Social distancing has caused a reduction in commuters on Toronto’s TTC. Photo credit: Natalie Workewych
As I made my way home today, I watched a woman on the subway platform reprimand another for wearing a surgical mask. “Shame on you,” she said. “There are people who need those. Shame on you.”
As the mask-wearing woman stumbled away from her aggressor, I couldn’t help but reflect on where we – the global “we” – are right now. Yes, surgical masks are in short supply, and our frontline healthcare workers are those in need. Wearing a mask as prevention against a virus that is not airborne simply serves as a flimsy barrier to keep your hand from reaching two of the three avenues of infection – the mouth and nose – and the general public can remain healthy without them.
But now is also not the time to bare our teeth. The present COVID-19 pandemic is a fight – that of microbe against the people. Shame on us, then, to turn it into people against the people.
As humanity, we are a collective. We have a responsibly to one another to remain a collective through support, through public health education, and imperatively, through access to resources for all.
On my same trip home, I heard a man tell his friend how in the grocery store a woman took all of the baby formula available and would not share with another costumer, even when begged.
We’ve fashioned our world into one with near unlimited resources, and near unlimited access to them. What we are now seeing is movement toward survival of those with means. And this reality rears its ugliest head when we act selfishly.
While we must practice social separation for the sake of our collective health, we must remember not to separate ourselves from the tenets that unite a prosperous humanity – those of promoting the common good, and the betterment of the world through help, especially when times are grim.
What happens when our crisis invades those of lesser means, of poorer healthcare? If we cannot act with a moral conscience now, then when? Faced with fear, this global pandemic has turned many of us inward. But now is the time where we must act ever more outward.
The only way to heal our population is with a collective push toward the good of one another, sibling and stranger alike. As more continue to fall ill world-wide, and as over-saturated healthcare systems are forced to prioritize the treatment of one over another, we must lend ourselves to collaborative support, so that the work of the front line is not in vain.
From simply staying home if we feel ill to washing our hands for the sake of us all, there is no act too small. But in not doing what we can, however little, we neglect our neighbour. And in using aggression, in refusing to share, we fail.
These are dire times, but we can all play a role in our healing. There is only one humanity. If we let one another fall, we all fall.
By: Natalie Workewych
Natalie is a PhD Student studying Pharmacology at the University of Toronto. Her academic background includes an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Pharmacology. She hopes to encourage ideas through writing, and bring thoughts on science to anyone the least bit curious.