coronavirus: a living organism

POSTCARD#369: Bangkok: Before I came to live in Thailand, I was in Pondicherry, South India for one year, then Bangalore for another year. Things were quite basic in those days and in the first few months I caught Amebiasis from drinking unboiled water. Sickness, intestinal pain and bouts of dysentery so I went to the doc and he prescribed Flagellin, saying Amebiasis was a microbial infection in the gut. He also said he believed that in some communities at the lower end of the social scale in Pondicherry, the disease lives in their intestines for extended periods, maybe permanently. The people with the disease, get seriously ill once a year and otherwise go on with their lives.

Flagellin, the medicine, was dramatic, a purge; vomiting and dysentery… the cure was worse than the disease. It really was worse… I couldn’t go on with it, knowing full well it was a bad decision. Eventually I got back to the UK and it was winter. That fixed it. Then a month later I returned to South India and the disease came alive again.

The next year I moved to Bangalore and the sickness left me. That was in 1983 and there has been no sign of it after that, although if I went back to live in Pondicherry now, it would be a different story. So I was reminded of it all in the light of COVD-19 from the point of view that both Amebiasis and Coronavirus are a living organism, (and thanks Paz for reminding me of that) like a plant or a tree. We can only mitigate the risk of Covid infection, understanding that the disease may find an entry point if there’s a way through the preventative measures and there’s nothing we can do about that.

In the ancient world there would have been all sorts of diseases and viruses active and living among the population. The only cure would have been herbal mixtures and derivatives of opium and other plants unknown. If there was a killer virus as we have now, local wisdom would have advised social distancing and masks of thin cloths covering nose and mouth. If they contracted the disease they died eventually and the parasite died with the host.

Looking at COVID-19 in the US, if the loose attitude regarding social distancing in some states continues, if there is no vaccine at hand we can assume the virus will evolve, in the long term, remembering a parasite seeks to live in the host organs without causing death. The danger is if we take no decisive action at the beginning, we just have to learn to live with it in the long term.

What to do? First, is to discontinue the handshake to prevent the contagion spreading from person to person. We need another way of the public meet-and-greet, perhaps based on the Indian Namaste. Or the Thai Wai which is like a small Indian “Namaste”, and easier to do. The second thing we have to do is wear a mask, as they did in ancient times, to prevent the virus from entering the body, and to protect everyone from being infected person-to-person.

Today, we all need to wear a mask every day in public – and there isn’t anything difficult to understand about that, unless you are Donald Trump who doesn’t want to admit he can’t wear a mask because it would ruin his make-up. Hard to believe. It worries me that even if everyone in the US took to wearing masks on a widespread level, there would still be those who follow the President’s example and refuse to comply with mask-wearing for some contrary reason.


Top photo: Burmese kids doing the Thai Wai
Lower photo: Prince Charles adopts the Indian Namaste as an alternative to shaking hands

COVID-19 connectedness

POSTCARD#366: Bangkok: Thailand reported 6 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths on Friday, May 01 taking its tally to 2,960 infections while fatalities remained at 54 since the outbreak began in January. On a global scale, the presence of covid-19 in our lives shows that when humanity is united in a common cause, social transformation is possible. Looking at changes in social behaviour, economy, and the role of government, an opportunity arises again to see the power of our collective will when we agree on what is important.

Here in Thailand, Jiab tells me she attended the death ceremony (the pouring of water) of her Great Grandfather when she was five years old. Death is no ending, death is going home… it’s how it is understood in most Asian societies. I imagine the same for III World societies everywhere. In the West however, it is usually hidden away and thus COVID-19 has revealed the reality, death is part of life.

We are the survivors after the War – as it is/was after any war, those who remain, understand that life is sacred. Each person, young or old, sick or well, is a sacred, precious, beloved being. What does it really mean, all the hugs, kisses-on-both-cheeks, handshakes and high-fives we are removed from right now (and may be adapted in some way in a more permanent basis)? It means let’s be connected by whatever means as an expression of love and spirit.

What makes it difficult is the Western belief in the separate self in a world of Other, me separate from you… driven by power and the fear of losing it. The obsession with money and property, extensions of the self – expresses the delusion that the impermanent self can be made permanent through its attachments. Some would say the exact opposite of the Buddha’s Teaching.

What’s coming is a wave of revelation; situations just taken for granted in the past are being reappraised, seen with compassion. How can we find out about those who cannot work from home? The hotel staff, the taxi drivers, the bus drivers, the janitors and cashiers. What can we do about those who have lost their jobs due to the covid-19 shut-down? What is the best way to help vulnerable people? The homeless? How can we be connected with people in the slum districts in inner cities?

The covid-19 shut-down activates compassion, leaders and activists start to emerge, campaigning for the situation of the helpless, in so many words… something is stirred. If we have it in us, we can see quite clearly, the ‘normal’ that once was, is gone. We just can’t fall back into the same rut; monotony and a sense of lack. What can we do abut this? How to be part of this new connectedness in the covid-19 separation?

What’s coming is a new vision of what society could become – one that is less authoritarian and fearful, and more collaborative and local. Unseen altruism, resourcefulness and generosity that arise in situations of grief and disruption.

Necessary to be careful all the way through to an agreement: “… with the decimation of small businesses, a dependency on the state for a stipend that comes with strict conditions. The crisis could usher in totalitarianism or solidarity; medical martial law or a holistic renaissance; greater fear of the microbial world, or greater resiliency in participation in it; permanent norms of social distancing, or a renewed desire to come together.”

Excerpts from Charles Eisenstein’s “The Coronation” included in this post.