Frugality, the new normal

COVID-19 has brought us face to face with new realities that can transform life as we know it. Insights by Sanjay Jaju, IAS and Deepansh Somani.

A scourge that makes no distinction

The sudden, unforeseeable outbreak of the coronavirus and its spread has resulted in widespread suffering and is affecting all layers of society. Businesses have shut down, cross border trade has come to a halt, social events have been prohibited, and domestic and international activities are at a standstill.

While those living in the margins face the brunt of it, it would be interesting to look at it from the perspective of the so-called elites. The impact on the mighty looks equally strong and real. The question is, what would this do to them, for how long, and whether the change would be for better or worse.

New realities confronting social elites. Are they prepared?

Before this pandemic, the majority of elites were leading globe-trotting, fast-paced lives where demands had no bar and aspirations had no limits. But where do all theses distractions, rather, events and experiences that give meaning to their lives seem to have gone in this sudden turn of events? And most importantly, what are they even left with once this purported "meaning" gets snatched away from their lives.

Humans have an unfortunate tendency against appreciating the good or observing the revelation that may follow a calamity, the likes of which we are experiencing. For example, while COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the economy, could it have a sobering effect on the general consciousness of this planet’s elites?

The good that comes from evil

Human beings remain blissfully ignorant of the bad things they cannot see, as one would neglect the fear of spiders when placed in a dark room. There have been numerous occurrences of people complaining throughout the world, about emotions that they are currently experiencing, including hatred, boredom, a lack of motivation, and even absolute disinterest in life. Some even say that divorce rates have shot up exponentially, which should not be very hard to believe. With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, and people self-isolating at home, is their misery new or have they been avoiding the unhappiness in their minds through the humdrum of their day-to-day lives.

In the rat race, we often have no time for our families, personal growth, or the esoteric aspects of life, while we have all the time for the rest. This period of quarantine has given us an opportunity to confront ourselves and take a journey inwards to see our demons, fears, and anxieties face to face, and reach a place where we can begin to address them.With strong positive implications on both the physical and emotional well-being of people, this period has noted an extensive rise in proof of people also getting their life together.

Some revelations

Vipassana Meditation centres in India provide a place where people travel from all walks of life, to spend a mere 10 days in isolation, devoid of the external distractions that consume their attention on a daily basis: mobile phones, laptops, and everyday human interactions. It is not surprising that people have experienced life-changing insights through these sessions, crediting a newer, well-rounded version of themselves to the transformation that the isolation inevitably brought with it.

The message and opportunity for us all is the same: These times, a rare occurrence for sure, have made it possible for us to analyse our life at a meta-level. From anecdotal experiences in society, there has been an enormous deviation in the routines and habits of our daily lives.

Many people have started reading books that they had put off, auditing eating habits, taking up new habits such as meditation or yoga, and tapping into creative reservoirs to apply skills for monetary benefits and social welfare. We could even call it a blind spot as never did such important, but often overlooked aspects of our lives, seem so clear and accessible. Without the revelation brought in by the prevailing crisis, people could have remained ignorant indefinitely.

Perhaps we all needed a course correction in the form of a break from the pace and dreariness of our existence to re-create and re-define ourselves. Has COVID 19 done just that?

The hope is that it leads to re-shaping the “universal consciousness” and drive people to see who they are without the daily distractions and fleeting ambitions and hopes, hopefully in a way that they might find the answer within themselves.

Mother Earth is in revival

The coronavirus also has an impact on Mother Nature. Consider a person who works for days on end without sleep or proper nourishment. Aside from the obvious physiological damage and alienation of the person, the work output would also be substandard. When we compare this analogy to how we treat the earth, it is daunting to imagine the results.

In our materialistic existence, money and its appendages are being made to be disposed and reproduced for a new purchase in a never ending cycle. The hectic and crazed behaviour of those in a busy international airport or mall is very representative of what consumerism can do to an individual.

Empowered through technology, we have reduced this planet to a means for our commercial and business activities. Just a commodity we can go on using, without most of us taking an effort to nourish and nurture it back to form.

Evidence of wild animals and birds taking to the streets is a sign that they were unhappy with our monopoly on the planet. Could this be a way of nature telling us that we are not the only ones on this planet, and perhaps we need to give space to rest of its inhabitants? With more than 100,000 flights per day and more than 1,000,000 automobiles on the roads spewing poison into the air, it seems that by a miracle, the virus has given the earth a break.

There is not much doubt about the positive effects of this lockdown on the environment. People are suddenly becoming aware of the beauty of their surroundings, even within the concrete jungles. The beauty of clear-blue skies, the silence of noise-free streets and the freshness of a pollution-free breeze are novelties. Why should it take a lockdown to turn our home green?

It seems that it is finally time for our planet to heal itself from the damage done to it for years and years. Perhaps this is a defining moment for the current generations and the stark message is to never take this planet for granted. Never ever assume this planet can go on sustaining our selfish needs without needing anything in return.

It is essential that once this lockdown passes, we all take a small step to do something that nourishes this planet. Perhaps this global crisis can reinforce our humanity after all.

Huge implications are going to be there on the economy. We can only hope that this life-changing experience brings greater compassion and consciousness in human beings, and make us more holistic, more in tune with existence, and more in touch with our own selves.

Who knows? This might be the change that humanity has been seeking for a while now.

Authors: Sanjay Jaju and Deepansh SomaniSanjay Jaju is from Indian Administrative Service, views expressed are personal.  Deepansh Somani recently graduated is passionate for Behavioural Economics.

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