There are always two sides to a story
In Zen thinking, “Nothing is what it seems” is why you should question everything, as people’s intentions are not always clear. Or, simply said: Don’t judge a book by its cover!, a phrase dating back to the mid-19th century.
I was a competitive swimmer for my local club in the suburbs of Buenos Aires during my teens, and I love to swim in rivers and especially in the sea. So, I can best explain how this unprecedented world situation feels to me, by comparing it with getting caught in an undertow at the beach, sucked under a big wave. You get disoriented while the wave holds you down for what seems several eternal seconds until it lifts you again a few feet out, behind the breaking wave. Your heart is literally in your throat, and you feel like a puppet. The best is to try to keep calm, and then swim upward to the surface. You swallow the salty water getting choked, but then you spit it out and breathe again!
On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, with an unknown cause. Immediately after you start hearing alarming news announced by “so-called” experts, that the virus will infect and kill millions, based on unproven facts and faulty comparisons, later refuted. Panic ensues crowding the health care system in affected countries. Instead of helping those nations to cope, the world goes into lockdown! Every man for himself. Information comes fast and pounding like a giant wave, more like a Tsunami that spares nothing on its path!
Nothing gets media coverage but “the virus” as if nothing else matters in the world. (I refuse to use its proper denomination because it is getting far too much PR from everybody else.) Drowned under waves of sensationalist news, you have to gain your calm, reflect, sort out the information, and find the real facts, compare, and form a personal opinion. Then start searching avidly and systematically for the other side, because there are always two sides to a story, never forget that!
Fear is a powerful drug
An experienced journalist friend of ours told me recently, “There is no oxygen in the media for other opinions at this time.” The counting of the virus victims worldwide is published everywhere, day-in-and-day-out obsessively and relentlessly, as never done before! It plays on the fear of dying most of us have, causing extreme anxiety, known as Thanatophobia. (In Greek language, Thanatos refers to death, and Phobos means fear.)
Having lived under the military ruling in Argentina during my youth, I know by experience that fear is a powerful drug used by totalitarian regimes. The goal is to create an enemy, real or perceived, and then offer protection, demand total obedience, and end up exerting massive control of the population. I reacted to the present situation with the same alarm bells ringing in my whole body. How comes that with viruses every season and a plethora of other illnesses, there has never been daily worldwide public counting? Immediately, I ask myself: Are they trying to create panic and scare us purposely?
Respect other people’s opinions but dare to voice yours!
My moral values, my principles, my deeply set beliefs that have served me all my life are the underlying truths on which I base my dealings with the world. When somebody starts challenging those values and beliefs, I immediately question, especially when they are testing my fundamentals of humanity. I may not get the answers, but I will keep challenging. I have been an avid reader since a young age and I am very curious. I ask so many questions that my husband says I am like a 5-year old child. Well, I nurture that child inside me and hope it never leaves me, because it helps me in my quest for truth and meaning, particularly during difficult times.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts.” I do respect other people’s opinions, but at the same time, I am more of an independent thinker. However, through the years, I learned the hard way that it is better to encourage dialogue, not hostility. You do not grow and evolve by arguing with others, but by gaining new insights, exchanging opinions, and perspectives.
You are guided in your reasoning by your experiences, good or bad. Writer B.J. Neblett said: “We are the total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”
Are we losing our humanity?
I remember growing up in Buenos Aires, whenever a friend or member of the family was ill, everybody in his entourage took turns in keeping him company in the hospital or at home. Are we now being asked to leave suffering people alone? It is common knowledge that human contact helps healing, a gentle embrace, touching a hand can not only lower stress levels but also boost the immune system and promote healing. Will the human touch become obsolete? Are we going to treat every illness, every virus through isolation? Are we losing our humanity?
Humanity is the human race, which includes everyone on Earth. It also defines the qualities that make us human, such as the ability to love and have compassion by helping one another, and not be a robot or alien.The word humanity is from the Latin humanitas for “human nature, kindness.” Humanity is about caring for and helping others whenever and wherever possible; it means giving a hand when they need it the most; it is about extending unconditional love to each other and every living being on Earth. Humaneness is the quality of compassion or consideration for others, people, and animals.
Love your neighbor as yourself – Mark 12:31
Do you believe that we find strength through unity? I certainly do, but it seems to have been replaced by Run for cover and forsaking all others save yourself! In the name of the good of all, most countries agreed to go into confinement, some more than others, at different stages, in a domino effect. The slogan everywhere is: Stay home until we say so! It seems incredible that this is happening on a worldwide level!
Life in Monaco under lockdown since March 17 is calm and very civilized. I just learned it will go on till May 3. The Prince’s Government has confidence in the population and vice versa, and decide the best way to protect the people. The Mayor and his team efficiently reorganized our local market in respect of social distancing measures. Additionally, they put together a vendors’ delivery system, including pharmacies, plus meals home delivery for those who need it. The Princess Grace Hospital created a special unit to treat patients affected by the virus who need extra care.
Additionally, they offer treatment consultation online for outpatients who remain in their homes, thus avoiding overcharging the hospital. The Government strengthened psychological assistance by establishing a call center providing support during self-isolation. I find it to be a very conscientious overall approach to the situation.
We may go outdoors for brief exercise or jogging or walk the dog, allowing our bodies to absorb the necessary Vitamin D from the sun, breathe fresh air, and feel alive. The Government demonstrates they care for the overall health of the people over and beyond the virus threat, applying common sense. We made the right decision moving to Old Europe end of 2003.
In some countries, confinement rules are far stricter, and in some cases starting to be highly oppressive, forcing authoritarian practices on their people. Civil liberties that took so much effort to conquer are being challenged. While we are in a safe and comfortable position in the Principality, I do care what happens to other fellow citizens around the world, and it has direct consequences on all of us because we are interconnected.
On the other side of the spectrum, Sweden chose not to lockdown, exercising the right to national autonomy versus totally adhering to, what seems, harsh authoritarian “new world order” demands. The Government issued sanitary guidelines, but is totally confident on their people to take responsibility themselves.
While I agree that our planet is getting a deserved rest from our overconsumption, people around the world are already suffering the catastrophic consequences of the lockdown at a social, health, and economic level. In many countries, small and medium-sized businesses will face foreclosure, unable to ride the mounting crisis. The stock market is a roller coaster crushing many. Has the world economy been purposely reset? If so, who will benefit? Follow the money. (A catchphrase in the film All President’s Men, 1976.)
People living from paycheck to paycheck are not even able to buy goods to endure the quarantine. Millions are already losing their jobs everywhere, and with that, their sanity and livelihood, suicide, and domestic violence are on the rise, healthy people are suffering in isolation, many in very tight quarters. The bells of the church continue to ring calling worshipers but nobody is allowed in at a time they need it the most. These issues and many others are not making headlines in the media saturated by the virus.
Everybody anxiously wonders when this kind of house arrest will end in his or her country. It makes my skin crawl when I hear proposals of massive mandatory vaccination against “the virus,” as a certificate to get out of confinement, followed by tracking and digital control of the population. Isn’t compulsory vaccination against our human rights? Do we want biometric ID systems and big data algorithms to control our lives?
Keep close to nature’s heart!
I grew up in Argentina, playing the entire time outdoors; I could not wait to get out of the house and meet my friends on the street. We drank water from a hose, played in the dirt, run in the fields, and climbed trees! We got runny noses when we had a cold; we stayed in bed a few days, had plenty of vegetable soup and chamomile tea, and lots of gentle cuddling. Our smart and adaptive immune system did the rest. My adorable grandma, who was from Spain, told me that our body is a fortress with guards who run from place to place, seeking for invaders! She nurtured the belief in my immune system. I often say that living in a developing country helped me build antibodies that ward off diseases!
But do not take just my word for it; research shows that spending time in nature is good for our bodies, minds, and spirits. That makes me wonder why we are all under forced quarantine, not only people who are ill but also the majority who are healthy. Most don’t have sunny balconies, houses with gardens, or villas with a pool and lots of space, or live on a farm or in the mountains. Research indicates that social isolation and loneliness can affect physical and mental health, and long-term isolation even increases the risk of premature death. That makes me wonder: Is placing healthy people in quarantine worsening their health more than the virus itself? Every life matters!
I invite you to read an interesting article from Harvard Health Publications titled “A prescription for better health: go alfresco,” as well as studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, that acknowledges the value of spending time out in the sunshine.
The benefits of being outdoors are many. To start higher levels of Vitamin D from direct sunlight, which is known to help fight off osteoporosis, cancer, and depression, and can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. It offers the potential for faster healing, as spending time in the sun could help you get over an illness or injury faster. Studies show that those exposed to more natural light have quicker recoveries and experience less pain than those exposed to artificial light.
When we are outside, we are more likely to engage in physical activity than being indoors. Going outside can get your brain moving thanks to the sensory stimulation that nature provides, providing a better sense of overall health. Psychologist’s studies link time spent out in fresh air and sunshine to greater vitality, thus helping our bodies become more resilient to illness. Spending time outside greater feelings of happiness – We have a natural connection to living things, so when we are out in nature, we feel we belong in our environment and foster a sunny disposition.As said in an article by the University of Rochester, “Being outside in nature makes people feel alive.”
Yes, I do comply with the current social distancing and quarantine rules; we eat healthy thanks to living with a man who loves to cook, I take extra vitamins, go briefly for a jog outdoors, and workout inside to keep in shape. But that does not mean I stopped thinking and questioning!
“No oppressive order could permit the oppressed to begin to question: Why?” Paulo Freire
Postcards from confinement
I am grateful for my friends around the world for contributing photos from their towns. I hope we will all be able to regain our freedom and visit each other soon!
Nice, France – Olivier Huitel, Chrystal Pictures
Bergen, Norway – Joaquin Ketlun
Buenos Aires, Argentina – Juli Urmenyi
Paris, France – Lorene Edelstam
Munich, Germany – Helena Heilig
London, UK – Ella Montclare