long.