COVID-19 – A Lesson on Privilege
Who would have thought that something like this would happen? You look outside – the birds are chirping; the sun is shining. Everything looks normal. Yet everything is not. When you make eye contact with someone out grocery shopping or out on a walk, you can see the fear in their eyes. But you can also see in their eyes, joy in being able to step outside, of just seeing other people.
During my last year in India, I mostly worked from home. I am used to it and haven’t had much trouble at all adjusting to this “new reality”. In Germany, you are still allowed to go for a walk outside, so I don’t feel like I am confined to my house.
As I sit, privileged, in my apartment with a garden, I think of those around me:
People sick in hospital. Those suffering from COVID-19, and those fighting other illnesses. Sharing ventilators and medical equipment, hoping that the treatment works, that they fight the virus, recover and can go back to their homes. Scared. Hopeful?
People working in emergency services. Pilots, doctors, grocery store employees, nurses, delivery services, the police, the army, those holding the world together – the real superheroes. Putting their lives at risk every day to help others, worried about putting their families at risk, about getting infected themselves. Exhausted.
People who have lost loved ones during this time. Who can’t be there for the funerals, who don’t have family around to hold them. Grieving.
People without homes or shelter. Who spend their days and nights in parks, railway stations, and benches. Who have nowhere to quarantine themselves, no money to stock up on food. No healthcare and no means to contact their families. Desperate.
People living away from their families. Constantly thinking about the situation at home. Praying day and night that nothing happens to their loved ones, because if anything does, there is nothing they can do. No flights to take them home, and no way to help. Worried.
People working from home and looking after children or parents. Juggling between attending a call, and cooking lunch. Preparing for a meeting and homeschooling. Everyone stuck at home together, trying to share the internet, the TV, the food, the space. Frustrated.
People who are inmates in their own homes. For them home is more a prison than a safe place. Who are now confined with their abusers 24×7. Scared to go out, scared to stay in. Helpless.
People without regular incomes. Who rely on daily wages or gigs for survival. Some are still getting salaries from empathetic employers. Most are not. All wondering how to survive the next few months, where the rent is going to come from. Anxious.
People living alone. Who are craving human contact, tired of the video calls, of Netflix and trying new recipes. Looking forward to being able to hang out with friends again, of going back to their families. Lonely.
People who don’t understand what is going on. Children who are confused about why their lives are disrupted. They’re over the initial excitement of staying home and are now bored. Those who are illiterate, who know that something is wrong but don’t know what to do, how to protect themselves. Uncertain.
This global pandemic is an equalizer. EVERY single one of us has been impacted in some way or the other. But it has also showed me how unequal the world is. How some can protect themselves in some way, and others just cannot.
I have never been more aware of my privilege than I am now. My friends and family are safe. I have a home, a stable job, and a supportive team. Going back to “normal” again, I think, will feel like waking up from a surreal dream. I can’t imagine anything being the same again – without a doubt we’re all going to be washing our hands more! My hope is that we all take the lessons we have learnt during this time with us. I hope we’re all a little kinder. I hope we’re all better versions of ourselves.