“We vs. Virus”: How Has Covid-19 Transformed Inter-group Relations
The only way to control and defeat this pandemic was to make people follow social distancing and also to restrain them from moving out to avoid social connect.
In December 2019, a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) emerged, sparking an epidemic in humans, centered in Wuhan, China. Within three months, the virus had spread to more than 118,000 cases and caused 4,291 deaths in 114 countries, leading the World Health Organization to declare a global pandemic.
‘Can We Uninstall 2020; This Version Has A Virus In It’
The pandemic has led to a massive global public health campaign to slow the spread of the virus by increasing handwashing, reducing face touching, wearing masks in public, and social/physical distancing.
To effectively achieve this objective, countries around the globe had to go under lockdown, and all activities had to be stopped with minimal human interaction. Large gatherings have become rare. Many weddings, sporting events, or concerts are ruled out. And full restriction to commuting by public transit. Malls, gyms, restraints, bars, and places of worship, the list is endless.
The Silver Lining
It’s easy to lose hope and brood over the negative side effects of any event especially if we are dealing with a global pandemic but even this current scenario has a silver lining to it that we must look forward to.
The virus has changed the way we look at ourselves and others; as well as it has changed our relationship with the world around us and our perception of what we value in it. Emotions that were previously experienced alone became the emotions shared by all. The situation has impacted the way you emote and maintain our intergroup relationships.
While we were all busy living the ‘life’, many of us lost those real, genuine, and meaningful relationships we have with our loved ones. It could have been due to the busy work schedules, deadlines to achieve, and then rushing to be in an urgent meeting.
Shifting Spaces and Roles
As life has slowed down in the forced isolation, we have been reminded of how much our loved ones mean to us. And with this newfound importance of connection, families are coming together in ways like never before from virtual birthday celebrations to a virtual sangeet ceremony for a wedding.
Rich or poor, great or small, this virus has impacted all of us. The greatest psychological shift amid widespread crisis may be towards simple social intergroup tasks. The social groups have been replaced, post-pandemic, and even became stronger and more meaningful in some cases.
For example, our school/college friends may now have been replaced by apartment friends/neighbors. The irony of this isolation is that not only have we reconnected with old friends but also friends/neighbors, who hadn’t seen each other’s faces previously, now meet each other (keeping social distancing norms in mind) on a regular basis, probably for social distant park yoga, exercise regime, or for a Saturday night Tombola. Spaces like the apartment terraces which were previously abandoned are very much the only place people can go to, these days.
“We are all together in this.”
Relationships and relations between different communities have evolved for the better. The distinction between personal and our intergroup identity matters in the context of responses to Covid-19.
One important reason is that during the pandemic our behaviors can be seen motivated much more by our social identity than by our personal identity. Covid-19 typically involves considerations that are relevant to ‘us’ rather than ‘me’. To combat the serious effects of the virus requires a focus on the group and not the individual which can be obtained through cooperation and understanding.
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Even on a global level countries are realizing how difficult it is to get by without external aid. We even see countries with previous rocky relationships now working together and sending medical supplies to help one another.
The idea of "we" vs. "them" doesn't hold true in any sphere anymore, because we're all sailing in the same boat here, there is a mutual struggle, and even though we face different everyday problems, we're all standing here, together, in the face of a previously unknown threat.
There has been a shift of boundaries, in terms of our societal groups, and our interaction with them. Everyone's good on a good day, but in the face of an adversity/crisis, only some can stand by your side, and coming to terms with this realization may be one of the very few boons this pandemic may have given us.
As chaotic and unpredictable life can be, it is important to have alternative ways to adapt to tough situations. Maintaining a daily structure that incorporates our class schedule and the time allotted for things like going on for walks is another way to adapt to this time in our lives.
The Indian tradition has always underlined the importance of physical as well as mental health and wellbeing. Whatever may be the danger, you will be able to face it only with a healthy body and a strong mind.
Referring to a Sanskrit Shloka translated as,
Everyone must keep in mind that wealth, a friend, a wife, and a kingdom may be regained but when this body is lost may never be acquired again.
We are going to survive this and when we do, it’s a different world that’s awaiting us.
Edited by Annanya Chaturvedi