It’s been a fascinating experience to see how the world has responded to the lockdown; a unique and unprecedented experience hopefully never to be faced again. We all keep saying this pandemic has brought the world to a united front and we are all experiencing a shared space of uncertainty and trauma. But is this really true?

Globally, each country is taking similar steps in terms of locking down the country, maintaining social distancing and focusing more on the digital space, amongst other things. But more than ever before, one understands the ranking of countries by their economic strength. Where China can build massive state-of-the-art hospitals overnight, poor countries like Pakistan are struggling to get enough testing kits to find out the real numbers of patients affected with the virus. Having said that, one has also seen how even a superpower like the US has been brought to its knees as its healthcare system seems to be collapsing under the weight of COVID-19. Which makes me wonder if those who live in glass houses should not throw stones?

What has truly been disturbing for me is how the class difference in Pakistan has been exposed. The rich and privileged class was always in lockdown wasn’t it? Socially distant from the poor working class, it’s only the distance they have to maintain from the same class now that is giving them anxiety attacks and making them feel disempowered.

When was the last time anyone hugged his or her cleaning lady or driver? Some don’t like even sharing utensils. Most of us have always treated them like the untouchables but now our segregation is a requirement so we do it without guilt.

Another eye opener is the problems that the rich man has compared to the poor. With so many people out of jobs and worried about their next meal, social media is filled with photos of fancy food being cooked by people as they try to entertain themselves in quarantine. Boredom is the biggest problem for many.

I don’t want to discount the charity Pakistanis give in difficult times but it’s the attitude that bothers me where a limit is defined when it comes to giving to others but none whatsoever when it comes to taking.

The other day, my friend was very upset, expressing how there is so much she can save now but she has no place to spend that money. Many responses came to my mind but I politely wished her well for this dilemma she is going through. Its mind boggling that sharing that extra saving with the needy is an idea that is not even crossing the mind.

Another enlightening fact that came to my awareness was how people were hoarding goods from grocery stores, fearing food to run out and it made me think of how many of us always said, “ghareeb logon ki bhook khatam nahin hoti” (the appetites of the poor are never fully satiated). And then I want to ask myself if this hunger that we judge them on was because our stomachs are always full?

Human nature I believe, is similar in its core. This illusion that we all had of being superior, more civilised, and cultured has fallen like a house of cards. Corona has made all of us regress to our reptilian brain shared by mammals with the need for survival being paramount. From here the behaviour patterns that emerge include defence of self, family, personal property etc. And like animals we are guarding ourselves against all harm, oblivious to what’s happening around us.

Where is the empathy where I can sacrifice cooking prawns for lunch and share the same amount with the unemployed man on the street? Will we have the courage to share the hundreds of masks and sanitisers we have stored with those who don’t have the money or access to get them?

What we don’t realise is that the nature of this disease is such that selective protection is not going to save us. I can wear all the masks I want but if my cook is not protected, I am at risk too. Everyone is trying to decipher the message this pandemic is sending and yes, mother earth is healing, yes, we have been forced to pause and rest but more than any other time this is the time for inner reflection. It is the time to ask ourselves how we want to connect with everyone else. Are we going to be picky about it and continue to discriminate people over financial status or are we really going to connect as one human to another? It’s time we started.

This is the time to practice gratitude and empathy and once the lockdown is lifted; to socially connect without judgment and unite across the board as if there is anything this pandemic has taught us , it’s that we all need each other.