Post 25: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 25. Important Note: WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship. No copyright infringement intended WRT photos in this post.

Star Trekking across the coronaverse

Rime Allaf, Vienna, Austria

I could swear my boots look sad, sensing that the lockdown’s extension until the end of April means our seasonal affair was cut short this year. As I telepathically reassure them and myself that our time will come again, I steal a glance at the shoes which patiently await their turn to strut their heels around Vienna’s famed café society, upon our conditional liberation, and start imagining the outfits to accompany them.

Random thoughts about footwear and fashion, which may also change as we gradually migrate our work to a digital environment, are some of the mundane things getting my mind off our anxiety-inducing reality. When I scroll (or rather, to borrow a perfect expression I read somewhere, when I terror scroll) various platforms aimlessly from one piece of depressing news to another, I cling to the confidence that our scientists will find a vaccine, and that adapting our habits is a positive necessity.

For me, most of the guidance to contain the spread of this damn virus is welcome. I’ve always hated having to lend anyone a pen. When I use the restroom at my place of work, I touch nothing (think Sheldon Cooper level, really) and use paper towels to open doors, mentally judging people I don’t even know for not washing their hands well or long enough. I’ve taught my daughter since she was little that we don’t sit on our beds with clothes we’ve worn outside, and I love that our winter gloves protect us from a lot more than the cold. I was never enthusiastic about shaking hands or kissing random people. My air travel and public transportation modus operandi, whenever possible, revolves around the mantra of “touch only when necessary.”

So while I wholeheartedly hug and kiss people I care for and conveniently forget about germs when I’m book or clothes shopping, I do like this sudden global fixation with hygiene and the reassessment of the need for endless and pointless meetings.

Of course, that doesn’t take the current stress away, and watching sitcoms – one of my tried and tested methods of decompressing – hasn’t appealed to me in these circumstances. However, over the past few weeks, it is my eternal, internal Trekkie which has helped me hang on to notions of a better future as I re-watch, for the umpteenth time, all the seasons of one of my favorite shows ever.

My brothers and I grew up watching Star Trek reruns in the US, with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock becoming a big part of our ideal world. Years later, they were joined by Captain Picard, Commander Riker and Lt. Data as I became (and still am) seriously hooked on Star Trek “The Next Generation.” In each episode, the endearing characters would face dilemmas and ponder moral and ethical questions over which I would obsess for days on end. This appealing world was a universe where character defines people, where poverty is eradicated and money is meaningless, where there is mutual respect for “the other” and the other’s way of life, where greed and hatred are rejected, where the sense of right and wrong is a guiding light, where the pursuit of knowledge and meaning drives humans and most other races, and where logic and empathy cohabit comfortably.

I’ve often advocated that watching Star Trek should be mandatory at schools and universities everywhere, and I think it can rekindle an aspiration for ideals at any age. Star Trek does make you dream, but above all it makes you think, and we all need to rethink so much about our lives.

Which brings me back to our worldly greeting problems, to which Star Trek offers the best solution even for non-Trekkies. Instead of handshakes, kisses and bearhugs with people you don’t necessarily want to touch, instead of namaste which necessitates two free hands and might be misinterpreted as purely faith-based by some, instead of a hand on the heart or chest which I would reserve to convey appreciation or respect to someone, it’s only logical that we adopt the Vulcan salute and all it stands for.

Live long and prosper.

The Walking Dead

Adam J. Wallace

One TV show that I believe really exemplifies the #Coronavirus is The Walking Dead.

Obviously, there are no zombies outside our homes, and #COVID-19 is not the end of the world. But if you look at the virus in the show (TS–19), you will really see the similarities.

TS-19 is discovered by a scientist. He tries to warn people about it, but no one listens. The Walking Dead really shows how things can take a very bad turn if we do not listen to doctors and ignore their warnings.

Another similarity is the information we receive. Doctors and the government didn’t disclose important information. We are learning more about COVID-19 every day, and I feel like a lot more is known than disclosed to the public. 

In The Walking Dead, the only way to kill the virus is to penetrate a specific area of the brain, killing the person or zombie. I don’t believe we need to go to that extreme a level to eliminate COVID-19, but please remember to stay inside and wash your hands!

Shaking hands in 2055

RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

When we think of the Spanish flu pandemic, when our grandparents or great-grandparents were alive, we have little information. Things were not as documented as they are now. 

So imagine your child or grandchild in 2055. He is wondering why his family posted photos on social media discussing handshakes, masks, and gloves! 

Our world will never be the same, yet it will always be the same. In Lebanon, our traditions of handshakes and kisses are very much of the social etiquette inasmuch as English gentlemen stand when a lady enters the room. 

This is particularly true at large gatherings, like weddings or condolences. So when you are receiving condolences from people you know and many you don’t, a lot of people refrain from shaking too many hands (hygiene related) so they put their hand on the chest. 

It is a very respectful and hygienic form of greeting. 

As for conservative women and men within the Lebanese Muslim community, women who are veiled usually don’t shake hands with men but place their hand on their heart. A sign that says, “I don’t shake hands with men.” And many men, out of respect for someone’s wife or sister, immediately say hello and put their hand on their chest. Again, respectful and hygienic.

In the Hindu and Buddhist communities, a namaste is sufficient, with a head bow. This is something the West adopted a few decades back but only when practicing yoga! 

I have a germaphobe friend who hates being touched and absolutely can’t take the kissing on the cheeks. When someone wants to shake hands, she extends her wrist! 

Another person I know, a lovely older lady, does air kisses on either cheek. Very much like the “mwah” in movies (usually by two ladies who dislike one another and followed by a “let’s do lunch” fake statement!)

So how will we greet one another once this pandemic subsides? A colleague today told me “I can’t wait for this to end so I can give you a big hug.” 

I love hugs! I think they are more meaningful that kisses. And more hygienic! I am going to either follow the namaste or the hand-on-heart rituals to greet strangers. And lots of hugs to those for whom I have lots of love. 

Going back to 2055 children, they will probably watch a movie about the early part of this century and wonder what the handshake means!!!! 

A three-hour tour

RafifJ, Malaga, Spain

All too often during these CoronaDays, I feel that we – all of us – are somehow stranded, each in our new social distancing paradigm. The quiet in our streets and the growing economic panic has many of us shrinking into our individual mental and emotional spaces. Globally, we are getting closer to a third season of #COVID-19, having spent part of the winter, most of the spring, and it looks like at least some part of the summer under various forms of lockdown. Despite our increased presence on social media and in “teleparties,” I think we’re somehow on our own islands.

This brings to mind Gilligan’s Island. Do you remember that show? It was a 1960s sitcom about the passengers aboard the S.S. Minnow, who were caught in a storm and stranded on an distant, unknown island. If you need a memory jog, the show featured the Captain, Gilligan (crew member), Ginger (movie star), Mary Ann (innocent but oddly sexy gal), the Professor, and the Howells (a millionaire couple).

In the show, the characters, especially the Captain and Gilligan, continually try to find a way out. They use different methods and techniques to plan their escape from the island, but someone – usually Gilligan – always screws up. So they keep trying.

Even though the show had only a few main characters, there were always guest appearances – stars who could apparently make it to the island, but could not find a sustainable solution. It seemed like the characters were on their own, living in an alternate reality. They had to make up their own social rules and norms of behavior. They had to learn how to get along, despite the flare-ups that invariably disrupted the peace, at least temporarily.

Do you see the similarities?

Sometimes I feel like we are living on our own stranded islands. Captains from around the world claim to be finding a solution, but it never seems to work. Someone always screws up, and there is always a scapegoat. There are plenty of new “stars” who can make it to the podium or screen just fine, but have yet to give coherent answers. We’re trying to navigate the new social norms, keeping our distance, while sort of shipwrecked in lockdown.

I’m certainly not trying to make light of the #Coronavirus. I know that flare-ups in our societies have deadly consequences, especially for victims of domestic abuse and refugees. The numbers around the world are becoming increasingly alarming, and social distancing is morphing into political distancing. During lockdown, finger-pointing has become the new form of exercise.

Let’s just hope that, like Gilligan’s Island, the Coronavirus gets cancelled in its third season.

Cultures and customs

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

Some of what makes every culture unique is the myriad of customs that are passed down with each generation. I have always been fascinated by the way various cultures perform certain rituals and ceremonies just to introduce themselves to one another.

In the USA, shaking hands is a sign of respect when meeting someone for the first time or after some separation. These days, as we spend so much time in isolation and distancing from others, we are all speculating whether a simple action like a handshake will become an old, retired tradition. Will we adopt the Tibetan monk’s way of sticking out our tongues out to say hello? Or maybe we will simply tap our feet together?

I dug deep into my shrinking brain to remember the TV show about the alien, Mork for Ork. Do you Boomers remember that TV show from the late ’70s / early ’80s? Mork (played by a very young Robin Williams) was an alien who had been sent to Earth to observe human behavior.

Mork had a distinct greeting and handshake where the hands never touch. For his goodbye, he would say, “NaNou NaNou” and a tug at his ears. At the end of the show, Mork would report back to his superior Orson to recount his perception of the bizarre humans’ idiosyncrasies, emotions, and customs.

Despite the fact that Mork had a human friend helping him assimilate, the rest of the people around him were baffled by his quirky behavior and weird words. This reminds me of how some people (leaders included) are uncomfortable with and incensed by habits from other cultures.

Perhaps we should go back and watch those Mork & Mindy episodes again. Maybe we can learn a thing or two about our culture.

I can’t help wandering if this #coronavirus is equivalent to a brutal alien who has landed on Earth and is imposing their culture on us. We all have to comply for fear of being killed. But living under their stipulations is taking its toll on the whole world. Perhaps if we had one of the coronavirus aliens taking on a human form and explaining their culture to us, we could understand it better.

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