Normal life has its markers in our minds and we follow the paths to work, exercise and play. Coronavirus has interrupted all that and burned away our life markers in the 21st Century. We should realise that whatever affects our neighbour in the Corona lockdown, affects us also. We will also need to answer the question “Quo Vadis?” when we recreate our paths in life after the coronavirus.
Jesus was born in Nazareth, Galilee, at a time when the Roman emperor Herod ruled Palestine. He was a Roman citizen. Our character of today, Nero the notorious Roman emperor, was born in AD 37, four years after the ascension of Jesus Christ. Nero was only 16 years old when he became emperor; he ruled for 13 years. He was so cruel the Roman senate condemned him and soon he committed suicide and died in 68 AD. He was 30.
After Jesus started to preach, Christianity began to spread, and the Roman Emperors considered it a threat to their authority. In reaction, they started to persecute Christians. Later they built the Colosseum on the place where the statute of Nero stood, using forced labour. Tens of thousands of Christians and Jews and wild animals were killed as a punishment or to entertain the Romans.
During the reign of Nero, fires destroyed Rome. Many believed Nero was the arsonist because he didn’t like the architecture of the city. It was said he couldn’t find a good space to build his palace in the city. He wanted to burn and rebuild it again to his liking after securing a prime location for his palace along the Tiber River, which the Italians call “flavus”. Nero easily blamed the Christians for burning Rome.
The suffering of Christians in the Roman Empire continued until around 311 AD when the Emperor Galerius passed an edict to end the persecution.
During the persecution of Christians (according to the Apocryphal Acts of Peter), St. Peter escaped with his life and fled out of Rome. On the road, it is said, he met the risen Jesus, and asked him, “Quo Vadis?”
Jesus replied, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again”.
Peter was encouraged and returned to Rome, where he was crucified. He asked his executors to crucify him upside down because he could not be crucified in the same manner as Jesus, since he was not at his level.
That is the origin of the famous phrase, “Quo Vadis” which is widely repeated in political and other discourses with a slight alteration, meaning, where are we going to from here or in Arabic “Illa Ayn mn Huna?”
The tiny but cruel global novel virus that burned our way of life is the 21st century’s Nero to human beings. And humanity is asking “Quo Vadis?”
Quo Vadis post COVID 19?
What some people say… …
Many, including the experts in the subject matter of pandemic, think that the global novel virus called COVID has changed the world permanently and that our life style will never be the same. The macro thinkers state – with all confidence – that now that the artificial barriers have been removed – our life will certainly move to a virtual world. According to them attending funerals and barbecues will continue to be through Zoom. They believe comfort will be found from loneliness not from being with others. They think from now on mothers will be delivering her new born child alone, people will not gather to bury their loved ones. The ‘thinkers’ predict that the global economy, hence the Australian economy, will stay at its worst stage for years to come, and this will be marked by more polarised politics.
Simply put, their conclusion is: the global novel virus called COVID has changed the world permanently.
I do not (say)!
What I say… …
Call me unreasonably optimistic, I do not think, for a nanosecond that the world has changed forever as drastically as it is said due to COVID 19. Yes a number of “new normal” activities will be introduced, such as the Zoom meeting, working from home, hygienic awareness, etc. However, mark this day, next year i.e., by August 2021, COVID and its immediate impact will not be there heavily hovering over our heads. I do not see humanity with masks in their beautiful faces in mid 2021. In fact, it comes to my mind, when we see the photos of ourselves in mask, we will remember them as if it happened centuries ago, and laughing and discussing about the situation as a weird circumstance. We will say ‘Do you remember how we were forced to distant ourselves from our beloved families, how even one part of our body was not allowed to visit the other part of our body’ (do not touch your face, your eye, etc).
I do see that touching our own body, hugging whoever we want to hug and kiss, will not be a taboo. Colleges will re-open and students will flock to their dorm rooms on a populated campuses. Nations and people will not stay closed for ever. Roads will be filled and motorists will again get stuck behind lights, and one light cycle may be insufficient to allow all the motorists behind a light to pass through.
Flinders Street Station will be filled with thousands of people who commute on the lines of colourful trains, and run from one platform to the other to catch their train and be wherever they have to be.
Yes, airports will be fully crowded by travellers – cheek by jowl. Pregnant mothers will get high quality maternity services surrounded by their loved ones and hundreds of visitors. Families will organise their actual gathering and dining, they will hug, laugh and yes, sing with no masks in their house. Kids will give their parents a “Have a nice day”, kiss, and attend their school and mingle with their peers. Countries will restore their diplomatic and trade relationships that were adversely affected due to the misunderstanding triggered by the Pandemic.
The household name ‘coronavirus’ will fall into disuse. It will not appear frequently, and if it comes, it will be listed like its peers, in the pages of infectious seasonal diseases that come and go. We will give back the sacred name Corona to the bridal wreath and veil, the decorative headdress worn by women to symbolise her beauty.
Simply stated, the change is will not be as drastic as is projected by many as a result of COVID 19 – come 2021 and beyond.
What is certain
However, having said that, I think there is a big change that we will see, or we should see, in our human values, ethics and faith collectively as a result of our experience with COVID.
The lesson that we may take, or if not, the lesson that we must take from the COVID era includes but is not limited to the below:
- We should be reminded by COVID that we, the humanity, regardless of our culture, wealth, ideological affiliation, our fate is destined to be together as human beings and not destined to dominate and conquer one to another.
- We should be prompted to stop our obsession with greed and hyper-individualism and re-orient ourselves to think as WE and not as ‘us and them’. We need to appreciate our being collectively the people of the world, not the people of a certain race, culture or country.
- We should know by now that nothing is permanent in this world, except history and time, the former recording what happened and the latter telling when it happened.
- We have been advised that nothing should be taken for granted even breathing in and out air, and that we are vulnerable to calamities.
Those in management (or similar positions) who were denying permission to their poor staff to stay at home to look after the sick child, are now reminded what calling sick means and that we should nurture the emotional intelligence in our consciousness.
We must feel as part of the nature and the ecosystems not as aliens who are tasked to destroy Mother Earth and the future generations habitat. We need to rethink about our plan of carving up the bottom of the sea where we have drilled for oil and the fossil fuels and uranium above ground for decades and caused the degradation such as soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water.
Together, we witnessed powerful nation states with all their nuclear weapons, drones and missiles, which were not able to shoot and kill the tiny virus, because things have their own form, shapes and course of action; being powerful does not mean having an answer to each and every medical ailment that mankind suffers.
We have now realised that we need to reorient ourselves to be more communal and that all faiths should work together and collaborate for the common good.
We have taken the lesson that we have a common enemy and that we need to look beyond and above our differences that stem from greed and power. COVID must remind us about the ongoing conflicts at least in four countries and its preposterous consequences in form of the cumulative casualties: Afghanistan 2 million, Mexican drug wars 200,000, in Syria 586,000 and in Yemen 100,000. What for do we have all these senseless deaths?
We must understand that patriotism and citizenship does not mean having a passport, birth certificate or order of chivalry, but is about devotion to our homeland and dedicated response when its citizens are in need.
I take this opportunity to thank our hard-working nurses, doctors, hospital cleaners, administrators as well as the transport industry, the security guards, criminal justice, emergency management, multicultural affairs, settlement services and immigration and border-related functions, who are working in the frontline to continue their vitally important duties in protecting and improving our health and well-being as well as our security and safety.