Malaysiakini
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COMMENT | The human experience in the Covid-19 outbreak

Lee Ee Jenn

Published

COMMENT | Merely months ago, Covid-19 was an intangible phenomenon in faraway nations; today, humanity is under lockdown and the very structure of society has been dismantled. Pinpointing an area of our lives that has been indelibly changed by the outbreak is a task so straightforward it becomes difficult: how do we choose between healthcare, with millions infected; the economy, as unemployment skyrockets worldwide; or the law, exploited for increasingly autocratic purposes?

Discussions about the outbreak are often caught in these large frameworks - important, but neglecting the nuances of each person’s experiences. With this in mind, this article will instead focus on how the human experience has been transformed in three ways: firstly, through tribalism and fragmentation; secondly, a more complex understanding of connection; and finally, the disruption of normalcy.

Firstly, the pandemic has sparked a trend towards division, as fear prevails and politicians prey upon insecurity. From India to Italy, divisive parties already fed upon the populace’s discontent with diversity (presumed to cause economic and social decline) before the crisis. The tribalistic sentiments such parties evoked - defensiveness and antagonism - have proliferated as we scramble for a sense of security and someone to blame.

Individually, it is most prominent in panic buying, captured in viral clips of fighting shoppers that encapsulate a regression to ‘us versus them’ survivalism. On a social level, "otherisation" has manifested in "No Chinese" signs in Seoul, mistreatment of resident Africans in Guangzhou and countless other instances of discrimination against groups baselessly deemed vectors of disease.

In addition to prejudice against specific individuals, people have expressed their fear by ...  

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